Today PTC is a very different company than a few years back. Last year they made the bold step of converting themselves over to a subscription-only business model. That’s a big deal. Though many private software companies took that step, it is rare that any public company would have the courage to do so. Large enterprise software firms (like SAP or Oracle) created separate product lines, but did not convert over their entire business model. The ebusiness model, as Jim Heppelmann (President and CEO) stated, is beginning to really take off, enabling and supporting an ecosystem of customers and partners who can now operate in the cloud as well as work in collaboration with trading partners. As of the last count, over 900 partners are leveraging PTC’s platforms and solutions to grow their own businesses. “With PTC’s migration to an ebusiness model and native support from Azure, Amazon W eb S ervices and GE Predix, there is no telling how vast the user base and partner network can grow,” Jim stated. The need is there, and as Howard Heppelmann (Divisional Vice President and General Manager) said, “We can only scratch the surface of what customers need,” so there is plenty of room for partners to support the growing requirements.
Naturally during a major transition such as this, revenue can take a hit. But take a closer look at what is really happening at PTC, as subscriptions and new businesses grow to overtake legacy approaches. Jim (at left) pointed out in a closed-door session with analysts and press that the IoT business is growing at 50% while the CAD business is growing only at 10%. The reality is the overall CAD market is only growing at a more modest pace (estimates are between 6% to 8%), so PTC is is making gains in market share here. But they are clearly making a splash in the smart connected enterprise world — especially in manufacturing. Jim emphasized that by no means is PTC abandoning their CD/CAM business, but that “we need to move forward” and that IoT provides that next step in the journey to total lifecycle management.
PTC is playing a pivotal role in the 4.0-world, collaborating with Industry 4.0 in the EU/Germany, and other working groups and initiatives in the Manufacturing 4.0 universe around the globe.
Kathleen Mitford (EVP Product and Market Strategy) (at left) pointed out that for the last few years PTC has consolidated their business model and solutions with huge investments, not just its acquisitions, but to get everything onto the platform so support costs go down and user experience goes up.
IoT and its ThingWorx products is helping to enable a new generation of entrepreneurs create new ventures, as well as catalyzing industry sectors such as the engineering and product design firms.1 Companies are rethinking their product lines to create smart connected products, new information services, and new ways to support customers and service them better. Today, as Jim pointed out, there is a new role, the Chief Digital Officer, that may supersede IT or support product design — or be the go-to advisors to the organization on how to leverage IoT. Many of the larger manufacturers have created these IoT champions under a CTO to help educate and seed the organization with IoT solutions and to help the organization’s transformation to digital manufacturing.
There is also a boost to the world of the end user, with IT leveraging the ThingWorx platform and marketplace to create the new digitally integrated applications for the enterprise. As well, the Citizen Developer, as they call them from the business side, can use ThingWorx Studio to build apps and to create analytics with ThingWorx Analytics.
Last year PTC also made a major bet on augmented reality. And, as Jim said, “That’s a big concept — that connects humans with the digital world.” AR really helps connect the dots and provides a utility of real value in so many professions.
So what happened at LiveWorx? Certainly too big to cover it all in this article, but here are a few insights. Jim Heppelmann, as a true champion of IoT, kicked off LiveWorx with the vision becoming a reality of the physical and digital worlds united to create new opportunities for companies and their customers.2 He pointed out how digital companies are becoming physical. Examples are Google with google glass, driverless cars and so on, or physical companies becoming digital, like GE with its emphasis today on information management. There are infinite possibilities for us to contemplate. We do live in a connected world, and of course the goal is to ensure that PTC is leading their customers — old and new — to this smart connected world. Fact is, many manufacturers are taking the leap and forging ahead into the digital world. Whether you call it Manufacturing 4.0, Industry 4.0, the Connected Enterprise or Smart Cities, or whatever, we are awash in technology, devices and pretty much ubiquitous wireless access to make this a reality.
To demonstrate the possibilities for the connected manufacturer, one that not only sells smart connected product to customers, but manages their own internal operations end to end with a digitally connected mindset,3 Jim, along with the Rexroth BOSCH employees, walked us through a modern enterprise with a digitally enabled total lifecycle management mindset. (see pics)
We saw Rexroth’s new Cytropac, a smart connected product, walk through from design,4 sales, marketing, services and back to enhanced design. Leveraging IoT, 3D printing and AR technologies, they are able to monitor the product in operation, and interestingly, as they understood the customer’s total experience (the environment the customer was operating the product in), were able to design a new substantially improved energy-efficient product.
Marketing now creates virtual brochures5 that are easily enhanced as product changes are released and sales can now have a digital showroom and ‘exhibit’ different versions of the product and its components with AR. This is a ‘beyond the glass display’ or as Jim said, virtually ‘opening the box.’
