Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

Introduction to Digital Thread 242

Introduction to Digital Thread 242 provides an overview of the function, software applications, and current uses of digital threads in manufacturing. Digital threads, which often work in conjunction with digital twins, represent a communication framework within a smart factory. As the digital twin develops throughout the product lifecycle, the digital thread shares data between personnel, machines, and digital storage.

This class will enable users to define digital threads, describe how they function and are created, and identify the different ways they are deployed throughout the product lifecycle. Digital thread integration breaks down traditional information silos in order to send and receive critical information in real time using the same data language. Also, digital thread traceability can help manufacturers track the impact of changes and constantly improve the quality of the products.

  • Difficulty Intermediate

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 11

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Digital Threads
  • Digital Twins
  • Digital Thread Software Applications
  • Purpose of Digital Threads
  • Digital Threads: Challenges
  • Review: Digital Thread Basics
  • Digital Thread and Design
  • Digital Thread for Supply Chain
  • Digital Thread and Change Management
  • Digital Thread and the End User
  • Final Review
  • Describe the digital thread.
  • Describe the use of digital twins for the digital thread.
  • Describe common software applications associated with digital threads.
  • Explain the purpose of a digital thread.
  • Explain the challenges associated with implementing a digital thread.
  • Describe designing for digital thread.
  • Explain how digital thread connects the supply chain with the manufacturer.
  • Describe digital thread and change management.
  • Describe relationship between digital thread and the end user.
Vocabulary Term


Three-dimensional. Having a length, depth, and width. Creating 3D digital models of an part is the first stage of part design.


A logic and mathematical expression that models a process or action. Algorithms are coded into a computer program that forms the rules by which a robot will interface with its environment.


A unit of data that appears in code as a group of eight binary numbers. Bytes are one of the smallest units of data.


Computer-aided design. A computer software program that aids in the automated design and technical precision drawing of a part, product, process, or building. CAD can create three-dimensional digital models used for digital twins.

change management

A system designed to update documents according to particular changes to document versions. Change management allows users to access the latest version of a document, while showing all previous versions and the records of any changes made therein.

cloud computing

The practice of using software and storing data on remote servers that can be accessed through the internet. Cloud computing is makes possible for manufacturers to upload data and then relay it to a digital twin.

computer-aided design

CAD. A computer software program that aids in the automated design and technical precision drawing of a part, product, process, or building. Computer-aided design can create three-dimensional digital models used for digital twins.


The capability of computer systems and devices to share information across networks. Connectivity is a key aspect of digital manufacturing.

cyber attacks

An effort to disrupt, disable, or gain illegal access to a digital device or network. Cyber attacks include hacking, phishing, and installing malware.


A hardware device that links physical objects and processes with virtual objects and processes in an interconnected network. Cyber-physical systems are used in digital manufacturing to simplify the transition from a digital design to a physical part.


Protection against criminal or unauthorized access to computer networks, programs, and data. Cybersecurity has become a major industrial concern as networking and connectivity have increased.

cybersecurity insurance

A service that organizations can purchase in order to protect against losses in the event of a cyber attack. Cybersecurity insurance can cover penalties, fines, and other costs that are incurred in a cyber attack.

data encryption

The process of transforming data into another form that can only be accessed using a decryption key. Data encryption protects data when it moves from a trusted to an untrusted area, but hackers also use data encryption in ransomware attacks to block users out of their own system files and applications.

data tracking

The practice of using hardware, software, and the internet to organize, process, and communicate valuable information gathered from the production process. Data tracking can provide information to a digital twin in real time.

device language

A set of rules and symbols used to represent information. Device language instructs a specific type of machine or machine component on the manner in which it should carry out a task.

digital model

An electronic, three-dimensional version of a part or other device. Digital models allow designers or engineers to create a variety of parts on the computer before creating the physical part.

digital supply chain

DSC. A web-based network of computers, companies, and systems that exchange resources, such as materials and information, to deliver products to customers. A digital supply chain connects suppliers and stakeholders throughout the entire product lifecycle.

digital thread

An integrated view of all the data and information about a part or product throughout its lifecycle. The digital thread connects information from all aspects of a product into one seamless network.

digital twin

A virtual representation of a physical object, such as a part or machine. A digital twin evolves with the object throughout its lifecycle.


