PTC’s Digital Engineering Journey

PTC’s Digital Engineering Journey

Munich, 3rd February 2017

PTC invites all its customers, both old and new, to join them on a digital engineering journey into the era of the Internet of Things. PTC is convinced that all companies will embrace digital transformation because soon nearly every product will be smart and connected. PTC provides the solutions for developing, testing, operating and servicing such products.

This article is based on discussions with PTC management (from left): Stephan Ellenrieder, Senior Vice President of Central and Eastern Europe and Managing Director of Germany; François Lamy, VP of PLM Solutions & Strategy; Kevin Wrenn, Divisional General Manager, PLM Segment; and Chris Bergquist, PLM Solutions Director.

Stephan Ellenrieder Francois Lamy Kevin Wrenn Chris Bergquist

This article has been approved by and reflects the position and strategy of PTC.

Strategic Direction: Internet of Things

2014 was an important year for PTC. The acquisition of the technology platform, ThingWorx, opened new doors for the established provider of CAD and PLM solutions. ThingWorx, now the centerpiece of PTC’s Internet of Things technology portfolio, is comprised of a rapid application development platform, connectivity, machine-learning capabilities, augmented reality, and integration with leading device clouds. These capabilities combine to deliver a comprehensive IoT technology stack that enables companies to securely connect products, quickly and easily create applications without programming knowledge, and innovate new ways to capture value. Data can be integrated from any source via the Internet – you can basically design your own user interface with drag and drop.

The ThingWorx acquisition turned out to be a brilliant move. It allows PTC to support the manufacturing industry – now and into the future -- as companies transform themselves to compete in a smart, connected world where more and more products will be sold as a service, and where product-based services might be more important than the products themselves.

Die ThingWorx PlattformThingWorx-Platform (picture PTC)

Manufacturers across the globe are beginning to understand this developmental step but for the time being, the core business remains the mature one. And after its acquisition of ThingWorx, many asked themselves just how PTC would balance further development of its core CAD and PLM business while simultaneously establishing a new one around the Internet of Things.

The answer was a duel strategy and a reorganization of the company structure. One pillar of the company remains focused on the software that supports business processes in the manufacturing industry; the second one supports customers as their businesses begin to explore IoT technologies and new business models. PTC’s visionary CEO, Jim Heppelmann, says there is a very clear and close relationship between the two pillars and no concrete dividing line. Jim states that IoT is PLM!

Understanding the Value of the Internet of Things

At the PTC Forum Europe in Stuttgart in November 2016, the audience was introduced to a number of products that demonstrate the value to be derived from smart, connected things. One such innovative product was Zen-O -- an oxygen concentrator from the medical device segment of GCE Group, a supplier of industrial, medical and ultrapure gas supplies. The Zen-O is a device that allows patients with respiratory disorders to manage their oxygen therapy within and outside their homes. It is portable, weighs 4.66 kg, and can deliver up to 2 liters of oxygen per minute, mechanically or respiratory controlled. It provides various life-saving aural and visual alarms that warn, for example, against a low battery, the absence of recognizable breathing, necessary service, and low oxygen concentration..

Zen O The wearable, connected Zen-O (photo Sendler)

GCE, looking for a way to power its new connected product strategy and improve service, was introduced to ThingWorx by PTC partner, InVMA. With the implementation of the ThingWorx platform, clinicians and service providers will be able to remotely monitor the data they need in order to ensure the patient is well.

In cooperation with further partners, InVMA was able to build a prototype in just two weeks and connect it within two months. The difference: battery status, breathing, oxygen concentration, and service activities can now be reliably monitored by a third party -- independent of the patient's own monitoring or condition, guaranteeing the device is in good working order at all times.

“We are using ThingWorx to connect to the Zen-O in the field and use the resulting data to improve the service quality and medical care delivered to patients. The application requires a level of integrity and legislative conformance, which we have built to give our customers confidence that this life-enhancing connected product will work securely,” said Gareth Pemberton, director of Innovation at GCE Group. “We are managing to move from concept to customer in a fraction of the time compared to other development routes by using a proven, robust and scalable platform.”

Anzeige der Zen-O AppDisplay of Zen-O App (photo Sendler)

This example shows that the value provided through the Internet of Things does not end with the sale of the product, but extends over its entire lifecycle. The time following the sale of a product - so far only of interest for repair services and spare parts suppliers - becomes the most important link in the value chain for many products. Kevin Wrenn, Divisional General Manager, PLM Segment, PTC says, "You need a couple of years to develop a product, a couple of months to manufacture it, but a product is often in operation for 20 or 30 years."

In the future, the value created throughout the entire life of a product will become critical for the industry. However, it is necessary to consider what kind of value will be most important to the customer. To aid this process, PTC offers a number of fully-integrated ThingWorx-based components for the design of the services and applications of connected products, including ThingWorx Analytics for real-time data analysis, abnormal data recognition, predictive analytics and simulation; and Kepware for connecting industrial equipment and machine-to-machine communication.

The inclusion of Internet-based services begins with the engineering of the products.

Design for Connectivity

Of course, it isn’t enough to only support the development of IoT projects with ThingWorx. Although some products have long been equipped with sensors and digital components that facilitate rapid connection and analysis, many products have no sensors at all -- or if they do, they are not placed to bring the most value. Why waste time manually reading and entering data when it can be automatically collected, filtered and analyzed wirelessly? PTC calls designing products and systems through data streams “Design for Connectivity”. Design for Connectivity means that when engineers are designing a product or system, they are thinking about sensors and the ensuing data, space required for digital elements and whether their CAD system can generate different models for IoT products. Based on the data collected, the engineer must determine which services will be conceivable, meaningful and valuable.

