The Secret to Unlocking Digital Thread Value – Technical Data Packages (TDP)

The goal of a digital thread is to connect everyone across the enterprise to the full array of technical data that is traditionally difficult to share or access. When done well, this transforms business operations from engineering to manufacturing, across the supply chain, and out through sustainment. Technical Data Packages (TDPs) are a key component to gaining value from your digital thread.

A Technical Data Package (TDP) includes the technical design and manufacturing information needed to enable the construction or manufacture of an item or product, or to enable the performance of certain maintenance or production processes. How then can your TDPs unlock the full value of the digital thread?

Ingredients for Effective TDPs

As one of the three key ingredients to transformative innovation, process can mean many different things. For example, Henry Ford’s assembly line would not have delivered the value it did without the careful thought given to process. Ford broke the assembly of the model T into 84 discrete steps and reduced the time it took to build a car from more than 12 hours to one hour and 33 minutes! A consistent, repeatable process is key to generating a standard TDP experience that every person in the supply chain can effortlessly use. A focus on process allows for an effort similar to Ford’s to break things down into steps to achieve the most efficient outcome. The Model T on the Assembly Line

Technology is also an essential ingredient. Without innovations in satellite technology and software, meteorologists would still be using the farmer’s almanac to forecast the weather, or maybe we would get weather related push notifications on our cell phones telling us to open the window and look outside. 

Manually generated, disconnected information (the old-fashioned way) is difficult to keep up to date. Sticking with the weather analogy — When making plans for the weekend you check the weather early in the week, but you always check the weather again on Friday to see if anything has changed so you know what to pack. Either way, without such technological advancements, we are less efficient and accurate in whatever it is we set out to accomplish.

The third ingredient is people. At the end of the day, someone, somewhere is ultimately responsible for the work to be done. Empowering people with the information they need so they can better collaborate with one another is the ultimate goal. Process and technology are enablers for people to do remarkable things as a team.

Where Can I Find The Value?
What kinds of remarkable things? 40% reduction in engineering error rates. 90% reduction in supplier onboarding times. Manufacturing scrap dropping to 0%.  Digital thread value is a team sport and the teams that do it best are improving individual and group performance while equipping their organization to sustain improvements made via process and technology investments. 

Research from McKinsey and Co. found that companies that have made the use of digital tools to set a new organizational norm are more likely to report success.  The top actions these companies took are not surprisingly at the intersection of process, technology, and people: 

  • Modified SOPs to include new digital technologies
  • Implemented digital tools to make information more accessible​
  • Implemented digital self-serve technology for employees and/or business partners use​

What Can We Learn From History?

Manufacturing is a major focus area for technology investment and is all about speed and quality. It has always been about speed. Throughout every industrial revolution, manufacturing innovation has always been about speed, and has evolved to include quality.

  1. 1st industrial revolution: Faster production: power loom – output by 40x, cotton gin – increased productivity 50x ​
  2. 2nd industrial revolution: Faster transfer of people, ideas, production - railroad, telegraph, electrification, assembly line​
  3. 3rd industrial revolution: Computer and communication technology such as automated computer calculations (Lyons Electronic Office – LEO – reduced weekly pay calculations from 8 minutes to 1.5 seconds), punched cards/tape that evolved into g-code, all resulting in faster data transfer and business operations.​
  4. 4th industrial revolution: Automation and cyber-physical systems optimize manufacturing - faster and more accurate (quality)

With the advent of the digital era, technical data standards have evolved significantly, going from paper to electronic drawings, then to 3D and MBD, and then to 3D PDF with the goal of sharing technical data faster and more accurately across the supply chain.  Those technical data sharing standards have delivered tremendous value to many businesses and government organizations. 

What are we missing?

Over the last 100 years, innovation did not limit itself to technical data. Other forms of communication changed dramatically over that same period as well. Electronics documents, email, and instant messages have become the standard for communicating most of the information in the world and are central components of a digital thread. However, they have remained disconnected from technical data sharing, and in most cases, each other. 

This disconnected thread of information has resulted in numerous challenges in collaboration between engineering and manufacturers/suppliers, leaving people on the shop floor wondering how to get the information they need and who to go to, to address issues when they arise. It has also resulted in engineers spending far too much time answering questions they have already answered, searching their email for conversations that they thought they resolved, and piecing together a digital thread for partners that cannot access it themselves. And, in procurement agents and supply chain managers searching through a combination of documents, antiquated systems, and new business applications to find all the information they need to keep the suppliers productive. 

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About the Author

Patrick Dunfey
Vice President of Marketing and Sales Enablement
Patrick is an accomplished marketing and sales enablement professional who knows that customers are at the heart of every great innovation. He focuses on driving customer satisfaction and business growth through aligned Product-Marketing-Sales programs. He uses digital systems and data-driven approaches to understand, measure and deliver success, resulting in unparalleled customer experiences and value.  Patrick has 20 years of enterprise software expertise, with specialties in CAD, PLM, ERP, AR/VR and IoT. Prior to joining Anark, Patrick developed and taught a business course on XR value strategy, helping companies identify and realize value using virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. During 14 years at PTC, a leading provider of product development software, Patrick led teams responsible for the design, build and launch of an award-winning, state-of-the-art technology experience center resulting in 5X customer meeting growth, and 66% close rates on those meetings; he led the development of a new IoT sales enablement strategy to map business value to enabling technology contributing to 52% YoY IoT revenue growth; and met with over 1000 companies, ranging from SMB to the Fortune 100, to help bridge the gap between technology and customer value. Patrick began his career as a mechanical engineer, working on product design and development projects with Brooks Automation, Arthur D. Little, U.S. Army, Keurig, and others. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts University.
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