Bringing Together PLM and Factory Automation: The Surprising Success of PTC and Rockwell
Verdi Ogewell posted on July 13, 2020 |
The 2018 alliance between PTC and Rockwell is one of the more surprising events in recent years.

The 2018 alliance between PLM developer PTC and automation company Rockwell is one of the more surprising events to occur in recent years. The move by PTC chief Jim Heppelmann and his Rockwell colleague, CEO Blake Moret was strikingly well thought-out. PTC and Rockwell are each in the top tier of their respective areas, product development and manufacturing automation. With their alliance, they quickly and suddenly redrew their game plans to create an interesting combination with the potential to seriously rattle the business.

In particular, the target was to challenge Siemens’ position as a leader and offer their customers integration and seamless functionality between PLM and automated manufacturing systems with MES, connected shop floor equipment, Operational Technology (OT) and, not least, commercial power.

This was in 2018; what happened after that? How do you get two disparate cultures to meet, integrate and move in the same direction?

On one side is Rockwell, a somewhat conservative, engineering-centric and practically-oriented organization with its roots in MES and hardware on the shop floor.

On the other side is PTC, with the weight of its background grounded in a revolutionary leap on the software side, their parametric technology and several subsequent proactive steps with the latest focused on the Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial IoT (IIoT), Augmented Reality (AR), digital twins and digital threads. It all boils down to turning hardware and software people into a merged group with action power.

On the face of it, you can decide whatever you want; but there are no guarantees that the ideas will “bite” in the large and diverse environments we’re talking about in the case of PTC and Rockwell. The secret of success is to get ideas to trickle down throughout both organizations, take root and start growing. In large company landscapes with thousands of individuals spread across globally dispersed geographies, this takes time. So, how has it gone?

HEPPELMANN'S DIGITAL TWIN. PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann is known as one of the PLM industry's leading visionaries based on his proactive investment in developing IoT, digital twin and AR technology in the product development arsenal. All of these are connected to the company's PLM suite Windchill, as a basis for digital threads where you can follow products from birth and throughout the product life cycle. One of his more surprising actions was to, after a not entirely successful collaboration with GE on the factory automation side, change and instead form a partnership with Rockwell Automation to be able to package solutions that connect the entire product realization process.
HEPPELMANN'S DIGITAL TWIN. PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann is known as one of the PLM industry's leading visionaries based on his proactive investment in developing IoT, digital twin and AR technology in the product development arsenal. All of these are connected to the company's PLM suite Windchill, as a basis for digital threads where you can follow products from birth and throughout the product life cycle. One of his more surprising actions was to, after a not entirely successful collaboration with GE on the factory automation side, change and instead form a partnership with Rockwell Automation to be able to package solutions that connect the entire product realization process.

I have spoken with Rockwell's European Nordics chief, Felix Langkjaer, and PTC's counterpart, Filip Stål, to discuss the collaboration and future of this interesting new collaboration. Furthermore, in this article I have also taken a look at the market and the competitive positions in terms of both technology and commercial prospects for the three leading PLM/factory automation players: Siemens Digital Industries, Dassault Systemes and PTC, as well as their partners Rockwell (PTC) and ABB (Dassault).

“It looks very positive. This type of partnership is not an easy task to get together. It takes time to land the ideas and concepts regionally, but in our geography, we have gained good momentum with a lot of activity,” says PTC’s Stål.

He is supported by his Rockwell colleague.

“Absolutely, the partnership with PTC means a lot to us, with a number of interesting products that complement what we have ourselves,” commented Rockwell’s Langkjaer, pointing to the launch of the alliance's first joint platform, the FactoryTalk Innovation Suite, at the end of 2018, as well as the recent second big release of Factory Insights as a Service.

“But also,” Langkjaer added, “the new PTC Atlas package, launched during last month's digital LiveWorx, which is built on the cloud and the company's related solutions, is an attractive mainstream option with an interesting future.”

The Partnership Produced Fast Results

When PTC’s Jim Heppelmann intends to do something, he goes all-in.