Something capable of constant change and continuous productivity. Dynamic models like digital twins are improvements on traditional 3D models with limited capabilities.

end user

The person who uses the physical part created by a manufacturer. End users represent the goal of the smart factory and its related processes.

enterprise quality management system

EQMS. A software application that integrates and manages all processes that relate to ensuring quality compliance. Enterprise quality management systems can connect data from multiple processes across the value chain product lifecycle execution (PLE) system.

enterprise resource planning

ERP. A specific application of a management information system that takes the data from internal and external information systems and integrates it throughout the organization. Enterprise resource planning is often integrated into the product lifecycle management of cyber-physical manufacturing via the digital thread.


Gaining access to a computer, device, or network by exploiting system vulnerabilities. Hacking is generally an illegal activity.


Industrial Internet of Things. The network of manufacturing machines that contain computer systems that send and receive data through cyberspace. IIoT allows controls, sensors, and other instruments to exchange data without any human intervention.

Industrial Internet of Things

IIoT. The network of manufacturing machines that contain computer systems that send and receive data through cyberspace. The Industrial Internet of Things allows controls, sensors, and other instruments to exchange data without any human intervention.

Industry 4.0

Starting in the early 2000s, a stage in manufacturing uses connected devices and digital technologies. Industry 4.0 uses automation and data exchange to achieve advancements in a variety of industries.

lead times

The time spent between the original customer order for a particular product and its final delivery to the customer. Manufacturers try to reduce lead time to improve customer satisfaction.


The entire timeline of something. In manufacturing, lifecycle includes part design, machine setup, production, quality, and end of life.


Any malicious code or software that can potentially harm a computer, device, or network, or retrieve data from the network or device without authorization. Malware often exists undetected on systems for extended periods of time.

manufacturing execution system

MES. A software application that monitors and analyzes machine performance data related to processing materials and producing finished products. Manufacturing execution system applications can be used to integrate performance data from multiple machines in a product lifecycle execution (PLE) system.

original equipment manufacturers

OEMs. An organization that provides parts and equipment to the supply chain. Original equipment manufacturers supply parts that are used in finished products.

platform systems

Any computing hardware, software, or combination of these upon which other digital applications are built. Platform systems may include operating systems, web browsers, or systems designed for product management applications.

product lifecycle execution

PLE. A computer software program that manages how a product will be produced. Product lifecycle execution software utilizes the digital thread and is common in cyber-physical manufacturing.

product lifecycle management

PLM. A computer software program that traces all information related to the manufacture of a product from prototype to failure. Product lifecycle management software uses the digital thread to integrate all cyber-physical data related to the manufacture of a part and beyond.

programming language

A set of symbols and rules used to represent information. Programming language instructs a processor on the manner in which it should carry out a process.


The standards and rules used by network devices to interact with each other. Essentially, protocols are the language that networked devices use to communicate.


A preliminary model of a product used to evaluate the performance of a design. A prototype can be tested safely and accurately using a digital twin.


Actual time or virtually the same as actual time. In real time, computers process data nearly immediately.


Controlled by rules, laws, or polices. Regulatory requirements might include safety or environmental protection rules mandated by the government.


A system or process closed off from the larger group to which it belongs. Siloes hinder work by preventing information from reaching other parts of the production lifecycle.


A device that can connect to the internet. Smart devices can track performance without human intervention.

smart manufacturing

A method of manufacturing designed to improve product design and processes through the integration of digital technology throughout the supply chain. Smart manufacturing increases connectivity between all areas of product development.


The state of a process at rest. Static processes remain fixed or unchanged.

supply chain

A complex network of companies and suppliers that produce and distribute a product. A supply chain consists of a company, its suppliers, its distributors, and its customers.

supply chain management

SCM. A system that monitors and analyzes all data and functions related to the supply chain. Supply chain management software is often connected with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

supply chain management

The process of planning, implementing, and controlling the operations of a supply chain to maximize efficiency. Supply chain management requires the cooperation of companies and resources.


The ability to verify the history, application, or location of an item using data flows. Traceability enables smart manufacturers to monitor the entire production lifecycle using digital threads.


Existing on or simulated within a computer program or system rather than physically existing. Virtual representations of real-world objects are known as digital twins.