The marketing and sales integration is important, I think, because many companies miss this opportunity as they contemplate and roll out their smart strategy. Lisa Hillerström (Manager Communications and Marketing
of Rexroth) in fact stated “This is a huge change in how we drive customer success.” Noteworthy is Rexroth using ThingWorx rapid application development to create new sales tools, such as a sales recommendation engine which combines machine learning and can analyze the account and recommend what kind of sales opportunity they might have with the customer — upgrade, new sale or even power-as-a-service.
Rexroth’s service organization can leverage the CAD/digital twin model and analytics to monitor and diagnose problem parts and provide a ‘guide’ right to the part in question that will need to be repaired.
The Chain of Customer Experience: The Service Chain
A major raison d’etre of IoT for supply chain is enhancing total lifecycle management to enhance the customer’s experience. PTC has asserted itself in an unrivalled position in service supply chain — service lifecycle management — with a complete lifecycle of products for planning and optimizing operations.6 Interestingly, PTC still invests in the basic blocking and tackling of operations. I spoke with the team at the services booth at the conference, especially at the Warehouse Management station. Students of history will remember Optum, which was a formidable competitor against Red Prairie in the late ‘90s. Today that is part of the SLM portfolio, and to quote Hassam Mahdavi (Director Software Development WMS solution group), today, a world class warehouse system is “not just reacting to and directing picking, but proactively preventing problems.” How does warehouse management do that? By providing highly accurate inventory through real-time visibility and ensuring that inventory is optimized to meet demand.
Real-time analytics provided by IoT take service management to the next level. Not only the physical products, their attributes and history are part of a solid service solution, but monitoring them in their actual environment, in real-time, provides a rich set of data to proactively and predictively sustain customer value. Companies spend a lot of dollars asking customers how products work — and that is good and should continue — but at some level this is subjective. Now product companies can fulfill the dream — providing the usage data needed for engineering and design to develop the next generation of products.
How does this all play together with PTC’s other products? At the core of ThingWorx is the Thing Model. This is the all about the thing — the central ‘component’ of creating the IoT solution. All the apps are built on top of that. This can be a ‘light weight’ model developed with minimal data from ThingWorx or a very robust model that integrates to PLM solutions leveraging data from CAD systems and then integrates with service systems. Envision a crosstalk based on a 3D digital twin of the thing where design and marketing describe and display the product and then services adds to the model. This provides information on how to repair and the actual on the ground maintainers and repairs. Service people are really the go-to team on how products fare in the marketplace and generally an untapped source for this data. For companies who want to accelerate their product lifecycle, end-to-end real-time integration is key.
And the piece de resistance is the role of augmented reality (AR) in services.7 It can be a really tough job to make the customer happy for field service — the first time. A guide, visual and experiential, into the product can assist the technical or the onsite maintenance teams ‘see inside’ the equipment and, depending on the content developed to support this experience, listen to an engineer or more experienced technician actually talk through the repair. As well, some jobs can be done with a little assist like this, by the customer themselves. Over time, as the solutions become more content rich, customers may perform ever more complex tasks if they chose to themselves. I envision this being a very strong play in the consumer world, where expensive technicians are just not feasible. Remote operations are also a prime candidate for AR, since it can be very hard for the expert to get on site quickly. (One day we might have AR as field doctors. This is no stretch, since the DoD has been working with such technology for quite some time).
A big component of the show was the announcement of ThingWorx 8. The core of this is moving beyond the concept of ThingWorx as just a platform (though for many it is and will be). PTC took it upon themselves, said Mike Campbell (Executive Vice President ThingWorx Product Management) to develop many of the applications, utilize and integrate across the product set to create a full experience for both developers and end users. And as Kathleen Mitford said, their goal is to do everything to ease speed of implementation. At the conference there was a big presence for developers — a ThingWorx Development Zone (a conference version of the ThingWorx Universities that PTC has around the world, and also ThingWorx Marketplace, a mere hint of what PTC offers to ensure knowledge transfer — and technology transfer to customers and partners.
In fact, Kathleen said that there are various free and promotional offerings for ThingWorx today so that prospects can get started as easily as possible. PTC has done a lot with ThingWorx, as I mentioned, to take it beyond the platforms with manufacturing applications which are role based and designed for fast deployment. A few of these are:
- ThingWorx Controls Advisor – allows to connect to and analyze data from any controller in the factory8
- Asset Advisor – for maintenance and service engineers
- Production Advisor – for the plant manager, real-time visibility into status and health of critical9
ThingWorx Rapid Application Developer which is a drag and drop environment for application building is quite popular with IT as well as the business analyst — citizen developer. Many customers are gaining new data that they have not had before and new combinations of data that can have the potential to provide new insights. IT won’t necessarily be the driver of that data exploration. With rapid application development, the citizens themselves can search across their panorama of data to gain new insights.
Through several sessions on ThingWorx best practices we could experience how PTC has taken extremely complex constructs in the PLM/CAD/CAM world such as 3D geometry and turned them into simple drag and drops, using existing libraries of applications and tools, device connections and so on to build applications.
