What is the Digital Thread?

A powerful communication framework that allows a connected data flow and integrated view of an asset’s data throughout its lifecycle across traditionally siloed functional perspectives.


The Origin of The Digital Thread

The concept of the digital thread was spearheaded by the military aircraft industry and their desire to improve the performance of future programs by using digital technology to apply lessons learned to current and upcoming programs. These concepts and technologies are gaining interest beyond the aerospace and defense industry and are converging with smart manufacturing goals.

Managing Complexity with the Digital Thread

Complex manufacturers working in industries like nuclear power, medical devices, and private space exploration are faced with arduous supply chain challenges and stringent regulations. A single design change can affect the manufacturing of multiple components. The “single version of the truth” provided by the digital thread helps manage the complexity of tracking as-designed, as-built, and as-maintained records at all stages.

Framework for Communication

The digital thread provides a formal framework for controlled interplay of authoritative technical and as-built data with the ability to access, integrate, transform, and analyze data from disparate systems throughout the product lifecycle into actionable information. The digital thread and digital twin concepts are the basis for connecting design, manufacturing, and ERP in a closed loop.

Digital Thread in the Model-Based Enterprise

This single, seamless flow of information is the strategic enabler of a model-based enterprise. It gives you complete visibility of your product from cradle to grave, allowing your team to embrace new organizational capabilities.

Areas to Connect with the Digital Thread

From product design, through production, inspection, testing, and maintenance, the digital thread connects the whole engineering/manufacturing process and provides the basis for a digital, paperless shop floor. The digital thread represents the sum of all data digitally linked to form a single, contiguous definition of all value-added decisions made during a product’s manufacturing journey.


Adopting the Digital Thread in Complex Manufacturing

Better handling of data across traditionally siloed divisions (design, manufacturing, and ERP) allows the team to work toward the same goal with more efficiency.

Enhanced Quality

Avoid mistakes in manual translations of engineering specifications along the product value chain.

Improved Velocity

Accelerate new product introductions (NPI) to market and the communication of engineering changes along the product value chain.

Increased Efficiency

Simplify the capture and analysis of data related to product manufacturing.

Digital Continuity

The Process

Designing a Data Highway

The foundation of building a digital thread involves several common steps which don’t require custom development or hours of manpower.


Diagnose Challenges

Analyze your manufacturing enterprise’s specific situation and the problems you are experiencing.


Identify Risks

Identify the risks presented by both the market and your current technology.


Start Small

Identify a pilot project with the best potential for return on investment (ROI).


Establish Milestones

Establish your business-imperative milestones with key leadership throughout your manufacturing operation to stay organized and on schedule.


Embrace Change

Nurture a new culture around the technology and vision throughout your organization in order to improve adoption.

Featured Report

Exclusive Report: Building a Model-based Enterprise

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Is Your Manufacturing Operation Ready for the Digital Thread?

Adopting the digital thread is becoming an imperative step for complex manufacturers navigating increasingly fast-paced and heavily regulated industries, but how do you know if you’re ready?

By the Numbers

The Digital Thread Has Measurable Business Benefits


Increase in successful new product introductions


Improvement in on-time complete shipments
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