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Reference architecture to integrate heterogeneous manufacturing systems for the digital thread



Moneer M. Helu, Thomas D. Hedberg, Allison Barnard Feeney


The increasing growth of digital technologies in manufacturing has provided industry with opportunities to improve its productivity and operations. One such opportunity is the digital thread, which links product lifecycle systems so that shared data may be used to improve design and manufacturing processes. The development of the digital thread has been challenged by the inherent difficulty of aggregating and applying context to data from heterogeneous systems across the product lifecycle. This paper presents a reference four-tier architecture designed to manage the data generated by manufacturing systems for the digital thread. The architecture provides segregated access to internal and external clients, which protects intellectual property and other sensitive information, and enables the fusion of manufacturing and other product lifecycle data. A prototype implementation of the architecture with a contract manufacturer highlights the potential of this reference architecture to generate knowledge that would otherwise be inaccessible to a manufacturing decision maker.
CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology


Data architecture, Digital thread, Systems integration
Created May 22, 2017, Updated November 10, 2018