Digital Thread: right data to the right place at the right time

As manufacturers across all sectors come under increasing pressure to improve quality, reduce waste, comply with regulations and satisfy demanding customers, a growing number are benefiting from a highly effective approach that delivers a connected, visually collaborative Digital Thread.

Digital Thread is a communication framework that allows a connected data flow and an integrated view of an asset’s data throughout its life cycle across what have traditionally been siloed functional perspectives. According to trade publication Industry Week, the concept of Digital Thread raises the bar for delivering “the right information to the right place at the right time”.

Alongside this, model-based enterprise (MBE) involves the reuse of 3D product data or model-based definition, including dimensions, tolerances, annotations and views as the foundation for effective communication and collaboration throughout the entire life cycle of a product.

“We see MBE as a major enabling component of a robust and complete Digital Thread strategy,” says Stephen Collins, chief executive of Anark Corporation, a leading provider of visual collaboration solutions, whose clients include industry leaders such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, TE Connectivity, Honeywell, Hydro-Quebec and the US Department of Defense.  “Many of our customers pursuing a Digital Thread initiative are also implementing model-based process-change as an important element of that strategy.”

As a result of this approach, Anark clients and other forward-thinking companies are realising truly remarkable return on investment. “They’re coming to market faster with higher-quality products at substantially reduced costs throughout engineering, manufacturing, supply-chain and field-service operations,” says Mr Collins. “Embracing automated digital processes for efficient data-sharing and collaboration throughout the enterprise and supply chain is making this possible.”

Forward-thinking companies are coming to market faster with higher-quality products at substantially reduced costs

He points to the rise of emerging technologies, such as cloud, big data, mobile and the internet of things, which are enabling manufacturers to realise their Digital Thread objectives more efficiently and cost effectively.

Anark clients benefit from the ability to access, combine and share critical engineering, manufacturing and operational data directly from product lifecycle manufacturing (PLM), enterprise resource planning and manufacturing execution system, and other authoritative data sources, including advanced support for a broad range of data types, such as 3D computer-aided design with high-fidelity product manufacturing information, 2D drawings, and tabular data, including parts lists, notes, product requirements and field service data.

“The technical content and documents that we aggregate and tailor to meet the needs of users can be accessed via desktop, web and mobile devices,” says Paul Perreault, senior PLM consultant at Anark. “We’ve also developed a flexible, template-driven publishing system for open-standard formats such as 3D PDF and HTML5 with WebGL for delivery of effective and dynamic technical ‘data mashups’ so the customer gets the exact technical information they need where and when they need it.”

Anark’s products also include flexible, easy-to-use, cloud and web-based tools that enable advanced commenting, mark-up, measurement and full social media-style “conversations”.  Automated, server-driven document and content generation and regeneration, based on source data changes, ensures technical data is always current and accurate.

“The manufacturers we work with benefit from our systems and tools because they empower their knowledge workers to communicate and collaborate more effectively and securely across the Digital Thread,” says Mr Perreault. “The powerful MBE and visual collaboration processes they implement yield substantial cost-savings for original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers.”

The pressures on manufacturers are set to increase, but those embracing this exciting new MBE-enabled Digital Thread paradigm, with the help of Anark, will be best equipped to handle these challenges and gain competitive advantage.

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