What is a digital thread?

Digital thread is an operational concept that describes how a profile of data is defined, created, populated and modified throughout the product lifecycle. See three digital thread benefits.

By Sam Russem March 6, 2021


Learning Objectives

  • Eliminating data silos with digital thread.
  • Contextualizing data to make way for useable information.
  • Improving data agility and quality, decreasing errors.

Modern manufacturing creates an enormous amount of data for every product that leaves the factory. From product design files, to quality test results, to supply chain logistics, to consumer feedback: we are reliant on the accuracy and availability of data throughout the product lifecycle. Different types of data come from different sources and are stored in different locations, which makes it challenging to collect a cohesive dataset that defines a product.

Digital thread interconnects data silos

The digital thread promises to address that challenge.

The digital thread is an operational concept that describes how a profile of data is defined, created, populated, and modified throughout the product lifecycle. This concept has gained popularity in response to the problem of “data silos,” which inhibit collaborative problem solving, identification of inefficiencies, and strategic decision making. The promise of the digital thread is to make data available and accessible to various business units, suppliers, and customers leading to products that are made faster, cheaper and of higher quality.

Three digital thread benefits

By adopting and committing to the concept of the digital thread, manufacturers should expect:

  1. A single source of truth, which clearly defines critical data that describes a product or process, including where and how it is stored.
  2. Data democratization, breaking down barriers to make data accessible to all who need it.
  3. Improved agility and quality, making the data-communication process faster and less prone to error.

The digital thread is not a specific product or software, but rather a design concept that contextualizes data from a variety of sources. It promotes the concepts of data integrity, governance, and availability that sets the foundation for Industry 4.0 and digital transformation. Businesses that leverage the digital thread take full advantage of their data to empower their people, make more informed decisions and optimize the entire value chain.

Sam Russem is director of the smart manufacturing practice at Grantek. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Digital thread, data analytics


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Author Bio: Sam Russem is director of the smart manufacturing practice at Grantek and serves as the leader of the ISA SMIIoT’s Digital Twin and Simulation committee. Russem has been working in automation and Smart Manufacturing for more than a decade and focuses on the strategic and practical application of Industry 4.0 technologies for manufacturers.