The IoT venture surrounding the ThingWorx platform and the AR capabilities underlying the Vuforia platform are only the tip of the iceberg. Together with Blake Moret, Heppelmann has also made sure to create the right incentives to maintain a high level of activity; topped with Rockwell buying into PTC for $1 billion in 2018, receiving a board seat and the offensive integration of PTC's PLM platform Windchill and Rockwell's MES suite, FactoryTalk, which has already come a fair distance on the way to being linked together in a seamless suite.

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, reads the motto behind Rockwell Automation manager Blake Moret. Together with PTC's Jim Heppelmann, Moret has shown evidence of high activity in connecting pieces of hardware on the shop floor—Rockwell's specialty—with PTC's solutions on the software side. The two company executives have created the incentives required to ensure the collaboration and creation of cohesive platforms, manifested in the FactoryTalk Innovation suite that came in 2018 and last month's launch of the cloud- and SaaS-based (
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, reads the motto behind Rockwell Automation manager Blake Moret. Together with PTC's Jim Heppelmann, Moret has shown evidence of high activity in connecting pieces of hardware on the shop floor—Rockwell's specialty—with PTC's solutions on the software side. The two company executives have created the incentives required to ensure the collaboration and creation of cohesive platforms, manifested in the FactoryTalk Innovation suite that came in 2018 and last month's launch of the cloud- and SaaS-based ("Software-as- a-Service ”) Factory Insights as a Service solution.

The first result of PTC and Rockwell’s collaboration came surprisingly quickly: the 2018 launch of the FactoryTalk Innovation Suite “Powered by PTC” which builds on PTC's IIoT solutions linking IT systems with OT systems. The FactoryTalk Innovation Suite also largely addressed what both Heppelmann and Moret were looking for: the answer to a key question for anyone with ambitions to deliver solutions for Industry 4.0 and IIoT, “How do you bridge the IT and OT gaps?”

Of fundamental importance is specific and in-depth knowledge of these two worlds—product development and manufacturing—as well as having tools and knowledge of their respective operational needs and security requirements. The priorities differ on an overarching level, where IT/PLM sees data quality and security as the most important parts, while the OT side primarily prioritizes the factory's output and the risk of interruptions.

Overall, what PTC and Rockwell put on the table was a solution that makes it possible to optimize industrial operations and increase productivity by giving decision makers improved data and insights. Included in the FactoryTalk Innovation suite are FactoryTalk Analytics, Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Manufacturing Operation Management (MOM) platforms, as well as PTC's ThingWorx Industrial IoT platform, which includes connections to Kepware for connectivity between units on the workshop floor, and AR/VR on the Vuforia platform.

The rapid launch meant there wasn’t a completely finished platform, but it was a strong start and a clear indication of the height of PTC and Rockwell’s ambitions.

“While ThingWorx Analytics builds the predictive models, FactoryTalk Analytics provides cutting-edge real-time tracking and creates operational sequences based on the analytics model,” Filip Stål said about this first 2018 offering from the then rather "newlywed" couple.

Cloud Focus in New "Factory Insights as a Service"

That first launch was followed up with a new one in mid-2020, "Factory Insights as a Service." Seen from the birds-eye perspective this offering is typical of the cooperation between PTC and Rockwell, which has not only gained “slow, controlled speed” but is growing almost exponentially in terms of functional technology content. In addition, another success-critical partner, Microsoft, and their cloud technology platform Azure have been included.

For those who have followed engineering.com’s reporting, especially since PTC’s acquisition of the cloud CAD solution Onshape—a basic component of the newly launched multi-capable PTC Atlas concept—it is clear how confident Jim Heppelmann is for the future of cloud-based and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions that enable "renting software capacity in the cloud". In this instance, PTC builds the software side while Rockwell's focus is on hardware, and the joint company efforts are about how to integrate and orchestrate the packages to reach market success.

