economic trends, and political upheavals
send ripple effects through multinational
supply chains. All of this, of course, has to
be managed under intense market pressure
and regulatory oversight.
Yet, progress marches on. As with the
broader digital transformation in commerce and communication, those who wait
on the sidelines for an easier time to join
the march may be left out entirely. The potential benefits, both near- and long-term,
are undeniable and compelling. Quality,
control, and risk can be precisely managed
in real-time across the enterprise. Business, production, and compliance problems are solved faster, better, and cheaper.
Decision support becomes more granular,
and is harmonized across the factory and
throughout the supply chain. The digital
thread brings customers, vendors, and suppliers closer, tying them into holistic feedback and evaluation loops. People, machines, and other resources are put to more
efficient use, with optimization driven by
better metrics and predictive performance
analytics that flag pending issues before
they cause outages or quality defects.
For complex manufacturers, many of
which are digital thread pioneers, the biggest value lies in the remarkably improved
capacity to manage product configurations and change management across the
entire value chain and product life cycle.
These capabilities allow companies to ensure faster time-to-market, more successful new product introductions, and flexible
reactions to customer needs. Closing the
loop on engineering changes promotes
conformance to customer specifications
and regulations, assuring that as-built configurations precisely match as-designed.
It also ensures that knowledge and documentation of changes are communicated
upstream and downstream, preserving integrity with optimal efficiency. From the
shop floor to the C-suite, the digital thread
framework enables visibility, consistent
practices, continuous products and process improvement, and efficient compliance with exacting quality and compliance
standards (e.g., ISO 9001, AS9011, and
FDA’s 21 CRF Part 11 and Part 820).
Quality management is a key fea- ture of the digital thread. In complex discrete manufacturing, especially, the tolerance for faulty
parts and products is near zero, for obvious life-and-death reasons. Closely
managing quality throughout the entire
manufacturing process using integrated
systems that embed proofing and inspection practices and verify the certifications
of personnel, tools, and machines saves
time, reduces waste, and protects enterprise reputation.
High-profile quality failures like the
Takata airbag recall have prompted Gart-ner, ISO, and others to issue urgent calls
for greater focus on supply chain visibility
and quality control. Likewise, regulatory
compliance is an ongoing headache for
many industries. Within the digital thread
framework, quality and compliance activities are more closely linked. Related data
collected and analyzed at key points can
be used to predict, prevent, and detect errors. Corrective actions can be automated,
documented, and propagated through the
supply chain to avoid repetitive or cascading errors. The tracking and traceability of
these inspection and remediation process-
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in the re-