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The Digital Thread

Connecting the Product Life Cycle Stages
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The Digital Thread for Electrical and Electronic Engineering

The Digital Thread is a foundational element of a successful Digital Engineering implementation.  Digital conversations involving procurement, design, manufacturing and field service replace email and paper documents.  Decisions and rationale are captured and provide traceability.

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Spanning The Extended-Enterprise

A browser-based approach allows for faster deployment and easier adoption lead to productive multi-organization interactions. An activity such as a design review or a part procurement can be broken down into digital conversations across design disciplines or in the case of procurement, across suppliers.  The conversations can start with a technical data package but can be expanded with images or new documents.  The conversations are retained for a historical record of how decisions were ultimately made.

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Decisions and traceability

Decisions and Traceability

The model-based design has verification gates to ensure that the implementation reflects the model definition.  The verification gates are comprised of design reviews, trade-offs, changes and ultimately approval.  The digital conversations behind those activities and approvals become part of the digital thread. If a critical design change is made, a digital record of the concern, options, and decision-makers is available.

Recording Verification Events

A foundational element of model-based systems engineering is the verification gate which is comprised of verification requirements.  Each gate represents a confirmation that the implementation is fulfilling the intent of the model and product.  Another benefit of the verification event is maintaining model relevance through the product life cycle.

Verification and the Digital Thread

Data Driven smart manufacturing

Data Drives Smart Manufacturing

As the manufacturing floor becomes more automated, the information needed to drive the workflows increases dramatically.  Cross-functional teams need to collaborate on digital work instructions utilizing mobile and wearable devices to improve quality and lower waste.  The Digital Thread helps convert design data into manufacturing processes and quality data collection.

Connecting the Digital Thread

Anark is a leading provider of intelligent information management (IIM) software and solutions for the technology industry.  Anark Core transforms technical data into use-case-specific content, offering managed access and visual collaboration from nearly any device, with modern digital workflows—yielding faster iterations, reduced material waste, and higher-quality products and services with substantial cost savings.

Anark is a Zuken Technical Partner for E3.series, CR-8000 and DS-2Anark

Anark digital thread communication

Features and Benefits

The Digital Thread enables cross-functional teams spanning different organizations to easily and reliably communicate. Today’s complex product development processes demand collaboration throughout the product life cycle including procurement, design, manufacturing and field service.

Digital Engineering processes require the elimination of paper with digital conversations. Utilizing a browser-based tool eliminates the needs of multiple departments to learn a new tool. Engineering, manufacturing, and procurement can review a BOM as a digital conversation.

The Digital Thread can offer huge value in the procurement process. An OEM can source a part to multiple suppliers and have private digital conversations with each. A technical data package is part of the conversation.  The activity may be to acquire part ABC-001.  That activity can have 10 concurrent conversations with 10 suppliers. The purchase history of that part in now part of the permanent design record.

The manufacturing floor has become more connected and so does the organization. The Digital Thread can bring workflows using augmented reality to manufacturing with assembly instructions. Data can be collected from those processes to provide insight into work completed and quality.

Field service is an important factor when considering the Digital Transformation. Technical data needs to be available on mobile devices along with work instructions and in some cases the use of Augmented Reality. Repair records need to become part of the Digital Thread to measure product performance and reliability. Field service records can be the foundation for quality improvement leading to customer satisfaction.

The process is based on a model built upon relationships. The model replaces the document-based design. The model is typically created by the Systems Engineering team who converts system purpose into structure, behavior, and requirements.  The model is considered the single source of truth.

Many companies struggle with design reviews which are typically done through emails and meetings. The approval process may be nothing more than an email. The Digital Thread offers the ability to define a Design Review as an activity comprised of multiple conversations on the BOM, SI, Power, manufacturing, etc.  The activity approver has all this information upon which to base their decision.

The model must remain relevant through the product development process. This is accomplished through verification gates which are comprised of a set of verification requirements. The design can not proceed to the next development phase until the gate requirements are satisfied.  This ensures the product is consistent with the model.

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