Digital thread

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MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Debut Documentary Series Exploring the Potential of Digital Thread

Video series examines an emerging technology that is transforming organizations and disrupting industries.

Cambridge, Mass., February 27, 2018 — The digital thread is a single seamless strand of data that stretches from the initial design to the finished part. It is a key concept supporting advances in additive manufacturing and in moving the design, manufacturing and testing of industrial parts and machines completely into the digital sphere. A new video series from MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte brings this groundbreaking concept to life by following a manufactured component along its own digital thread — from initial design to deployment.

Hosted by Mark Cotteleer, research director for Deloitte’s Center for Integrated Research, Deloitte Services LP, this eight-part series takes a comprehensive storytelling approach by detailing the evolution of a bell crank created at One Aviation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Cotteleer shows how this critical piece of an aircraft’s landing gear moves along the digital thread as it evolves from design concept to an actual physical part. The series follows a piece of aerospace equipment; however, the digital thread will have ramifications for nearly all industries. Along the way, Cotteleer is joined by an array of subject matter experts from America Makes, M7 Technologies, Siemens PLM Software, and Youngstown State University.

“What we set out to do with this project, is to detail this extraordinary new enabling technology,” said Cotteleer. “Most people have never actually seen it in a realized state. This series allows us to demonstrate the game-changing nature of an interconnected digital thread and the ways in which it can quickly and radically transform organizations across many industries.”

The videos are each 3-5 minutes in length, and make the tech concepts accessible to a general audience. The series is aimed at business leaders working in manufacturing companies, but is as well a primer for anyone interested in emerging tech.

“While the series takes a close look at a technology born of a manufacturing context,’ said MIT Sloan Management Review editor in chief Paul Michelman in his video introduction, “the technology has, we believe, ramifications across industry, across organizational function, and even across individual roles within organizations.”

As Cotteleer and the team explain, the digital-thread journey begins with the design of the part. To get there, the designer may scan an existing bell crank or draw a new part to create a 3D modeled optimized part. A process called “topology optimization” allows engineers to create or redesign a part to dramatically improve the structure and performance of the part in line with the unique loads, stresses and general constraints for that part’s function.

“The impact [of topology optimization] is going to be enormous; it will change the industry. Topology optimization will allow parts to be created like they’ve never been created before. Which means, they will be lighter weight, they will be stronger, and you’re able to do that in a way that the mind couldn’t do before,” said Barry Chapman, vice president Aerospace & Defense, Federal and Marine Industries, Siemens PLM Software.

Next, advanced digital engineering simulations test the bell crank design for stress, load and function in answering the question “will it work?” within the context of the entire system. Only then will an additive manufacturing process build the prototype, layer-by-layer, using a 3D printer. During that process, sensors measure every layer of the build, for analysis that can drive “smart inspection” (among other things) after the build process is complete.

But the story of the digital thread and this bell crank does not end there. For the digital thread captures the data that comprise the part’s design, build and real-world performance — its “body of knowledge”. All of this can help improve future designs of the part at a faster rate than ever before possible.

The end result of the digital thread journey is a part that is cheaper and faster to make — with nearly limitless geographic flexibility and ever-improving design potential.

"These new technologies allow us to use data to design faster, better and cheaper airplanes with a night-and-day difference," said Alan Klapmeier, CEO of ONE Aviation. "It changes the "what ifs" that could have had iterative cycles of weeks or months, into perhaps hours, minutes or seconds. You can take that next unique idea and apply "what if" in nearly real-time. There are ways to consider possible analytical and manufacturing impacts to predict how parts fit or conflict with other things. This is where the world really changes."

To view the full series, visit MIT Sloan Management Review.

About MIT Sloan Management Review
A media company based at the MIT Sloan School of Management, MIT Sloan Management Review's mission is to lead the conversation among research scholars, business executives and other thought leaders about advances in management practice, especially those shaped by technology, that are transforming how people lead and innovate. MIT Sloan Management Review captures for thoughtful managers the creativity, excitement and opportunity generated by rapid organizational, technological and societal change.

About Deloitte
Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including more than 85 percent of the Fortune 500 and more than 6,000 private and middle market companies. Our people work across more than 20 industry sectors to make an impact that matters — delivering measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to see challenges as opportunities to transform and thrive, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthy society. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving our clients in the markets that are most important to them.

Media contacts:

Steven Thai
Public Relations
Deloitte Services LP
+1 202 699 0277

Deb Gallagher
MIT Sloan Management Review
+1 617 253 3967

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