This is also the idea behind the details and capabilities that build up Factory Insights, which is driven by technology from all three parties—PTC, Rockwell Automation and Microsoft. Factory Insights is delivered in the cloud in a turnkey manner and supports the industry's most common needs for those who want to move on to digital transformation.
In principle this includes:

  • Real-time monitoring of production performance.
  • Monitoring and use of assets.
  • Connectivity to different production cells.
  • Digitally based and extended work instructions.
REAL-TIME TRACKING. While ThingWorx Analytics builds the predictive models, FactoryTalk Analytics provides cutting-edge real-time tracking and creates operational sequences based on the analytics model.
REAL-TIME TRACKING. While ThingWorx Analytics builds the predictive models, FactoryTalk Analytics provides cutting-edge real-time tracking and creates operational sequences based on the analytics model.

These capabilities are in turn linked to a number of already well-known product components, both in PTC's program flora and in Rockwell's FactoryTalk Innovation Suite. This includes things like PTC's IoT platform ThingWorx, plus Kepware and Vuforia products, all of which are optimized for Rockwell OT data-related solutions.

It also leverages Microsoft's cloud services, industrial IoT and edge computing services, including Azure IoT Hub and Azure IoT Edge, enabling manufacturers to quickly connect individual websites and implement projects across their corporate networks.

“This allows customers to save time and money by reducing the complexity they usually have, as part of an industrial Internet of Things implementation and larger digital transformation efforts. Factory Insights as a Service is a perfect ramp for manufacturers who are interested in improving their business by providing valuable intelligence and insights on operational performance, asset utilization and workforce efficiency,” asserts Rockwell’s Langkjaer.

With this latest package, PTC and Rockwell have reached a position where a digital thread with real-time connections can be established between the product development pieces and production solutions machine, and process data on the shop floor. In this case, PTC's PLM suite Windchill is a backbone for the cohesion of the digital thread.

All of this has been continuously combined with a strong action plan to commercialize the results.

CLEAR MARKET LEADERS. In terms of overall PLM and factory automation functionality, Siemens can be considered the clear market leader in the current situation. But it is clear that PTC and Rockwell have made great strides in a short time, and have stated their ambitions to compete in the absolute top tier when it comes to product development, distribution and putting connections to the products in the hands of the end users.
CLEAR MARKET LEADERS. In terms of overall PLM and factory automation functionality, Siemens can be considered the clear market leader in the current situation. But it is clear that PTC and Rockwell have made great strides in a short time, and have stated their ambitions to compete in the absolute top tier when it comes to product development, distribution and putting connections to the products in the hands of the end users.

Commercial Success Doesn’t Come Overnight

But commercial success in the industrial world is not an easy task that can be achieved overnight. This is true not only because it is tough to establish the kind of new technologies that PTC has developed and which are now to be combined with Rockwell's hardware and electronics, but also because the market looks as it does when it comes to market participants' positions and revenues. At the same time, investments in product development software and equipment are long-term and rather slow events, surrounded by lengthy decision cycles and establishing times.

Analyst CIMdata's annual PLM report for 2019 regarding the direct software revenues of the major PLM players gives us a good understanding of the competitive situation on the PLM side, commercially and related to market share and revenues.

Siemens Digital Industries and Dassault Systèmes are clearly dominant, while PTC has significantly lower revenues and market shares.

According to CIMdata, in the PLM area the top of the list in terms of software sales and services is as follows for direct revenue in 2018 (the figures for 2019 are normally published in June):

  1. Siemens PLM, approximately $4.2 billion in revenues
  2. Dassault Systèmes, approximately $4.0 billion
  3. Autodesk, approximately $2.4 billion
  4. IBM, approximately $1.7 billion
  5. PTC, approximately $1.35 billion

In the automation field, Siemens is the largest player globally, but in this area is significantly more dominant. This is what the global factory automation market shares look like for 2019, according to Statista:

