Join us in our eight-part exploration of the digital thread — a digitally enabled process with the power to potentially revolutionize design, production, and the supply chain as we know them.

We begin our journey in an airplane hangar in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There, ONE Aviation — a maker of very light jets — uses a 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 analytics and optimized for the digital age. Each stage of the digital thread is itself composed 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 can only be realized when it is interwoven with other business processes that drive an organization. But 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.

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.

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