IT in manufacturing: Where is PLM headed?

Posted on 6 Feb 2012

Following his attendance at two major PLM user conferences in late 2011 Tim brown traces the development directions being taken by PTC and Dassault Systèmes and summarises recent announcements from competing vendors for a broad view of PLM technology progression.


PTC worked hard in 2010 and 2011 to demonstrate positive results from a large investment aimed at improving its suite of products. At the PTC Live Technology Forum in Copenhagen in November last year, PTC announced a range of enhanced capabilities for its Windchill family of PLM solutions.

Windchill underwent a $100m upgrade for its 10.0 version release which took place in April last year. Andrew Wertkin, CTO Integrity Business Unit at PTC said in Copenhagen that the upgrade was designed around the company’s slogan of ‘do more, know more, get more’.

Having developed a reputation for complexity in its user experience, PTC was eager to highlight the work that has been done to develop a more friendly and intuitive interface for its most recent iteration of Windchill. Feedback from hours of customer usability tests was used to improve the design of the program’s interface and these changes have certainly made Windchill much simpler to operate.

Among a range of other improvements made to the software is a new offering, Product Analytics, which is designed to monitor a product’s compliance with a range of regulations and which replaces the Insight module. Another addition is the PTC System Monitor which pro-actively detects system bottlenecks in the Windchill production environment before they impact users.

The V6 iteration of Catia, the longstanding CAD software particularly highly regarded in the automotive space, helps accelerate companies’ transformation toward a full PLM 2.0 approach
The V6 iteration of Catia, the longstanding CAD software particularly highly regarded in the automotive space, helps accelerate companies’ transformation toward a full PLM 2.0 approach

PTC has also developed a social networking capacity through Windchill SocialLink which acts like a company intranet notice board and is designed to allow designers to raise queries and collaborate on projects with other employees from across their company, regardless of location. With regards to PTC’s cloud offering, the company has no strict architecture but refers to the cloud as a “deployment option” via cloud service providers such as Amazon, Azure or EMC. The company has suggested that further integration with a more specific cloud option is certainly on the cards for the future.

Firming up for software

In late May 2011, PTC completed its acquisition of MKS, developer of MKS Integrity, a platform for software application lifecycle management (ALM). Offered now as a part of the PTC range of products, Integrity coordinates and manages all activities and artefacts associated with developing software-intensive products, including requirements, models, code and test. It also provides version traceability. Essentially, ALM aims to provide the same functionality for software engineers that PLM has given to product designers. It allows them to interact with designs, understand amendments and ensure real-time version control for design variations.

Software has become an integral, embedded component of many manufactured products today – integral to the value of everything from cars and medical devices to smart phones and children’s toys. For example, cars rolling off today’s assembly lines include more than 100 million lines of embedded software code and nearly three quarters of all medical device innovation is now attributed to software changes. Yet, while software is critical to future product innovation, it is commonly managed independently from the physical product in which it is embedded.

With the combination of the PLM and ALM formats, PTC is aiming to assist manufacturers integrate product hardware and software more efficiently. Currently two separate offerings, it was hinted at the Copenhagen event that as the use of software continues to increase within product manufacturers, the PLM and ALM formats are likely to become even more closely linked.

Lifelike manufacturing Experience is available through 3DS PLM 2.0
Lifelike manufacturing Experience is available through 3DS PLM 2.0

Dassault Systèmes

Dassault Systèmes (DS) held its European Customer Forum 2011 at Disneyland Paris. The November forum discussed its vision for PLM to create a ‘lifelike experience’ for designers – PLM 2.0, or ‘PLM online for all’, is the most recent iteration of Dassault Systèmes PLM definition deployed through its Version 6 (V6) range of products. Working with Amazon Web Services to provide cloud deployment, V6 leverages a more flexible approach than was previously offered enabling companies of all sizes to get started quickly.

“Moving PLM to the cloud is a giant step in giving back our customers the freedom, the power and the agility that they have been longing for. Amazon Web Services made it possible thanks to the quality of its global, reliable, scalable and costeffective cloud infrastructure,” said Bernard Charlès, president and CEO, Dassault Systèmes.

Reality check

Dassault Systèmes believes V6 and PLM 2.0 represent a major redefinition of the PLM technology. The new DS developments reflect an ambitious focus on creating life-like experiences from the company. With PLM 2.0 solutions like V6, realistic simulations are becoming increasingly adept at allowing virtual products and systems to behave as they would in the physical world. User avatars can then benefit from immersive, lifelike experiences in 3D. For customers this not only means being able to design and render products virtually but also simulate the factory processes that produce them.

Dassault Systèmes’ Enovia is the company’s collaboration platform which DS believes will be used from the smallest teams to the largest global companies. Collaborative innovation through ENOVIA allows creators, collaborators and consumers to pool their input into the product lifecycle. ENOVIA products are organised into four business process-based domains in order to target specific areas for development. These domains are; governance, global sourcing, IP lifecycle management and unified live collaboration.

The V6 iteration of Catia, the longstanding CAD software particularly highly regarded in the automotive space, helps accelerate companies’ transformation toward a full PLM 2.0 approach and puts 3D collaborative innovation at the heart of an enterprise. According to DS, Catia V6 goes far beyond traditional CAD tools and offers a unique digital product experience that brings 3D product design to life with unmatched realism.

At ECF 2011 DS spoke about enhancing business value throughout the enterprise by deploying Version 6 PLM. Many companies across the industrial and manufacturing landscape, including Jaguar Land Rover, presented their own positive business transformation experiences (see p74 to read more about JLR’s use of virtual reality technology).

Other PLM news

  • Trace One and Agentrics PLM, merged in January 2012 to create a global leader in collaborative platforms for the private label industry. The resultant company, Trace One, has as its mission to drive food and non-food product innovation and accelerate time-to-market for retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and food service companies.
  • Siemens PLM has announced the release of NX 8, the latest update to the company’s fully integrated computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering analysis (CAD/CAM/ CAE) solution and the release of Tecnomatix 10. Siemens PLM Software’s Teamcenter software PLM system provides a single source of product and process information to significantly increase productivity. New Tecnomatix capabilities like a more productive user interface, 3D animated work instructions and a shop floor connection for Teamcenter that provides a seamless connection to machine controllers, create a better user experience and ensure manufacturing data is secure and the manufacturing plan-to-production process is controlled.
  • Infor, a leading provider of business application software, perhaps best known in the ERP space, revealed an enhanced version of Infor10 PLM Process in January. This next-generation application boasts Infor10 ION and Infor10 Workspace functionality to provide users with a single sign-on screen and flexible middleware that connects all business applications into one unified system. Infor10 PLM Process positions companies for future expansion by enabling integration with Infor and thirdparty applications, and storing background scripts in a new scripting library, eliminating the need to modify or recode after an upgrade. In addition, PLM Process is now capable of integrating with various SAP applications through Infor10 ION, providing greater connectivity, business process monitoring, data sharing, and enhanced workflows and collaboration across the enterprise.