  1. Siemens 20%
  2. Mitsubishi 10%
  3. Rockwell 8%
  4. Fanuc 7%
  5. ABB 6%
DASSAULT SYSTÈMES' CHARISMATIC LEADER, Bernard Charles, is often regarded as perhaps the PLM area's most visionary player. Recently, however, he has maintained a lower profile than over previous years. As such, Dassault has had a focus on sharpening the revenue side by pulling in new segments and customer bases, such as the Medidata purchase, under the umbrella of the PLM concept rather than building more advanced technology. One of the company's major goals has instead been to establish the mainstream solution SOLIDWORKS and the SOLIDWORKS community in the cloud and on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.
DASSAULT SYSTÈMES' CHARISMATIC LEADER, Bernard Charles, is often regarded as perhaps the PLM area's most visionary player. Recently, however, he has maintained a lower profile than over previous years. As such, Dassault has had a focus on sharpening the revenue side by pulling in new segments and customer bases, such as the Medidata purchase, under the umbrella of the PLM concept rather than building more advanced technology. One of the company's major goals has instead been to establish the mainstream solution SOLIDWORKS and the SOLIDWORKS community in the cloud and on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

How Far Have the Various PLM Players Come in Terms of Capabilities?

THE LEADING SMART FACTORY PLAYER. Siemens Digital Industries' PLM chief, Tony Hemmelgarn, has invested heavily in complementing the company's platform solutions to create the market's broadest and most efficient platform for product development. Among the most important acquisitions in recent years is Mentor Graphics, and the low-code platform Mendix.

THE LEADING SMART FACTORY PLAYER. Siemens Digital Industries' PLM chief, Tony Hemmelgarn, has invested heavily in complementing the company's platform solutions to create the market's broadest and most efficient platform for product development. Among the most important acquisitions in recent years is Mentor Graphics, and the low-code platform Mendix.

Given the above numbers, there has been a lot of structural change in recent years in the areas of ​​IT, PLM, OT, Automation, cloud and on-premise platform technology areas.

The clearest trend is that the three major platform developers’ efforts within PLM have been to expand the interconnection of functionalities to create “beyond PLM platforms.” These platforms are ones where interchangeable or easily upgradeable components have been put together in suites covering everything from product development to manufacturing, and in later stages even IoT solutions for the products in the hands of the end-customer. Feedback to the PLM systems are also included. It has really been about creating so-called “Product Innovation Platforms” as jointly coined by the analysts CIMdata and Gartner.

Step by step, we approach what visionary PLM leaders—such as Dassault's Bernard Charles, Siemens’ Tony Hemmelgarn and PTC's Jim Heppelmann—primarily strive for: an interconnection of product development, manufacturing development and business IT systems on the ERP side.

Siemens is At the Forefront

In recent years, Siemens has been at the forefront, with the broadest and most "complete" product realization packages delivered, such as with the functionality that comes with the newly established Xcelerator platform. This includes the IoT solution MindSphere and the low-code platform Mendix, alongside the "old common artillery” of CAx modules such as NX CAD, Mentor, and Simcenter.

Under Tony Hemmelgarn's leadership, the company has also played offensively in terms of investments in electrical and electronics integration (Mentor, for example), simulation solutions (CDadapco, for example) and IoT (MindSphere). It has also invested heavily in establishing the PLM suite Teamcenter as a cloud option (Teamcenter X) and has generally strengthened its digital solution suite, Tecnomatix. In addition, the Closed-loop Manufacturing concept created a digital twin and thread solution that interconnects product realization processes in an Industry 4.0 manner.

On the smart factory side, Siemens is very strong on the links between product development and manufacturing/automation solutions; for example, through powerful opportunities for virtual commissioning.

It is possible to digitally simulate every single stage in product realization sequences before the physical equivalents are started, making it inexpensive to correct any errors or malfunctions digitally, instead of doing so in physical production. All of this is based on the fact that one can "shoot in" the code needed for this from the previous product development work using the 3D digital twin/model of the product. Siemens was the first player on the market to develop and offer these kinds of capabilities.

This serves as a good background and motivation to Heppelmann’s and PTC’s hard bets on developing a structure of solution delivery that can better meet what Siemens puts on the table. It is also true that among Siemens’ competitors in the product realization area, PTC is the player that has come on strongest in recent years, in terms of capable and transformative solutions. Above all, PTC has made great pioneering efforts in the creation of IoT and AR technologies, where it has been named a market leader according to several evaluations from Gartner, Forrester and others.

