Posted on 18 Dec 2013 by The Manufacturer

Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, talks to Federico Ercoli about Product Lifecycle Management trends and making the best of software piracy.

Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO, PTC
Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO, PTC

What are big trends in global manufacturing from PTC’s point of view?

One is ‘servitization’, which means the ongoing evolution from selling things to providing services, maybe using those things.

We see many companies everywhere headed down that path and in some ways it was pioneered in the UK by Rolls-Royce 20 years ago with ‘power by the hour’. Now there are a lot of companies moving in that direction.

The second major development we are tracking is the ‘internet of things’. Smart products that connect themselves to an internet network and can be monitored, upgraded, fixed or controlled remotely.”

These two elements are really driving our product and technology road map for the next few years. We’re asking, as products become connected, how does that change the way you do SLM [Service Lifecycle Management], ALM [Application Lifecycle Management] and PLM [Product Lifecycle Management]? You’ll see us introducing a lot of technologies around connectivity of products.

Why should a manufacturer invest in PLM technology?

One of the key benefits that we see a lot in the industries is what we call ‘global platform strategy’.

By that I mean, when companies become global, they start selling products in different parts of the world and realise customers in different parts of the world want slightly different versions of those products, so they experience a fragmentation of the products and suddenly the profit goes away.

So the question is ‘how can we create derivative products from common parts so that the customers get the diversity but we get the scale?’

Our PLM helps you do that. It also helps you deal with regulation. You need it for global coordination.

There’s a lot of hype at the moment about the impact 3D printing will have on supply chains, product design and service delivery for manufacturers. What does 3D printing mean for PTC?

3D printing has come a long way. But that said, I’m a mechanical engineer, I took an awful lot of classes on materials properties, heat-treating and all the different things that you have to do to different materials to get the right strengths, corrosion resistance and so forth. There’s a lot of stuff that can’t be replaced by a 3D printer anytime soon.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s growing, it’s interesting, but it won’t explode all of a sudden. Our role in 3D printing is to provide the 3D input to the printers.

Change of topic. There’s a big talk recently about cybersecurity, protection of IP and counterfeit software. Is this a concern for you?

Piracy is a huge problem, but in a funny way is a new business model.

It’s like the try n’ buy of the modern era. In some countries, more than 50% of our software is pirated.

If we could prevent all piracy, these people will pirate some other company’s software, so, what’s actually an interesting business model, is to try and discover the piracy and have a conversation about turning it into a legitimate business relationship.

There’s so much software in the world that you can try for a while and then buy if you’re interested, and that’s basically what it is. Try it and then they catch you and you have to buy it, or stop doing it because you’ve already been caught.

Our focus is detection and legitimising the business relationship more than figuring out the next way to prevent piracy.

Every tactic that we’ve ever tried to protect our software from being pirated has been foiled quickly. A few years back we purchased the latest version of a technology that we embedded in our code, it cost us half a million dollars. It was pirated in two weeks. So what’s the point?