What does a digital thread mean and how it differs from digital twin

Key points

    What is the meaning of digital thread

    Comparing digital twin to digital thread

    Examples of its main applications

By Carlos Miskinis
Digital twin research expert
Nov 2018

Digital twins and digital threads are the foundations behind a digital transformation. 


They both enable new ways to assess practices, processes, and product concepts in a virtual environment. Simply stated the digital twin is the current representation of a product or system, mimicking a company’s machines, controls, workflows, and systems. The digital thread meanwhile is a record of a product or systems lifetime, from its creation to its removal. Both can potentially have huge benefits for operating models, revenue stream and relationships in the future.


how the concept of digital thread takes place in business


The main benefits and uses of digital thread technology


Digital threads aim is to signify the digitization and traceability throughout a product’s lifespan. They link all of digital twins capabilities such as the designs, performance data, product data, supply chain data, and software going into creating the product. The digital thread, in combination with digital twins, enable’s design requirements, records, and all the data that need to be used. While proving to be useful in the creation and optimization of both physical and digital processes across the product value chain, digital twins and threads are being expanded into the digital market. If a vehicle has an accident due to the fault of the system such as unplanned acceleration, the digital thread through having traceability across the lifecycle of a vehicle, will be able to identify the issue. By having access to model-based systems and engineering capabilities, the vehicles original concepts can be investigated. Adopting the digital thread and going digital, engineers and manufacturing experts are able to experience great gains from the removal of paper processing.


digital thread and how it works


Examples of how digital thread and digital twin are used in various industries


The aerospace and military aircraft industry has been at the forefront of the digital twin concept with their desire to improve future program performance. Now, however, these concepts are becoming significant in other fields such as digital manufacturing and cyber-physical systems. Cyber-physical systems are the digital copy of a physical system which are used to detail the status and properties to other systems in smart factories. Smart manufacturing aims to optimize business and digital processes throughout the entire product value chain. Adopting a digital thread concept with a single framework strategy for manufacturing systems is ideal as it will enable controlled analyze of data throughout a product’s lifecycle to be processed into valuable information. The measure’s being made in real-time will be effective in delivering digital data in both simulation and assembly.

Part 2

Examining the most productive uses for both technologies in business

Using these two powerful concepts to eliminate failure conditions in manufacturing

How these technologies are applied in manufacturing


Digital threads can improve manufacturing in a multitude of ways. Product quality will be improved by preventing mistakes in engineering specification being manually translated across the product value chain. The cost of products will also be reduced through the use of cloud services. This allows manufacturers the ability to implement appropriate machinery, optimize the manufacturing process with a tight schedule, and provide measured solutions. The digital thread lets planners, designers, and machinists share results. Communication of changes in engineering will be increased, as will the efficiency of digitally capturing and the analysis of data related to product manufacturing.


Digital twin and digital thread-based capabilities will become a massive advantage for future operating models, revenue streams, and relationships – to learn more about these concepts, visit our digital twin related event list. A spacecraft, for example, may be capable of performing autonomously but will not be created without co-operation on a global scale. Widescale collaboration unsurprisingly relies on having complete and accessible data which a digital thread can provide.


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