Digital Engineering Journey(Graphic PTC)

But it can be difficult to determine what data can be gathered from a product. When an organization is first investing in IoT technology, there is a lack of data and, consequently, experience, in determining eventualities. This makes a Data Driven Design – another term that has been introduced for IoT-compliant engineering – difficult to implement. In order to know at the outset that certain data flows can be analyzed and used for specific objectives, it is first necessary to understand the data flow.

The first step towards realizing a smart, connected strategy is to use existing or available data to understand and better assess options. Can the available data even be accessed? Most engineers know that a PLM solution is required to capture product data in a central location and provide secure access across an organization. In the IoT era, companies will find it nearly impossible to understand and assess their data without a PLM solution.

This is also the case with the requirements that were laid out during the initial development of the product: those who have an Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) solution have the basis for accomplishing this. Those who don’t, will need to invest in an ALM solution now if they want to be able gain insight into performance once the product is in the field.

This is also true regarding data generated from the operation, maintenance, spare parts, and service of a product. Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) is another component of PTC’s portfolio of enterprise software, which becomes all the more important as the importance of the product-based services is taken into account.

The enterprise solutions that PTC has in its portfolio for industrial engineering - Creo for CAD, Windchill for PLM, Integrity for ALM, and a whole portfolio for SLM - gain a new significance when coupled with the Internet of Things. PTC is accomplishing this by gradually integrating all these solutions with its ThingWorx platform.

Navigating through Data Streams

Developing products and integrated services is complicated and the complexity is increasing dramatically as a result of connectivity. Chris Bergquist puts it this way: "There are two dimensions of growing complexity: more and more information is needed by a growing number of different experts. One of our customers told us that their engineers spend more than 60 percent of their time searching for and delivering data needed by various other departments."

PTC NavigatePTC Navigate (picture PTC)

That’s probably why a new product from PTC began receiving overwhelming interest in 2016. The initial success of PTC Navigate, which is based on the ThingWorx technology platform, surprised both the developers and PTC management. By the end of the first year, more than 70,000 licenses had been sold. The appeal is obvious:

PTC Navigate enables the user to access data from various systems -- even third-party providers – through an easy-to-use user interface application. The collection and synchronization of data is called loose coupling. The Open Service for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) community was formed specifically for the standardization of such coupling possibilities. But even after years of intensive work on the part of OSLC, the customer is still required to do intensive programming and preparation across its software systems - for which time and resources are rarely available. PTC uses OSLC to coordinate data and systems such as Integrity and Windchill. PTC Navigate, on the other hand, uses a so-called “mash-up layer” that simply brings the data together and displays it.

In this way, the user is provided with the data he needs to complete tasks – whether from customers, orders, Bills of Material (BOMs), production, or service – without calling on system experts to sacrifice their time to locate and retrieve the data. PTC Navigate is role-based, open, and easily configurable. IT managers and users were in desperate need of this very solution – it’s no wonder it’s a raging success for PTC.

In engineering, it is all about the product data.

PLM is the Basis for Digital Transformation

Thus, we close the circle. The heart of the product data that is generated during the product lifecycle and, above all, the structure of the data relationships, is PLM, or in PTC’s case, Windchill. Kevin Wrenn says: "For us, Windchill is the main system for development, testing, approval, modification, or configuration management." Chris Bergquist adds: "Model-based systems engineering, functional design, and simulation are also critical for engineering, but especially with connected systems, all data must be traceable."

A digital product model is needed not only for data access. A digital twin is needed to draw the correct conclusions from the analysis of the operational data. And it is the basis on which modern teams of development partners can work according to the principle of crowdsourcing.

The best-known example of such a project was provided by the highly successful Startup company, StreetScooter, which has since been acquired by Deutsche Post. Deutsche Post is now producing its own electric vehicles for postal delivery and is planning to manufacture 10,000 vehicles annually including E-bikes, E-trikes, and E-transporters. The vehicles were developed in record time and at record low costs. For this purpose, automotive suppliers joined forces in the fields of body, thermal management, powertrain, battery development, wiring, and manufacturing. During development, data from the test operation was fed back to the design team. The model of the vehicle was developed according to the building block concept with data integrated from various CAD systems. For the project, StreetScooter deployed the full range of PTC software, from Creo and Windchill to ThingWorx. Information such as local weather, traffic, battery level and so on can be collected as needed to ensure delivery efficiency.


AR on stageUse of AR with Vuforia on stage (photo PTC)

PTC uses the phrase ‘closed-looped lifecycle management’ to describe how its extensive software portfolio supports its customers. And the portfolio is being steadily extended to include world-class solutions that enhance customer value – from software functionality that optimally supports 3D printing support to cutting-edge Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) apps created with Vuforia, a recent acquisition. PTC, with its more than 6,000 talented experts, is committed to being and remaining a forerunner in the market.

PTC’s strategy is understood and welcomed by its customers, as Stephan Ellenrieder hears over and over again when meeting with executive management across central Europe. "No matter which company in which industry we are talking to about IoT and AR strategies, all of these discussions revolve around the implementation of a PLM system." PLM is the basis for IoT and IoT is the driver for PLM. Stephan Ellenrieder believes PTC is on the right course: "The executive management of both existing customers and prospects is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of a solid PLM basis as the starting point for digital transformation."


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