LIVEWORX 2017: PTC Bolsters ThingWorx Platform with Manufacturing Apps
Felix Nilsson posted on June 02, 2017 |
The CAD and PLM company has redefined its view of PLM to include the Internet of Things (IoT) as the...

PTC held its annual LiveWorx event in the company’s home town of Boston. This classic CAD and PLM company has recently redefined its view of PLM to include the Internet of Things (IoT) as the best way forward.

As CEO Jim Heppelmann stated, “The way to IoT is through PLM; or rather, through the new generation of PLM.”

The reasoning behind this strategy is that the increasingly smart and connected products in demand today require equally smart and connected IT and software support during their creation. With concepts such as “Industry 4.0” and “smart manufacturing” gaining wider recognition and greater traction, the message is clear: you need to get in on IoT, or you’ll be left behind.

PTC’s solution to this challenge — and the star of the LiveWorx show — is the ThingWorx platform. When it was acquired in 2013, ThingWorx was an easy-to-use IoT app development and connectivity platform. However, after years of PTC-led investment and development, ThingWorx version 8, which was announced at the event, has grown into something more akin to an Industry 4.0 platform.

The LiveWorx event saw quite a bit of enthusiasm regarding ThingWorx. There are many reasons, but they all boil down to a number of positions of strength. For one, PTC has come a long way in terms of technology by acquiring and integrating technologies such as Kepware, Coldlight and Vuforia into its IoT/PLM platform.

The company is also beginning to claim greater market share and awareness. For instance, the ThingWorx developer portal, released last year, now boasts over 15,000 registered users.

The growth of the LiveWorx event itself also speaks volumes about the customer interest in the solutions, as this year’s event attracted some 5,000-6,000 attendees, compared to 1,000 attendees the year before. 

This will all come in handy to recoup the costs of the IoT venture, which have amounted to over $1 billion. While revenues from ThingWorx-related software have gone from $3 million to over $100 million, it still has a long way to go to meet its financial potential.

However, the company’s new generation of PLM might be facing a bright future for several reasons:

  • The clear vision to close the loop of the product lifecycle by linking data from the products in the field, accomplished partly with product development solutions in the company's CAD and PLM portfolios (CREO and Windchill) and partly with manufacturing and automation (MES, for example, in partnership with GE).
  • The tools integrated in the ThingWorx platform feature an openness about communicating with virtually all the connections that a wide suite requires: ERP and supply chain, MRO and Maintenance Solutions, as well as with CAD and PLM systems.
  • CEO Jim Heppelmann has the right kind of enduring, business-oriented leadership that a pioneering IoT initiative requires. (To learn more about Heppelmann’s vision, click here to see Verdi Ogewell’s recent interview.)

PTC definitely has the vision and a strong platform, but does it cover enough bases to be called an Industry 4.0 solution? The PLM TV News team asked Gartner analyst, Marc Halpern about this. (The complete interview with Marc Halpern will be posted in the upcoming weeks.)

"That's absolutely the case," said Halpern, “although there is still some ways to go. I can say that many of Gartner’s clients at a high executive level find Industry 4.0, PTC and other PLM developers' IoT solutions very attractive. But it’s also a question of getting engineers and the people on the floor onboard, as they are the ones who will ensure that the technology is actually turned into working solutions. This will require time before the ball really gets rolling.”

Halpern also concluded that while there may be quite a bit of low-hanging fruit that can provide quick results in certain areas, there is also an organizational learning curve and educational needs that require people in the organization to learn radically different ways of thinking than they’re used to.

“This means that just like what we have seen in connection with PLM implementation, it may take between five to ten years before it is in place,” said Halpern.

At the same time, Halpern is clear about the importance of taking the first steps on this journey. The only way to get started is to initiate projects. Just as PTC has a head start in the IoT area when compared to PLM competitors such as Dassault and Siemens PLM, because they started early, the same goes for individual companies. There is a potential with IoT which, once you have gotten over the initial difficulties, will give so much back that those who chose an overly cautious path will have a hard time catching up.

PTC Speeds Up on the Manufacturing Side

The gist of Halpern's reasoning is that it’s important to take the initiative — and to do so now, rather than later. He also said that the technology itself works, at least as a theoretical model.

During the ThingWorx event, the company also launched other exciting news, particularly in an area that historically has been one of PTC’s weak points when compared to its competitors: manufacturing-related solutions.

Generally speaking, what PTC announced is a collection of new role-based manufacturing apps that are easy to distribute and provide industrial companies with "real-time intelligence" to help them make quicker and more proactive decisions.

The new ThingWorx manufacturing apps are part of a new generation of industrial IoT web and mobile applications, which also includes the ThingWorx Navigate app. These apps combine data from corporate business systems and the sensor-equipped physical world, delivering user information and real-time insights related to the role of the recipient.

PTC believes that these new manufacturing devices will help to simplify digital transformation because they are fast and easy to distribute and will facilitate innovative work.

The apps you need to get started are available to download for free, and can be up to full production in less than an hour, according to PTC.

The new apps include:

  • ThingWorx Controls Advisor allows control engineers to quickly connect to, access and visualize data from virtually any Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), IoT Gateway or other connected devices. It enables monitoring and troubleshooting via machine connections, and provides instant notifications of data communication errors that can lead to loss of critical production data. With proactive problem identification and good troubleshooting capabilities, manufacturers can improve data quality, reliability and reduce unpredicted downtime.
  • ThingWorx Asset Advisor provides visibility regarding the status of critical assets. The app warns maintenance and service engineers for potential issues that can affect unexpected downtime and optimize maintenance performance, while providing easy and easy-to-use options for troubleshooting and problem solving. The module monitors and detects discrepancies in different machines, and facilitates users understand performance and minimize unplanned downtime. Maintenance and service technicians can thus make better informed and faster decisions based on real-time information and take corrective action before problems affect production.
  • ThingWorx Production Advisor combines different sources of operational and business data. With this app, production managers have real-time access to production status and critical CPIs, such as accessibility, performance, quality, and Total Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). The app also allows plant managers to monitor real-time operating results for the factory - all lines, all assets, production status, and performance CPIs. By having both real-time data from machines and business data available in a contextual format, the app delivers useful intelligence to enable proactive and faster decision making.

“We are at the precipice of the fourth industrial revolution and there is significant opportunity inherent in the physical-digital convergence of manufacturing operations,” said Howard Heppelmann, divisional general manager for connected operations solutions at PTC.

“The launch of the new ThingWorx manufacturing apps continues PTC’s focus and investment in Industrial IoT, and gives manufacturers more tools to dramatically simplify their digital transformation and accelerate time-to-value.”

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