Dassault’s Different Bets

What about Dassault? An interesting aspect of Dassault’s factory automation improvements is the initiation of the ABB partnership, which aims to connect Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE platform and the DELMIA/Apriso digital manufacturing components to ABB’s Ability family of factory automation solutions. However, it is unclear how far this collaboration has come, aside from a couple of established company-specific demos that have been shown at a fairs. However, no more complete "packaged offer" has yet been launched.

For Dassault's part, technology development for factory automation has not been strongly accentuated. Technologically, they have instead focused on expanding the breadth of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform by making continuous bets addressing the mainstream market's PLM—primarily SOLIDWORKS related­—and cloud needs. 

From a strictly commercial point of view, this can be regarded as a wise move. To create solutions based on expanding customer engagement from groups that are already customers has always been a good commercial idea. However, in the case of SOLIDWORKS and the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, it has been a tough journey where the community has shown a certain inertia in the desire to step further into technology platform thinking and invest in the much broader PLM technology range of Dassault’s cloud.

It can also be noted that two other strong trends apply to Dassault. One is to bet hard on buying and integrating new solutions in segments outside the traditional PLM areas of automotive, aerospace and heavy machinery. The other is to acquire companies that are able to expand Dassault’s existing customer and market stocks. The recent acquisition of Medidata for $5.7 billion is significant for the latter.

With the purchase of Medidata, Dassault pushed its position forward in a new area: the fast-growing market for digitalization of clinical trials and tests. This also accentuates the movement beyond the company's traditional roots in design towards data process management and business analysis. Medidata analyzes pharmaceutical and biotech-based trials for drug giants such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sanofi.

STRONG ROCKWELL CUSTOMER SEGMENTS. Rockwell Automation's strongest industrial segment is machine building and medical technology, while it generally has five heavy industrial focus areas: food, consumer goods, pharmaceutical, metal & mining and oil & gas industries, says Rockwell’s Felix Langkjaer.
STRONG ROCKWELL CUSTOMER SEGMENTS. Rockwell Automation's strongest industrial segment is machine building and medical technology, while it generally has five heavy industrial focus areas: food, consumer goods, pharmaceutical, metal & mining and oil & gas industries, says Rockwell’s Felix Langkjaer.

PTC and Rockwell Merger Creates Good Commercial Inputs

But for PTC's and Rockwell's parts, the focus is on growing where they are already large and established, while at the same time keeping their gaze directed at new opportunities that open up where they can capture the respective partners' customers. Together, they have two customer stocks, even if it’s clearly not simply a matter of “picking up” new orders in the long-cycle engineering industry. But Rockwell's Felix Langkjaer claims that the partnership definitely has the capacity to change and broaden the market. He says that a number of positive commercial results have already been seen based on their partnership.

“From a legal point of view, we at Rockwell’s European Nordics organization are ‘our own’ company, which we have been since 1991. We currently in the region have 100 employees and around 800 customers, a customer stock which contains everything from small to large international groups. If we look at what our strongest industrial segments are, we talk about a lot of mechanical engineering and medical technology, while we generally have five heavy industrial focus areas: food, consumer goods, pharmaceutical, metal and mining, and oil and gas industries,” says Langkjaer.

We discussed the development of the commercial markets in Northern Europe. What did it look like in 2019?

“Overall good,” said Langkjaer. “We have good growth in the region. Sweden has done well, Denmark has experienced tremendous growth, while Norway, as so often is the case, is related to how things are going on the oil market and there it has been turbulent with ups and downs over the past year. Finland has had two fantastic years behind it.”

Of course, the coronavirus outbreak affected the business. What will we see when it comes to developments during the rest of the year in 2020?

