How PTC is Serving Manufacturers’ and Service Providers’ Needs in the New Normal


At PTC’s LiveWorx conference, we heard about the various ways PTC’s solutions have become even more relevant in the current pandemic and beyond, in the ‘new normal.’


In his keynote address atthis years’LiveWorxvirtual conference, PTC’s CEO, Jim Heppelmann, talked about the 75% of the global workforce that are frontline workers, doing physical work in the real world, that cannot be done from home. For example, workers in manufacturing plants, warehouses, logistics (drivers, pilots, longshoremen, etc.), field service, retail, hospitality, restaurants, healthcare, police, and so forth. PTC’s portfolio of products — CAD, PLM, IoT, AR, Field Service, and Manufacturing solutions — can help bring frontline workers into the digital world, even as they are doing their physical work out in the world. Jim summarized four key skills that help companies survive and thrive through the pandemic and into the future:

  • Workforce Mobility and Resiliency
  • Flexible and Innovative Supply Chains
  • Front-line Worker Connectivity & Collaboration
  • Remote Monitoring of Products and Factories

Playback of Jim’s keynote, along with many other LiveWorx sessions,
can be viewed here (registration required).

Helping Design Teams Work Remotely, Engineering Educators Keep Teaching

Jim pointed out that CAD is one of the last enterprise software categories to move to a pure multi-tenant SaaS model. Most design engineers are still dependent on using their own high-powered workstation at the office. When they were forced by the pandemic to work from home, they had to rely mostly on virtual desktop infrastructure, a suboptimal approach with IT management and performance challenges. The IT department often has much less control over the computing equipment being used at home, which may have a wide variety of underperforming graphics capabilities, not able to deliver the responsiveness needed for the complex rendering involved in modern CAD engineering and simulation applications.

PTCs recent acquisition of Onshape, a true SaaS CAD system, provides an option to support design engineers working remotely, providing the performance and manageability required. Jim said that PTC saw a surge in adoption of Onshape by educational institutions during the COVID-19 outbreak. These institutions were forced by the pandemic to radically rethink how they deliver their engineering and CAD programs. That surge in the use of Onshape at schools should bode well for PTC’s long-term prospects, since today’s engineering students are tomorrow’s engineering managers who will make decisions about which CAD software their companies should use.

Windchill and Onshape for Collaboration of Distributed Design Teams

PTC’s Windchill PLM system was architected from the start as a (thin client) SaaS system. Jim described an example of the use of Windchill by Fresenius Medical Care, the world’s largest provider of kidney dialysis services, which has been able to continue uninterrupted during the pandemic by their use of Windchill. In addition, Fresenius collaborated with competitors (DaVita, US Renal Care, American Renal, and others) on a national contingency plan to create isolation capacity that could be used by other providers to make sure patients could continue to receive dialysis treatment without being exposed to coronavirus.

Another example of how Onshape has helped multiple parties collaborate quickly is Francisco Gavidia University (in El Salvador), which started a project in March to create a ventilator design that could be produced with locally available materials. The project allowed collaborators from multiple organizations to contribute in real-time, enabling very rapid development. A read-only view of the design of the ventilator can be viewed by anyone at I encourage you to look at that link, to see firsthand how intuitive the Onshape product is to use.

Flexible and Innovative Supply Chains

Jim showed a couple of examples of how PTC has been used with supply chain partners. e.Go Mobile is a German electric car company, founded in 2015. Jim said that e.GO was able to bring a car to market in about half the time of Tesla, with production costs of about 10% of what a traditional automotive manufacturer would have spent. They are not a traditional asset-based manufacturer, but rather an intellectual property company that licenses their designs to franchisees around the world. The franchisee can then localize and build the design. e.GO was able to use Onshape to provide the design to franchisees, while maintaining the protections and monitoring capabilities required to ensure that designs were not stolen or misused.

The use case shown was a design change to a bumper, done in CREO, published in Windchill, using Onshape integration to compare the design changes and bring into the collaboration the franchisee, e.GO, and the parts supplier. With just a single click, all three parties were then collaborating on the design change.

Source: PTC
Figure 1 – Single Click Design Collaboration Between Multiple Parties

Another example was Rockwell Automation’s use of a digital twin capability to reduce downtime and accelerate the optimization of manufacturing lines, as well as reduce operator training and validation times. Traditionally, when an OEM integrator and its design partners work together to create, optimize, or fix issues on a bespoke manufacturing line, they would share files statically using something like SharePoint or other file sharing mechanism. Onshape, with Windchill, enables real-time collaboration — as Jim put it, “sort of like Google Docs for design,” where multiple parties can work simultaneously on the same design and see each other’s changes in real time. Changes can be made in parallel and quickly incorporated without the need to move or copy files around and wait for updates.

