Following the digital thread The path toward the digital enterprise

Join us in our eight-part exploration of the digital thread—a digitally enabled process with the potential to revolutionize design, production, and the supply chain as we know them. Produced in partnership with MIT Sloan Management Review, this documentary-type series follows a real application of the digital thread, from product design to production.


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We begin our journey in an airplane hangar in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There, ONE Aviation—a maker of very light jets—uses digital manufacturing technology with the power to potentially revolutionize design, production, and the supply chain. We call it the “digital thread.”

At its most fundamental level, the digital thread is a reimagined version of the manufacturing value chain —one powered by data and advanced analytical power, and optimized for the digital age. Each stage of the digital thread is, itself, comprised of and enabled by an integrated ecosystem of digital technologies that work in concert to tackle a particular challenge in the production process.

And like other breakthroughs, the true value proposition of the digital thread may reside in the influence it could have in driving the entire organization well beyond production—services, operations, supply chain management, aftermarket support—just to name a few. Indeed, the digital thread cannot exist on its own; its true value proposition could be realized when it is interwoven with other business processes that drive an organization. It has the potential to create a wave of change in long held management strategies.

In this eight-part series, we’ll explore the many facets of the digital thread through its application in ONE Aviation’s bell crank—a critical component that enables the opening and closing of the aircraft wheel doors in sync with gear movement. We’ll journey through each of the digital thread’s four stages: scan/design and analyze, build and monitor, test and validate, and deliver and manage. We’ll examine the various analysis and computing tools that power the digital thread, from finite element analysis to topology optimization, and more. Along the way an array of subject matter experts from America Makes, M7 Technologies, Siemens PLM Software, and Youngstown State University, will join the series host, Mark Cotteleer, research director for Deloitte’s Center for Integrated Research, Deloitte Services LP.

But this really isn’t a story about just one company or one product or even one industry. It is a story about the profound effect that the digital thread could have on companies and products around the world, across sectors and applications every day. It is about how manufacturing—and the manufacturing organization—can be transformed by advanced digital technologies. As with any revolutionary new technology or process, there is much to learn.