Earlier this month (June 3-6), design software company PTC held PlanetPTC Live, its annual worldwide gathering of customers which brought together not only a wide range of its user community but also a contingent of journalists from across the globe.
Held in Orlando, Florida, the conference brought together close to 2000 PTC users and included company case studies from manufacturers Whirlpool, AGCO and Santa Cruz Bicycles.
In his keynote address, PTC president and CEO Jim Heppelmann argued that the world is poised to enter what The Economist magazine recently labelled a ‘third industrial revolution’, where recent improvements in digital design software and associated programmes are able to dramatically increase efficiency in product design.
“Over the past few decades, global manufacturers have made massive investments in technology and process change aimed at improving operational efficiency,” said Heppelmann. “Today, however, we are reaching the limits of the competitive edge these investments can deliver. Manufacturers need to be operationally efficient to stay in the game, but they can no longer achieve meaningful advantage from that alone. The time has come for a new source of competitive advantage – product and service advantage – from technology and process change that improves strategy decision-making across the enterprise, from engineering to the supply chain to sales and service networks.”
The company case studies were headlined by Whirlpool, the self-professed largest appliance maker in the world. Employing around 70,000 people, the company has been a long-term user of PTC’s CAD software offering Pro Engineer (now called Creo). However, due to the ever growing complexity of its products (a washing machine may now have up to a million lines of software coding) the company undertook a strategic partnership with PTC in 2010 to assist it to streamline its product development process.
The culmination of this partnership has been the development of a strategy, codenamed the ‘Constellation Project’, which will see the rollout of PLM software throughout Whirlpool’s global design network.
Click here to hear from Jeff Burk, Director Program Management Office of Constellation Program at Whirlpool, as he explains the particular circumstances that led to Whirlpool’s decision to implement PLM and create the Constellation Project.
Also of interest was Whirlpool’s take on the future of the home appliance market. While some household goods are already plugged into the information super highway, Whirlpool firmly believes that it is only a matter of time before we are able to access our home electronics from our computers and, more interestingly, our phones. Click here to read what Fred Bellio, CIO, Global Product Organisation and Corporate Center at Whirlpool, has to say about the future of ‘smart appliances’.
There were a number of other very interesting presentations during PlanetPTC Live. Day two’s keynote presentations from Patrick Simpkins of NASA, Bill Fitzgibbons of AGCO and Joe Graney of Santa Cruz Bicycles were insightful and inspirational. In addition, Professor Steven Eppinger’s presentation on how environmental sustainability can be achieved through better product and process design will be incorporated into an article on manufacturing sustainability in August.
Overall, the striking thing about this year’s PlanetPTC Live event was the prevalence of companies really striving to utilise the full extent of capabilities provided by PTC’s design and product software tools. It seems that more and more companies are starting to get to grips with the full potential housed in PTC’s software offerings. As Jim Heppelmann said in his closing statement on day one: “A new era is upon us. To win in the new century requires a new way of thinking. For manufacturers, it’s about making fundamentally smarter strategy decisions.” Importantly however, it is not simply about installing the software but also being aware of the potential housed within. And it was clear that demonstrating that potential was certainly at the core of this year’s event.
A Brief Software Update
The news from the PTC camp was focused on Creo 2.0 and Windchill 10.1 although there wasn’t much change from April when the products were first announced. PTC is hoping that the improved options and further improved usability of Creo 2.0 will encourage more users to make the switch from its predecessor Pro Engineer to the new offering. Aside from a new range of tools including ‘Freestyle’, a tool to quickly create ‘manufacturable’ [sic] surfaces, PTC says it has proven, through user studies, that the simpler and more intuitive Creo user interface allows operators to work up to 73% faster than when using Pro Engineer.
In terms of PTC’s most recent PLM offering, Windchill 10.1, the news has been greatly focused on the acquisition and integration of the MKS Integrity offering which replicates the PLM aspects of Windchill and applies it to the process of product software configuration. This allows Windchill to assist in managing software defects and issues, as well as enabling software releases to be synchronised with product configurations.