“So far, COVID-19 has had only a minor impact on our business, since a large part of the activity lies in the non-cyclical industries such as food, pharmacy and life sciences,” Langkjaer said.” “In addition, orders from machine builders were record high up to the crisis, and we do not expect coronavirus effects until later this year. But Finland has suffered more than other Nordic countries, as production was also shut down during a period there.”

FREE OF CHARGE UNTIL AUGUST 31st. With PTC's AR tool, Vuforia Chalk, users can remotely assist in real time to guide those who need help, for example in a service operation in a place with a complex system.
FREE OF CHARGE UNTIL AUGUST 31st. With PTC's AR tool, Vuforia Chalk, users can remotely assist in real time to guide those who need help, for example in a service operation in a place with a complex system.

Vuforia Chalk AR Tool Offered Free of Charge in Promotional Offers

On the technology side, Langkjaer further notes that together the companies have come out with an interesting promotional offer related to the coronavirus crisis:

“This means that in collaboration with PTC we offer Vuforia Chalk free of charge until August 31st. Vuforia Chalk is an augmented reality tool that makes it much easier to get remote support from an expert via mobile or tablet.”

Nevertheless, the core of what Rockwell and PTC are now establishing in the market is the FactoryTalk Innovation suite.

“Right,” Langkjaer said, “It works on the basis that you start by analyzing your data via an artificial intelligence in the system, connected to a digital twin. You can then spread the possibilities that digitization offers in a completely different way than before, thanks to the easy-to-use interface that comes in this suite via PTC's ThingWorx solution. In this, the match between us and PTC is a great opportunity to spread the important digitalization technology to the industry.”

He continued, mentioning that “PTC comes from the CAD side and with ThingWorx’s IoT technology, it all could be incorporated into a broad industrial process tool. On the IoT side, they were the first developer in the market among the PLM companies and by this could establish a head start. This in combination with the tools from Rockwell–characterized by solutions built on a long experience of working in production–means that we can now offer broad solutions that work more efficiently and are future-proof.”

Langkjaer also notes that despite industrial cultures coming from the different worlds of hardware and software, they are nevertheless organized in a similar way based on the responsibilities of the regional work vis-à-vis the main organizations. “Also, we have offices in the same locations,” he added.

“So, the access we both have to the market is almost the same. We also hear from our Rockwell customers that they know PTC's products well. Analysts and others like you in the press have also pointed out that PTC is technologically very good vis-à-vis competitors.”

“WELL ON OUR WAY.” “Of course, this type of partnership takes time to get in place regionally in all details, but we are well on our way in terms of, for example, training each other's organizations in our products and the processes associated with this,” says PTC's European Nordics manager, Filip Stål.
“WELL ON OUR WAY.” “Of course, this type of partnership takes time to get in place regionally in all details, but we are well on our way in terms of, for example, training each other's organizations in our products and the processes associated with this,” says PTC's European Nordics manager, Filip Stål.

Educate Each Other's Organizations

The practical elements of the collaboration have also been positive, Langkjaer says. He mentions that at the first "Rockwell kick-off" after confirming the partnership , PTC's Nordics chief Filip Stål was on hand, “and told us about PTC and their organization for Rockwell's employees. Since then it has continued to roll well.”

“That’s the way it is,” agrees Filip Stål. “Obviously, this type of partnership takes time to get regionally in place in every detail, but we are well on the way to, for example, training each other's organizations in our respective products and the processes associated with this. We have also had common training sessions. On top of that, we also cooperate with the industry in terms of joint customer meetings where we can now put up offers that really differentiate us from the competition.”

Stål also points out that Microsoft as a partner in the collaboration is of paramount importance. “Yes, absolutely. Their cloud platform Azure can be seen as a standard in this context.”

Similar Customer Structures

Finally, Langkjaer argues that the companies' customer structures have great similarities, but there are complementary opportunities as well.

“If you look at our, Rockwell's, largest and internationally active customers, PTC often works with them already. The good news is that we are not always active in the same departments in which PTC operates. This offers great commercial and technological opportunities,” Langkjaer said.

