Smart Manufacturing Platforms: PTC, GE and ABB Top Ranked, But Where is Dassault?
Felix Nilsson posted on September 26, 2018 |

A crucial aspect of modern production is how well it integrates operating technology (OT) with industrial IT support. In the case of smart manufacturing platforms in particular, it’s a big deal.

ABI Research, a British analytics firm, examined OT/IT integration in a report that ranks the most common suppliers of smart manufacturing solutions. Eleven platforms were ranked with the following four platforms coming out on top: PTC’s ThingWorx, GE Predix, ABB Ability and Siemens MindSphere, in that order.

"PTC has emerged as a leader in smart manufacturing platforms. We cannot interpret our survey results in any other way. The company's solutions are largely characterized by innovative initiatives on transformative technology,” said Pierce Owen, chief analyst for smart manufacturing at ABI Research.

In total, the survey looked at eleven different platforms. Most of the expected solutions were included in the final ranking, with one exception: Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE. More about that later; first a list of the platforms included (in alphabetical order):

  • ABB Ability
  • Bosch IoT Suite
  • Emerson Plantweb
  • Fujitsu Colmina
  • GE Predix
  • Hitachi Lumada
  • PTC ThingWorx
  • SAP Leonardo
  • Schneider Electric EcoStruxure
  • Siemens Mindsphere
  • Telit deviceWISE

These platforms were analyzed based on their ability to support innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, as well as how to plan, deliver and execute solutions to distribute and support disruptive technologies. These disruptive technologies include Augmented and Mixed Reality (AMR), Digital Twins, the ability to adapt to different protocols, connectivity, robot integration and other transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.

But that’s not the end of the story. ABI Research also evaluated the platforms in relation to their ability to create partnerships, connect different assets, integrate with enterprise and cloud systems, regional coverage, security, direct costs and business models.

With all the parameters included, PTC landed at the top of the ranking, followed by GE, ABB and Siemens.

PTC’s bet on the ThingWorx platform has been highly touted by the company’s president and CEO, Jim Heppelmann, who launched the IoT initiative in 2010. Today, Thingworx forms one of PTC’s strongest technological foundations and may soon be a critical revenue generator. PTC’s recent alliance with Rockwell Automation may help PTC threaten Dassault’s and Siemens PLM's top positions in PLM and manufacturing in some accounts.
PTC’s bet on the ThingWorx platform has been highly touted by the company’s president and CEO, Jim Heppelmann, who launched the IoT initiative in 2010. Today, Thingworx forms one of PTC’s strongest technological foundations and may soon be a critical revenue generator. PTC’s recent alliance with Rockwell Automation may help PTC threaten Dassault’s and Siemens PLM's top positions in PLM and manufacturing in some accounts.

PTC is On a Technological Roll

In previous reports, PTC has been given a leadership position by both Gartner, in terms of Industrial IoT (IIoT) platforms, and by Forrester when it comes to platforms for discrete manufacturing. The company has been on a roll in IoT since the Thingworx acquisition in late 2013.

"Yes, PTC has emerged as a leader in smart manufacturing platforms. We cannot interpret our survey results in any other way. The company's solutions are largely characterized by innovative initiatives on transformative technology,” said Pierce Owen, chief analyst for smart manufacturing at ABI Research.

In the evaluation from ABI, the PTC ThingWorx platform got top performance marks in Augmented Reality (AR)/Mixed Reality (MR) as well as overall innovation.  AR/VR has also been an area of significant investment for PTC, having acquired the Vuforia platform for $65M in 2015. Other important investments by PTC, such as Kepware in early 2016, have rounded out their IoT offering.

Automation, PTC and Rockwell

The ABI report also notes that in June 2018, PTC announced it had entered into an alliance with Rockwell Automation, which in turn made a $1 billion equity investment in PTC. Verdi Ogewell’s analysis of what this deal means in terms of competition in PLM and automation can be found in his article, The Rockwell Automation Deal: Great for PTC, But Siemens and Dassault Remain Hard Nuts to Crack.

PLM, PTC and Forrester

Verdi also examines PTC’s high marks in Forrester’s evaluation for PLM for discrete manufacturing in his article Which PLM Solutions are Best? Forrester Names PTC, Dassault and Aras, But Misses the Point.

GE's Path from Failure to Capable Platform

GE has patiently built its smart manufacturing platform, Predix, to be a viable solution.

GE has patiently built its smart manufacturing platform, Predix, to be a viable solution.

Owen also commented on GE's challenging path towards a digital manufacturing platform.

