Data Readiness in the Digital Thread: Recapping GPDIS 2021
Last month, Vertex sponsored The Global Product Data Interoperability Summit, which focused on data readiness in a new age of digital collaboration. We had the opportunity to hear from some of the most influential companies in the aerospace and defense industry, including The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman, NASA, and PLM-consultant CIMdata. Throughout the five-day conference, these companies and different vendors all talked through the challenges of making sure data is clear, concise, and valid for downstream teams.
Pain Points of Data Readiness in the Digital Thread
Companies are looking to make advancements in model-based engineering (MBE). But leveraging 3D product data outside of engineering for downstream applications has historically been challenging due to a number of limitations with hardware, software, and data transformation. However, product data has untapped potential to provide a wealth of information for collaborative decision-making across the enterprise.
All the presentations in some way touched on these challenges and how digitalization is changing these paradigms:
- Synchronizing ship product configurations and 3D models at Newport News Shipbuilding had a legacy process of by-hand change verification prior to using laser scanning to simplify synchronization activities, as described by Nathanael Soulje of Elysium and Mark Debbink of NNS.
- When sharing product data with multiple suppliers in a PLM system, manufacturers need a model instance that can be in multiple spots with readily available metadata. As Mark Williams of Boeing says, metadata empowers the digital thread, and generating metadata that is “more than text” enables real, live descriptive model data.
- If there are multiple layers of customization, groups, suppliers, data, and coordination, it can be very difficult to find the right information that’s needed, as described by Nick VanSchoonhoven of Boeing.
- Finally, a very poignant quote from Ben Nimmergut of Boeing said that rather than a culture that focuses on the impact of the work the engineering team is doing, it is instead relegated to a culture of data exchange and data entry. Instead, companies can use MBD strategies and tools to bring joy back to product development.
Cloud-Based Visualization of 3D Product Data
Each presentation touched on a different aspect of making data ready to be leveraged for downstream teams and suppliers in a model-based systems engineering format. Some of the strategies that these aerospace and defense companies use include new modeling standards, technology usages, DevOps initiatives, and a digital thread focus. Vertex also had the opportunity to present, where VP of Product Matt Heying brought cloud to the table as an opportunity to improve data readiness.
Traditionally, client-side rendering sends 3D geometry to the device, where there are several data transformation steps in order to view product data for different applications, such as shop floor and field work instructions. For example, data has to transform from native CAD formats to an exchange format, with even further reduction if tools like a game engine are needed. But the more steps the data goes through to transform, the worse fidelity for the users downstream. Furthermore, all that data can’t be re-used for multiple use cases; the same information that's important to shop floor and field work instructions is relevant for training applications.
Instead of client-side rendering, Vertex uses server-side rendering, which is critical for large-scale model visualization such as an assembly. Server-side rendering eliminates the need for end-user hardware and data transformation by streaming pixels to the end-device instead of geometry. This GPU-based rendering focuses on a “vertical” scaling solution. Taking it one step further by using a CPU-based solution, companies take advantage of “horizontal” scaling using low-cost CPU’s for specific units of work, no matter how many users or assembly size.
This approach has enabled Vertex to solve several challenges for our customers, such as getting digital twin-based instructions and MBD to the shop floor for electronic work instructions, using digital twins to pinpoint accuracy on quality reporting and resolution workflows, and integrating PLM, BIM, and IoT data sources for smart factory and product IoT visualization. We detail our distributed computing method in our press release describing the patented technology.
Cloud-Native Visualization in Manufacturing
As manufacturers continue to integrate MBSE, DevOps, MBD, and digital thread strategies into their organizations, we will continue to see that data availability brings better decision-making and joy back to engineering. If you’re looking for ways to enable data availability and connect the digital thread, I encourage you to check out our webinar series on “Connected digital thread” that Matt and I recently hosted: