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A question… How far does your Digital Thread really go?

Updated: 4 hours ago

One of the first things I did when joining Authenise was to talk to our customers and ask them “what

they really thought”. The insight they gave me was enlightening!

It has to be said, I am a self-confessed “CAD jockey” and “PLM wonk”, so I guess I should start by

outlining what wasn’t said... Bills of materials (BOMs) were not really mentioned. Neither was CAD,

for the most part. The latter I could understand. The former, however, surprised me. I naively put

this down to my background. Perhaps customers in this space have different needs?

With these questions, and more I dug in. What was outlined was enlightening. As a body our

customers were quite ebullient about their input around Authentise, and what our platform


  • A really flexible way to drive distributed industrial engineering and manufacturing processes

  • A way to drive their process from order, through to delivery

  • A place where all their efforts, internally, and externally with suppliers, were included

  • A central repository of information for industrial engineering and manufacturing

  • A single place for collaboration, internally and externally

  • A place where commercial and technical details of work were all included

  • A place where planning meets tracked execution

  • A place where operational needs can be coordinated across the people, materials, resources, machines, manually or automatically, to execute

  • A distinct “lack of operational latency!”

This sounds great, right! In many of cases our customers were able to outline clear business benefits

associated with these ideas.

Intrigued though I began to dig a little deeper. It’s great to understand how we helped them so far.

However, in order to add more value to these guys, we needed to go a level deeper…

  • Nearly all had extremely variable, unique offerings and, or processes

  • All had a tailored system, matched to their unique processes

  • Their wider process were working, and thriving…. Whether contained within the Authentise environment, or connecting to it

  • Customers were not just using Authentise for additive manufacturing processes.

  • Customers are also using it to track other aspects of their work. This meant a variety of general, sometimes manual, engineering work.

  • Many customers covered other manufacturing processes such as tooling creation, CNC development etc. Some were managing material handling. Others included shipping and packaging processes.

  • All of them were connecting a variety of additional tools, systems and hardware to the Authentise platform.

What every single one of them had in common, was a desire to hook together their broader processes into a coherent thread.

The more we talked the more it became apparent that we’re providing an interesting mix of process resource management, execution and contextual data, all delivered on a common platform…. A Digital Thread?

This idea is something our industry has talked about a lot. Was I looking at it, here, with these

customers? The more we talked, the more I thought “It is!”.

The more we talked, the more we began to understand that we’re doing something slightly different

from some of the traditional IT solutions. What we’re doing is not a data based, BOM management

toolset with additional functionality, as per some PLM systems. Nor is it a series of disconnected

apps like many ERP or MES systems. This appeared to be a common problem. While our customers

often had many IT systems with three letter acronyms, (PLM, ERP, MES, MRP and so on) they rarely

connected outside of their immediate remits. PLM or PDM was being used by design. MES and often

ERP being used by manufacturing and purchasing, supply or sales.

What we were talking about was a much more dynamic network of interaction that didn't care for

these traditional TLA (three letter acronym) notions as our customer’s tried to keep their customers

happy and adhered to increasingly complex compliance regulations. What we were discussing

seemed to overcome many of the traditional, disconnected, islands of process automation we often

see in IT.

As I reflect a little, what we appeared to be looking at was the digital thread, integrating processes

together. Allowing them to see their key industrial engineering and manufacturing data in the wider

context of the overall process around it. Understanding what’s going on, seeing value and opportunity for improvement… Am I getting carried away?

Perhaps what’s a more interesting question is “How many other companies out there have these

challenges? Why are more people not doing this, and if we had something, where could we use it?

QUESTION 1 : Where could you use a digital thread?

Where could you use a digital thread?

  • Industrial Engineering Workflow Management

  • Tooling, Fabrication & Prototyping

  • Distributed Design, Manufacturing & Delivery

  • Supply Chain Execution

You can vote for more than one answer.

QUESTION 2 : Are there other areas we need to consider a broader application of a digital thread?

We have spent some time fleshing out a few areas that we think a digital thread could be beneficial...

Do you agree? Do you have any other areas? If so we would love if you could give us your thoughts in the blog comments section at the very bottom of this page!

QUESTION 3 : Is there space for an overall "Digital Thread" solution that connects traditional PLM, ERP, MES, MRP and other traditional islands of IT?

Yes? No? It depends!? - Please let us know in the blog comments section at the very bottom of this page!

We would specifically like to thank 3M, Danfoss, Boeing, Rolls Royce and Carpenter Additive, amongst

others, for their insight.

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