ONE-SPEAKING PARTNER. “Both we and our customers see the collaboration between Rockwell Automation and PTC as a supplement with great value. Instead of having to mix and coordinate several companies, you can buy the entire delivery from a cohesive supplier, a ‘one-speaking partner.’ Plus, having access to a platform that is future-proof, you never risk painting yourself into a corner. It is a great strength, as well as active and good aftermarket work,” says Rockwell's Nordics Manager, Felix Langkjaer.
ONE-SPEAKING PARTNER. “Both we and our customers see the collaboration between Rockwell Automation and PTC as a supplement with great value. Instead of having to mix and coordinate several companies, you can buy the entire delivery from a cohesive supplier, a ‘one-speaking partner.’ Plus, having access to a platform that is future-proof, you never risk painting yourself into a corner. It is a great strength, as well as active and good aftermarket work,” says Rockwell's Nordics Manager, Felix Langkjaer.

What do customers say about the collaboration?

“A general opinion is that they are very pleased about it. This cooperation is regarded as a complement of great value. Instead of having to mix and coordinate several companies, you can buy the entire delivery from a cohesive supplier, a ‘one-speaking partner.’ Plus, having access to a platform that is future-proof, means that you never risk painting yourself into a corner. It is a great strength, as is active and good aftermarket work. A particularly important value is that the technology we offer, after a careful introduction and training efforts, is easy to take on and develop within the company on the road to digitalization,” explained Langkjaer.

Both Filip Stål and Felix Langkjaer say that there is a great deal in the pipeline, from the "proof-of-concept” levels and in terms of which businesses are almost ready, or others that are in the more initial stages. One question is when will we see the first joint installations in regional terms?

“Globally and from central level we already have several installations in place,” concludes Langkjaer. “Regionally, we have a couple of major deals ready, but because of NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) we cannot disclose the names.”

PARTNERS ON STAGE. PTC's visionary leader Jim Heppelmann (left) and Rockwell Automation’s, Blake Moret, on stage in connection with a presentation of collaboration plans and work.
PARTNERS ON STAGE. PTC's visionary leader Jim Heppelmann (left) and Rockwell Automation’s, Blake Moret, on stage in connection with a presentation of collaboration plans and work.

A Sensationally Good Start

Getting two separate companies from traditionally different environments and of different cultures into collaborative unity is a tough job that demands enthusiasts and driving forces. In this, Rockwell and PTC have got off to a surprisingly good start. My guess is that we'll hear a lot more about businesses for this new combination in the future, provided that the coronavirus effect starts to wear off.

But on the bottom line, it is no easy journey. The technologies PTC developed are still in some respects in their infancy, at least in terms of what customers can do with it as of right now. Experience tells us that it takes considerably longer to move from hype and interest to implementation of industrial applications than you might think.

However, a good basic structure has now been put in place. It is also clear that when it comes to the development of Industry 4.0 and smart factories, one of the most important points is to create holistic solutions that link product development and manufacturing. What were previously separate silos are integrated, which means that PLM and OT are established within the framework of a seamless system.

Nothing stands for itself anymore, and in connection with product development it should be possible to develop products with not only consideration for product functionality, but also with regard to traceability throughout the chain and rational maneuverability.

PTC and Rockwell have come a long way, and it has actually gone sensationally fast.

The challenge now is to develop customer cases that work and stand out as great examples. Here there’s still a ways to go before customers in general can and will develop strong business models around new technologies such as IoT and AR in combination with the connected smart factory, AI and 5G-driven solutions. There is interest, no doubt about that—but when you do the deeper analysis and start the background work with something new, you often realize that this is a journey to be made, and it’s a journey that can take three, five or even ten years, depending on what you are aiming for.

As PTC’s Kevin Wrenn stated in an earlier interview I had with him, “Before embarking on more unknown waters, the proactive companies want to make sure that they have order in other traditional domains in their digital house.”

What potential customers do is to first look at what the really valuable applications are and make sure they work flawlessly, before moving on to IoT, IIoT, AR, digital twins and threads.

That’s generally where we are right now, and PTC and Rockwell can become a bridge that connects the gap to the new technology path.


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