A big component of the IoT revolution — and PTC’s strategy — is the ecosystem. There are thousands of devices, software applications, utilities, variability of the roles and their requirements and the scads of new data that is being generated. If a manufacturer or a tech company desires to be the de facto information broker for a chain of partners or a vendor and their customers, being open and having a rich library of connections, prebuilt apps and so on is essential. Thus a big push for the ThingWorx Marketplace. I spent a lot of time talking to the marketplace folks and saw the rapid evolution of the marketplace.
The pace of partnership is growing and PTC, here again, is doing everything they can to enable partners through training, certification, ecommerce, referenceable and so on to excite this ecosystem. This modern way of the tech world is very refreshing vs. the proprietary and complex world of ERPs and other software segments. Fact is, no company can — or should — try to do it all alone. There are so many substandard implementations of so-called solutions — proprietary — that just don’t cut it.Using a common platform, end users can have the best solutions, but with a consistent experience.
Many execs at PTC emphasized over and over that they do not — won’t — recommend customers pulling the plug of installed and working stuff in the customer’s portfolio, but rather connecting and enhancing so customers get speed to value.
PTC is promoting IoT and AR as key elements of our smarter world. Last year they introduced ThingWorx Studio and offered free trial licenses. Since then, over 2.000 companies used the free trial version, creating over 60,000 augmented reality experiences. Though augmented reality smart glasses get the buzz, the reality is that one only needs a wireless device such as a tablet or smartphone to take advantage of AR in a factory or showroom. This makes AR easy to adopt for most companies.10
The face of PTC today is radically different than a few years back. PTC is open on all fronts — technology transformation to openness, welcoming to partners, and communicating to the marketplace, who they are and where they are going. To quote Jim Heppelmann, “We’ve come out of our shell.” Even the culture has moved from button down suits to EVP with jeans, as well as a real break-through, having a female EVP.11
Lots of companies talk about having an open architecture, but they don’t quite make it. Or through their transformation to cloud, they leave their partners behind. Sad, since partners are part of what made us great.12 PTC has really energized their customer and partner-base with their champion role for the digital world. At some level, PTC still has to defend their stake in the IoT world to old line customers. Jim emphasized, “I am not saying that CAD is not important — I am just saying we have to keep going.” He is also putting the challenge to those who, through lack of integration, don’t have a total life cycle view of their business. “Your life cycle is still going, but you’re not managing it.” How true! We saw it so often with DEC, Palm, Blackberry, Nokia, Motorola, all of them at the top of their game and then gone. So, it is more than a fair statement to challenge the market to keep going forward.
Today the talent gap is a huge issue in technology — and especially in manufacturing. If companies want to attract top talent, they have to keep going, to be an innovative place to work and be part of the future.
Our world is rapidly becoming a very smart connected world, which empowers enterprises and societies. Our world can become healthier, smarter, more socially tolerant due to connectivity with an entrepreneurism which enables a new generation of younger people to create new solutions for our society. PTC and its partners intend to be a part of that.
1 For a view into what this sector is thinking about when it comes to IoT, you can read a lot of interesting articles at Engineering News Record. — Return to article text above
2 You can catch the whole key note at the YouTube LiveWorx Keynote. Jim’s talk starts at 19:30. You can bypass at the entertainment hype. — Return to article text above
3 You can see this from LiveWorx streaming. — Return to article text above
4 Using CREO and 3D printing to create a motorized cooling and control system for their Cytropac product. — Return to article text above
5 CREO Illustrate — to document procedures. — Return to article text above
6 Servigistics, MCA Solutions, Optum Warehouse Management and other products that were acquired. — Return to article text above
7 There were several insightful sessions on this at LiveWorx. — Return to article text above
8 Mike Campbell in his presentation on ThingWorx 8 talked about the Native Industrial Connectivity in ThingWorx 8. They experienced dramatic improvements to source data from industrial equipment. Powered by Kepware (a recent acquisition) over 150 protocols, used by 1.000 of different devices. PTC already has over 10K engineers already using Kepware. — Return to article text above
9 More on ThingWorx 8 here. — Return to article text above
10 Beyond the glasses ensures awareness and communications in the actually environment and with people as well as an ‘augmented’ experience. — Return to article text above
11 Students of history will know that although the CAD/CAM market had a reputation as a male bastion, the fact is there were many top women such as Lynn Hock and of course Carol Bartz, CEO of Autodesk. — Return to article text above
12 It is a question I put to companies who have moved to cloud: what’s left for partners? If they don’t have a good integration and co-development role for partners who previously played that role, it appears there is a revenue grab. PTC and SAP have both done a great job of not just accommodating partners in the cloud but helping to nurture them. Fact is, key device companies as well, such as Zebra, Impinj, Tyco, Alien and others of this ilk has done a great job here. — Return to article text above
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