A Journey Down the Digital Thread (with donuts)

The Digital Thread

You’ve heard the industry chatter. You’ve been given the sales pitches by vendors. You’ve been told all about the digital thread and connected data and how much it will improve your work and your product.

But how?

What does it actually look like to work with the digital thread? As a product engineer. As a logistics engineer. As an illustrator. As a technical writer. As a service technician.

Take a journey down the digital thread and see what it looks like from the perspective of some of the roles contributing to the larger product lifecycle.

The Product Engineer

Everything starts with product engineering. Everything on the digital thread is ultimately about the product.

You’re an engineer working on a tactical vehicle program. The initial design has been completed and approved, and manufacturing and fielding have commenced.

You make your way to your desk, coffee and donut in hand.

You begin to triage your inbox, which seems to have inflated overnight. You find a notification from Windchill, indicating an engineering change request (CR) has been initiated and assigned to your role.

You log into Windchill and open the CR.

The CR originated from feedback from a service technician in the field. One of the hoses on the engine is consistently failing, and the CR details replacing that hose in the design with a new, improved part.

You open the CAD model and update the hose as instructed by the CR. You commit the model back into Windchill and complete your task on the CR, sending it to the next step in the change workflow.

Then, your task is done.

You do not personally reach out to logistics, illustrators, or technical writers to inform them of the change or ensure the service content is updated to match. You rely on the system workflow to handle that.

You dust off your hands and move to your next task.

The Logistic Engineer

Your morning routine is cut short by a simultaneous email notification and visit from your manager. An urgent engineering CR has been rapidly promoted and needs attention.

You log into Windchill and access the CR details.

The system has correctly identified that a number of service parts across the range of vehicles are affected by the design change.

You quickly and easily supersede the relevant parts in Windchill and update the parts lists. Impressed, you note that the illustrations for each parts list already show the new hose.

You wonder briefly if your colleagues in technical publications are affected by the CR, but you remember that Windchill will have already notified them as well.

Phew! You take a deep breath and hurry toward the breakroom. Your coffee cup is already vacant, and you heard there were donuts today.

The Illustrator

You draft multiple technical illustrations from the engineering CAD model for a vehicle. As you continue to work within templates set for your delivery standard, an email notification from Windchill pops up on your desktop.

The notification informs you that an engineering model has changed upstream, affecting the technical illustrations managed by your role.

You didn’t have to track down an engineer, rely on an email, or attend a meeting to find out about the new hose. The system takes responsibility for propagating the change request down to you.

Taking a bite of your donut and washing it down with coffee, you log into Windchill to review the CR then open the 3D illustrations in Creo and 2D illustrations in isoDraw.

In your files, you see that the hose has been replaced by the new version in the engineering model. You verify, adjust, and clean up the images with the new part and check the updated files back into Windchill.

The updated illustration files are now synchronized with the model change. Since the updates have been committed to Windchill, the illustrations are updated in the XML files currently that reference them.

The technical writers downstream will not need to query you for updates or reimport the images; it’s all already you can get back to that donut.

The Technical Writer

You commit the last XML file you were editing and decide to take a quick break. You stretch your legs down to the breakroom before returning to your desk, coffee and donut in hand.

As you plop down on your chair, you open your email.

A new Windchill notification arrived while you stepped out of your cube. A change has occurred upstream that impacts the content your role manages.

In Windchill, you view the CR and learn one of the engine hoses has been replaced in the design. The impact analysis indicates this affects your remove and replace and troubleshooting procedures, as well as preventative maintenance and parts lists sections.

From Windchill, you review the list of affected service content for the CR and launch each of the impacted XML files in Arbortext.

The logistics engineer has already updated the affected parts lists.

The illustrator responsible for the technical illustrations included in your sections has already updated the illustrations for the change and committed them to Windchill, so you see the accurate, updated versions in your XML.

You don’t have to harass engineers for changes or ping illustrators for new images; you are just responsible for ensuring the verbiage in each file reflects the change.

You update and commit each file to Windchill.

The change has been fully integrated into the service content. At this point, after the updates are reviewed and approved through their workflow, you republish any manuals that contain the updated sections and push them out for delivery to the field.

The Service Technician

One of your vehicles has come in for service.

The hose on the engine has failed and needs to be replaced. The maintenance system notifies you that the hose has been superseded by a new part, and the correct replacement part is already in stock. You access the service content in order to follow the remove and replace procedure.

You notice that the illustrations and instructions correctly match the new hose. The updated content had been pushed to your tablet immediately after the technical writer updated the XML and republished the manual.

You don’t have to search for the steps you need.

You don’t find outdated documentation that includes the legacy part.

The system has prevented all that. You navigate directly to the procedure you need and find the accurate content to get the replacement done immediately and correctly.

You breezily complete your task and send the vehicle back out to field without realizing the correct service data has saved an improper replacement, an angry manager, and a terse service bulletin. You have plenty of time to break for coffee and donuts.

To find out more about what the digital thread can do for you, get in touch with our team or watch our recent webinar below.


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