Most people have more product data than they realize, and the places where the digital thread needs to be built out or reinforced is not always obvious. If you’re not sure where to get started, take an inventory of your technical data (digital and analog), map out if and how it connects to your digital thread, and then step back to look at it. If you’re not sure how to do this, let me offer some steps you can take to get it going.
Get the Team Involved
First, understand the people involved in your product definition processes and the people who need your digital thread. Think about all of the people you interact with at work (not just the people who work for your organization) and ask yourself do they have anything to do with our product? If they do, add them to a list. For example, if you just talked with someone in HR about your health insurance, don’t add them to the list. If you just got a question on a drawing from a part supplier, add them to the list. When you think you have a pretty complete list of people related to your digital thread, move on to the next step.
For each person on your list, name the top 2-3 things they create that are part of your digital thread and name the top 2-3 things they use/need that are part of your digital thread. It might help you to think of the software that they use, the documents/reports that they create, or the deliverables they provide when naming these things.
Take Inventory of Everything
Don’t worry about getting the list perfect or about coming up with the exact names for things, and don’t ignore things that may only be on paper. By the way, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them directly for this information if you don’t know it. You may have to explain what you’re asking for, because most people don’t know what a digital thread is, but they will likely catch-on quickly once they understand what you mean. Take note of any names of software, systems, or other tools that they use in their explanations – you may want to reference those later.
Organize Your List
Now that you have some ideas about content, you need to organize what you have. Try to rationalize the list to reduce duplicates and to come up with standard names for things (if they don’t have them already). Put these “product definition elements” into some sort of order, maybe how they fit into a rough process flow or maybe in priority order.
Don’t get too hung up on this, but make it so that you have an organized list of the pieces of your digital thread (even though some pieces may not be digital, they may be paper-based). Feel free to color-code or identify like pieces of data. For instance, you could color-code based on the software used to create them or based on the system used to store them. Play around with different ways of organizing and characterizing the elements of your digital thread.
Prioritize Next Steps
The next step is up to you. Do you need to prioritize your list? Do you need to identify what could be improved about certain elements? Do you need to map your digital thread elements to your business processes?
It really depends on where you’re headed next, but at this point you have a good foundation for further digital thread conversations inside your organization.
Contact us if you are looking for a company to perform this inventory, or if you just need someone to coach you through the process.