The concept of a digital thread that allows for consistent data to be shared across a product lifecycle from the design stage all the way to operations, maintenance, and repair is becoming increasingly common in industry. By enabling end-to-end product lifecycle management (PLM), a digital thread can allow manufacturers to improve the design of future products by leveraging usage data. In addition, it can streamline the process of sharing bills of materials, operational data, and other documentation between various facilities and business units, allowing for information siloes to be broken down.
One company that has taken advantage of the digital thread is Volvo Group, which manufacturers buses, construction equipment, and power products for marine and industrial applications. Volvo Group began its transition in 2018 when Volvo CE (A Volvo Group subsidiary focused on construction equipment) adopted PTC’s Windchill, a PLM software platform for data governance and traceability that provides end users with a single source of truth across engineering, operations, suppliers, and customers.
The challenges that led Volvo CE to adopt Windchill were multi-faceted. Volvo CE faced unpredictable market conditions, a demand for shorter product lifecycles, and a growing need to fulfill varied and customized orders increased the degree of complexity the company was required to navigate. At the same time, a long history of mergers and acquisitions resulted in a complex and costly IT landscape that made use of four different product data management (PDM) systems. As a result, different teams within the organization relied on differing interfaces and struggled to exchange data.
Volvo CE began by implementing Windchill at two sites, training several hundred workers in its use. By 2019, the company had added an additional 2,000 users and deployed the program in 11 more factories. By the end of 2021, Volvo estimates that Windchill will be used by more than 3,000 users across 15 of its sites. According to the company, the results have been substantial—a 70% efficiency gain in the quality of work instructions, a 30% reduction in data entry errors, and a 30% improvement in change management handling.
Following on these successes, Volvo Group is currently expanding its partnership with PTC. Its new initiative will see the company moving all of its computer-aided design work to PTC’s Creo software, which is designed to exchange data seamlessly with Windchill. Establishing this data pipeline will allow for improvements in the production innovation and design process, said Lars Stenqvist, chief technology officer at Volvo Group.
“By working together on a common vision, we have driven important improvements to the PTC product suite, and important improvements in enabling Volvo Group to bring great products to market,” said Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO at PTC. “The digital engineering approach that we will achieve together will serve as an example to companies around the globe.”