"Number two on our list, GE, has been surrounded by a roller coaster of expectations and disappointments in recent years, especially with GE Digital, its software company. GE Digital led the way through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, launched Predix in 2013 and promised grandiose capabilities around the possibilities of improving and optimizing business assets. However, it has largely failed to deliver on these promises, and instead has been characterized by a rather slow expansion. However, since then they have sharpened technology and added partnerships, and now offer a capable platform with many solutions,” Owen said.

ABB's Platform Benefits from a Unique Business Model

ABB's third place in the ranking comes from the company's unique business model.

ABB's third place in the ranking comes from the company's unique business model.

Regarding ABB's third place in the ranking, Owen stated, "it largely comes from the company's unique business model."

“ABB differs in the way it doesn’t market the platform as a separate solution. Despite its relatively high level of innovation, ABB does not sell the platform as a separate solution to its customers; they get it as part of their investment in ABB's automation environments. Instead, you pay for apps and add-on solutions. High points for this unique business model have contributed to a top ranking in implementation, linked to GE,” Owen said.

Siemens Could “Leap Straight to the Top” with MindSphere

"Somewhat surprising," ABI Research writes in its press release, "Siemens' Mindsphere ranked fourth."

The reasoning here is that Siemens has developed quite advanced features on the Mindsphere platform, but so far it has proven tough to connect devices and equipment from other manufacturers without OPC UA.

Open Platform Communications (OPC) is one of the most widely used ways of communicating within the automation area. OPC (or OLE for Process Control) was first developed by a number of automotive industry members together with Microsoft in 1995. Over the next ten years, OPC became the most useful way of communicating in automation for all types of industries. With OPC’s continued development, data access (DA) such as alarms and events, and later more advanced protocols such as access to historical data (HAD) and other advanced features have been added.

However, there were always needs and limitations that OPC did not cover as the control systems became more advanced. OPC Unified Architecture (UA) was born out of the need for model-based data and platform independence.

In the case of the "non-OPC-UA area," Siemens has made rapid progress, which "can lead to a leap straight to the top within a year," according to ABI.

Siemens has collaborated with Telit deviceWISE, ranked sixth in ABI's data extraction and peak intelligence assessment, and announced its availability on Microsoft's cloud platform Azure in the coming fourth quarter of 2018.

"This should stimulate technological advancement for both Siemens and Telit, just as the Rockwell Investment will sharpen the capabilities of PTC," said Owen. “Today, platform vendors seem to have found a balance between competing for market share and implementing the best open solutions to drive innovation. It does not mean that all of these platforms will survive, but it will eventually benefit customers by making it easier to use the best solutions," Owen concluded.

Why Is Dassault Systèmes Not Included?

One question that arises in the context of smart manufacturing and its related platforms is: Why is Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform not included in the evaluation?

Dassault does not plan to invest in the communication and connection layers in the case of IoT.
Dassault does not plan to invest in the communication and connection layers in the case of IoT. "It's the new TCP/IP," claims Dassault Systèmes’ Bernard Charlès. (Image: Getty Images.)

One possible explanation may be that Dassault has not yet developed specific modules for IoT (or IIoT)—or as Dassault prefers to call it, the Internet of Experiences (IoE)—which are ready to use.

Information from Dassault on this matter is sparse, but the 3DEXPERIENCE platform certainly houses solutions with capabilities that are related to smart manufacturing. The DELMIA digital manufacturing suite is one such solution, as is Apriso, which Dassault bought a couple of years ago. The latter is a Manufacturing Operations Management (MoM) solution.

In the recently released DELMIA Apriso 2017, the software was updated and its intelligence pack,  “Manufacturing Process Intelligence (MPI)” provides, “visibility and insights into issues and/or continuous improvement initiatives on the shop floor and across the value chain with a holistic and enterprise-wide perspective.” It contains a set of analytical views and dashboards to support issue management at the plant locally, as well as at the enterprise level.

Also relevant is the fact that Dassault expanded the integration for IIoT. The architecture is pre-configured to support automated processes involving edge computing and human communications: “Edge Connectivity is an important part of DELMIA Apriso and as such, it has been enhanced with better support for the OPC-UA standard, including certification, as well as custom data sources, to further enable IIoT connectivity.”

Dassault’s intention to improve and broaden its intelligent manufacturing capabilities in the near future can also be coupled to the acquisition of No Magic in mid-2018. No Magic includes both IoT and smart manufacturing applications through its Model-Based Systems Design (MBSD) capabilities. Dassault’s plan to integrate these capabilities into the 3DEXPERIENCE platform could help kickstart the IoT/IIoT initiative.

How Bernard Charlès Sees the Future of IoT 

As previously noted, the information from Dassault Systèmes in this area is quite sparse, and according to the company, there are no plans to invest in communications and connectivity layers, which Dassault’s president and CEO Bernard Charlès calls "TCP/IP of today." Instead, they prefer to collaborate with others who will provide this capability.


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