Process Primed

Posted on 7 Jun 2010 by The Manufacturer

No rest for the wicked. The first day of the PTC World Event 2010 has been an exhausting gamut of announcements, best practice presentations interviews and debates. Jane Gray updates from the USA.

The opening keynote for the annual PTC User event, delivered this year by incoming CEO Jim Heppelmann, seemed to run from unveiling to revelation to disclosure of new capability, product offerings and strategic plans. Stridently confident in their impressive growth figures for the year to date the tone from PTC today has been ambitious and pro-active.

It was gratifying to see however that within the array of new solutions many of the themes pointed to in my earlier blog ‘Stateside insight’ as being areas of concern and confusion for PLM users of potential users, were exactly those areas which PTC has been throwing its considerably R&D might behind.

First and foremost the challenge of taking a business process focused approach to software development and implementation, as opposed to an IT-centric one has been at the core of discussion. Heppelmann is extremely proud of PTCs attention to detail on process awareness which he feels defines the companies offerings from other leading vendors.

“Some time ago PTC decided that it was going to focus on being a solutions company rather than a product company and we began to focus on the idea of product development process improvement. We realised that technology is a means to an end, and the end – for the customer – is to have a better process. This has driven us toward becoming experts in what our customer do at a process level. We need to understand the processes – the flaws and opportunities within them – and create opportunities for efficiency and improvement. We then need to use that information and knowledge to influence our own product direction.”

The reality of Jim’s words have become manifestly obvious today in the directions toward better usability, interoperability and assembly management that new product offerings are taking. These key issues for manufacturers are being tackled with sensitivity and understanding of underlying process needs through close collaboration with Microsoft and use of their Sharepoint software. The result has been new capability in product portfolio management, product analytics, manufacturing process management, and service design.

However the issue of understanding process before product is of course one which lies at the door of the manufacturer as well as the provider and the customer presentations at today’s event have shown that, here too, understanding is building. Two PTC customers who showed particular awareness of this issue were Saudi Arabian manufacturer Alfanar Electrical Systems and US based aerospace and defence organisation Raytheon.

Murugan Coimbatore Krishnaswamy of Alfanar clarified in his presentation on the use of six sigma methodologies in the implementation of PTCs Windchill technology that reducing process and system complexity had to be a guiding objective. “Six sigma is a problem solving quantitative approach to quality which aids in data based decision making”, making use of it will help to define process and complexity dynamics and align them to data management needs and software capability.

Jeff Brodsky, Senior Principal Engineer at Raytheon says that they too utilised six sigma expertise during the scoping of their Windchill PLM project. “The project was always approached as one of system redesign using the same internal expertise who had been working on other product intitiatives.” A key issue for Raytheon was to minimise customisation on the PLM project and the work put into system redesign and workflow configuration was critical. “We were aiming to make a common process with a common tool to sustain our design anywhere, build anywhere, support anywhere mantra. PLM is more than just a software tool it is also a way of thinking about process and people in the organisation.”

PTCs attention to detail in understanding the importance of customer processes has been a key factor in some very important wins for the company. As Heppelmann pointed out PTC recent success has not only been built on incremental growth with existing customers but has sprung off their success in managing to impress large enterprise companies that their value is worth the significant disruption of a complete PLM migration. Among the recently converted are Volvo, Addidas and GE Healthcare to name but a few.

Such substantial wins certainly give an impression that PTC are doing something right – even if the mid still jibes slightly at Heppelmann’s only half playful assertion that it is now the undisputed “fastest growing software company in the universe!” – Never do things by halves.