Source: PTC
Figure 2 – Multiple Remote Teams Collaborating on Production Line Design Changes and Optimization

Rockwell Automation’s 3D Simulation can be used to virtually test the design changes before deploying them physically. Automation engineers can rapidly and iteratively optimize their control code using the same simulation capabilities.

Source: Rockwell Automation/PTC
Figure 3 – 3D Simulation from Rockwell Automation for Virtual Testing
Source: Rockwell Automation/PTC
Figure 4 – Screenshot of Rockwell’s Simulation Rendering

Front-line Workforce Connectivity and Collaboration

Next Jim showed how augmented reality can be used to help frontline workers become more productive by connecting the physical to the digital world. First was how Toyota uses Vuforia Chalk to let experts remotely assist maintenance workers on the plant floor. Chalk lets the expert circle or draw arrows pointing to specific buttons or parts, while explaining to the frontline worker what to do or what to look at. They both see exactly the same scene, saving a lot of time and mistakes trying to explain things verbally. Instead, things can be shown much more quickly, intuitively, and reliably with the shared visual view.

Source: PTC
Figure 5 – Shared View Using Vuforia Chalk (Plant Floor Worker’s View on Left, Remote Expert’s View on Right)

Another example was Smiths Medical, which joined the UK Ventilator Challenge Consortium, with the goal of increasing ventilator production from hundreds of units per month to many thousands of units, ultimately producing 10,000 ventilator units to address the coronavirus crisis. It would be impossible to build out new production facilities, to reach nearly 100X the normal rate of production, in such a short period of time. Instead, they collaborated to repurpose the existing manufacturing capacity and machines at idled automotive and aerospace plants. This required a massive and incredibly rapid transfer of knowledge to these partner organizations. They were able to do this using Vuforia Expert Capture.

Source: PTC
Figure 6 – Guided Step-by-Step Instructions Delivered to Frontline Workers Using Vuforia Expert Capture AR

Remote Monitoring of Machines and Factories

Remote monitoring, diagnosis, and servicing of equipment is especially useful in these times of severe travel restrictions. Elekta, a Swedish manufacturer of radiation therapy and radiosurgery equipment, was able to use IoT-based remote monitoring and AI to reduce the average downtime when a parts change was needed from a previous average of 60 hours to now 15 hours. They now resolve issues remotely 50% of the time.

Autoliv, one of the largest suppliers of automobile safety equipment (air bags, seat belts, and steering wheels), uses PTC IoT solutions to detect when production variability goes beyond specified thresholds, to monitor quality and reliability. It gathers data from many sources, using statistical analytics to drive real time dashboards and apps on the shop floor via shared displays and mobile devices. They have been able to improve OEE and on-time delivery, reduce scrap and rework, and identify and analyze quality risks.

Source: Autoliv/PTC
Figure 7 – IoT- and AI-Driven Production and Quality Monitoring Analytics/Dashboards

Last but not least, Jim gave a forward-looking glimpse into Vuforia Spatial Toolbox, which combines CAD, IoT, AR, and AI to provide a synthesized view and understanding across the dimensions of people, product, process, and place. It can be used to monitor and optimize an entire worksite or workspace, across all workers, processes, and equipment. The demo video Jim showed us was one of PTC’s engineers who had used Vuforia Spatial Toolbox to map out her apartment, using IoT to communicate with a robot. She drew a path on the floor of her apartment, using augmented reality, thereby intuitively/visually programming a Lego robot to follow the path she drew. A simple example, but it made the point well — bringing together the physical environment, the person, and the machine.

Source: PTC
Figure 8 – IoT and AR Used to Program a Toy Robot to Follow a Path

Jim gave several other more complex examples in a factory setting.

Source: PTC
Figure 9 – Spatial Toolbox Example in Factory Setting

Surviving the Pandemic, Thriving Beyond the Crisis

Taken all together, these capabilities are particularly relevant during the current crisis. Most manufacturers (PTC’s main customer and prospect base) are going through a time of dramatic pressure on budgets and attention span. It remains to be seen how that will impact PTC’s revenue. However, the pandemic will also help companies see the value that PTC’s unique combination of technologies can bring. Despite the challenges of the current crisis, we believe PTC is positioned to do well over the long run.

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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