PROSTEP: Your API for the Digital Thread
Kyle Maxey posted on February 25, 2019 |
PROSTEP discusses why it’s been successful at developing a suite of software that acts as an API for...

Modern product design and development is complex. Not only are the function and dimensions of a design critical to its success, but the production development and resource acquisition can also be crucial to the success of a project.

For most engineering firms, tackling these problems requires numerous software tools such as product lifecycle management (PLM) software, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) package and more. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to integrate data between these separate systems when they’ve been developed by separate firms.

But, as you well know, integration is key.

Engineering firms are aware that data integration is critical for product success. The idea of a “digital thread” connecting streams of data has become invaluable to engineers working on complex projects.

What Is the Digital Thread?

The concept of the digital thread is typically defined as the flow of information that informs how a product moves through its design and production lifecycle. Brian Schouten, PROSTEP director of Technical Presales, clarifies that definition by adding, “the digital thread references a traceability of data as it moves from system to system, user to user and tool to tool. That traceability makes it possible to build a history of product data that can be invaluable to product designers.”

Essentially, the digital thread creates a digital twin of your product development cycle.  Redesigns, retooling, resource availability and other issues make product design a non-linear process. Schouten highlights this concern and explains why a digital thread is an asset, stating, “If you think about product design as spider web, the digital thread enables everyone in an organization to trace a product’s development path so that everybody knows what work has already been done, what work is currently being done and what work needs to be done to advance a project forward.”

Detractors of the new technology argue that the digital thread is being taken care of by new, integrated platforms like Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE, which provides PLM, ERP and design tools in one package.

While that argument has merit, the fact remains that when it comes to certain aspects of design, some products just work better than others. Furthermore, the cost of retraining staff to work with a new system is most likely not cost effective. And, of course, there’s always a security issue when the entirety of a design project is siloed in a signal repository.

Building a digital thread between products developed by different vendors is a viable and valuable proposition for many engineering firms.

How to Build a Digital Thread

“The first step in developing a robust digital thread is getting rid of non-digital artifacts,” Schouten said.

While most firms are already doing this, all firms should be using digital platforms to develop, document and distribute their design information.

“The second step in building a robust digital thread is linking digital artifacts together to stitch together a story of a product’s production history,” he said.

That’s where PROSTEP’s knowledge comes in.

PROSTEP offers PLM migration that allow firms to build their own digital thread. Think of it as an API that weaves together a digital thread of the data generated by different design, PLM and ERP solutions.

What makes PROSTEP software and solutions unique is the company’s strong relationships with all the vendors that an engineering firm might need. Whether it’s Siemens Teamcenter, Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE, MSC Software, Altair Engineering, SAP or Oracle, PROSTEP’s position as a “neutral” developer allows them to offer a comprehensive set of links that ensure the data being generated in one system can be integrated seamlessly into another system.

PROSTEP Aids Embraer – A Study in Digital Thread Success

A good example of how PROSTEP solutions enable more efficient engineering is illustrated by its work with Embraer.

Initially, Embraer had all design files in a Dassault CATIA 5 VPM data management system. Somewhere in the course of Embraer’s design history, a decision was made to adopt PTC’s Windchill as the PLM system and SAP for the ERP package.

This collage of software packages formed a design bottleneck.  Data translation between package was often difficult and led to frequent flawed outcomes.

After reviewing Embraer’s processes, PROSTEP helped to create a flawless translation of VPM data to a Windchill compliant format. This PLM integration made it possible to build all of the engineering and supplier BOMs needed for Embraer’s production. Additionally, PROSTEP’s team was able to synchronize Embraer’s ERP system with Windchill so that downstream logistics, resource and manufacturing planning could be streamlined in reference to updated PLM and design data.

PROSTEP’s ability to build SECURE DATA INTEGRATION bridges between different vendors and its proprietary data formats allowed Embraer to design a suitable workflow.  With PROSTEP’s help, Embraer built a stable digital thread to connects its current data and keep it connected in the future.

Bottom Line

Interoperability between PLM, ERP and design software is still a huge challenge for many firms. But that does not need to cause alarm.  The creation of your own digital thread is far from impossible. Whether you’re facing the integration of two, three, four or more systems, a unified and synchronized data communication regime can be built for your products.

PROSTEP has been in the business of redefining software package compatibility for 25 years. Over the years, PROSTEP has developed a rich tapestry of solutions and tools that not only enable interoperability but also define the digital thread as an invaluable tool for engineers.

Learn more about PLM integration and PLM migration at

PROSTEP has sponsored this post. They have had no editorial input to this post. Unless otherwise stated, all opinions are mine. —Kyle Maxey

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