PTC Makes the Right Connections – LiveWorx 2018

by Alan Griffiths

PTC’s LiveWorx 2018 in Boston – June 17th to 20th – was its biggest so far with 6,000 registered delegates, 4,000 streaming viewers and 200 break-out sessions.  Many partners were present as part of the ‘ecosystem’ required to implement a complex IoT system.

Entrance to PTC's LiveWorx conference 2018
Figure 1 – Entrance to LiveWorx 2018

It was good to see PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann guiding the company into another new direction.  I remember when he and Michael Porter came to London about 20 years ago to launch Windchill with the theme of ‘competitive advantage versus business efficiency’, meaning that innovation – supported by CADCAM/PLM (‘IT’) – will dramatically improve competitiveness and profitability, whereas making the operations more efficient with enterprise systems (‘OT’) merely reduces cost (and you don’t get rich by cost-cutting).

A lot has changed in 20 years, and now that OT can be ‘connected’ to IT (using IoT), the message is that this combination can provide a competitive advantage.

The main ‘futuristic’ themes were IoT, Analytics, AR/VR (Augmented/Virtual Reality), Smart Manufacturing and 3D Printing, as presented by Jim Heppelmann, below.

Jim Heppelmann, CEO, explains the PTC vision at LiveWorx 2018
Figure 2 – Jim Heppelmann, CEO, starts off LiveWorx 2018 with the PTC vision

Perhaps not by coincidence, these themes were echoed in the closing keynote by Michio Kaku (the future-thinking theoretical physicist).

Michio Kaku presenting at LiveWorx 2018
Figure 3 – Michio Kaku presenting at LiveWorx 2018

Main PTC Messages

The main messages from PTC at LiveWorx were;

  • the ThingWorx industrial innovation platform can be used to ‘rapidly implement innovative industrial IoT solutions’; and
  • IT and OT can be connected by using ThingWorx Navigate as a portal into multiple enterprise systems with Kepware providing the links to PLCs and other controllers.
  • AR (Augmented Reality) is now so important it has a separate business unit, under the Vuforia banner.
  • PTC is very serious about working with other technology and consultancy companies.
  • PTC is still a premier CADCAM/PLM provider.

See below for further details and examples.

Cambashi Insights

The main insights I took away were:

  • The Rockwell relationship is a good move for both companies. Rockwell will help position PTC as a serious player in industrial automation, and PTC will add ‘sizzle’ to Rockwell’s solid offer in manufacturing – FactoryTalk MES, FactoryTalk Analytics and Industrial Automation.  GE had seemed to occupy a similar position to Rockwell, but that partnership never really caught fire.  There could be many reasons, such as GE’s recent business issues and some ‘not invented here’ opposition to PTC technology.  GE also had no stake in PTC’s success, whereas Rockwell has invested a billion dollars.
  • PTC has a full house of strong partnerships. Microsoft, although it partners with many companies, made two keynote appearances at LiveWorx 2018 with Rodney Clark, VP IoT and Mixed Reality and Alex Kipman.  There is also a strong technical partnership with Ansys – incorporating its ‘real-time CAE’ into PTC’s CAD products, and many of the major system integrators, such as Accenture and Infosys are on board.
  • AR is coming of age. The establishment of a separate business unit (under EVP Mike Campbell) will focus resources and help convince hard-nosed manufacturing companies of the business value of AR – not only of PTC’s Vuforia, but AR in general.  The Microsoft HoloLens and Azure technologies complement Vuforia and ThingWorx.  The AR (Vuforia) organization will report into Hilary Ashton who joined PTC this month as EVP & General Manager, Augmented Reality, reporting directly to Jim Heppelmann.
  • The walls between IT and OT are at last being broken down. IoT has a lot to do with this, as it allows actual data (configuration, status, condition etc.) to be fed back from the real world where ‘OT’ (control and management) systems are used, to the virtual world where ‘IT’ (design and analysis) systems are used.  PTC achieves this with integration products such as ThingWorx and Kepware, and the ‘digital twin’ can be achieved using its modelling and PLM products.
  • PTC is progressing from selling an ‘IoT platform’ to delivering focussed – ‘connected’ – applications. Having previously led the IOT platform offer, Howard Heppelmann (Jim’s brother) is now GM Connected Solutions. When I spoke to Howard, he emphasized the contribution and added value of solutions alongside the platform.  Howard explained how PTC’s IoT solutions support Industry 4.0 and, when combined with analytics, provide double digit productivity increases.  PTC is particularly focussed on connected products, connected production and connected worker with applications such as asset management, remote access/control and service/predictive maintenance.  These are targeted initially at the industrial, automotive, medical and high-tech sectors, but there’s no reason why – with the right implementation resource or partner – the technology couldn’t be applied to other areas such as connected city, building and supply chain.

As an aside, there was a nice touch when PTC hosted the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation Excellence by the ASME to Bill Gerstenmaier of NASA.  Bill is a pioneer of human space flight having organised manned missions for over 20 years.

More detail

A large range of solutions and case studies was presented at LiveWorx in hundreds of breakout sessions.  These can be grouped into four main categories:

  1. Innovative IOT solutions
  2. Connecting IT and OT
  3. AR/VR
  4. Working with partners

These will be covered, with examples, in a later blog.

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