- By Bill Lydon
- June 25, 2019
By Bill Lydon, Automation.com While attending LiveWorx 2019, for example, it was obvious to me that that PTC has created the most open system architecture which manufacturers can use to leverage digitalization and collaboration to achieve strong competitive positions in their industries.
In seeing the digitalization wave flow through event after event, it has been fascinating to see the many ways in which organizations are enabling greater collaboration in the industry. While attending LiveWorx 2019, for example, it was obvious to me that that PTC has created the most open system architecture which manufacturers can use to leverage digitalization and collaboration to achieve strong competitive positions in their industries. PTC has created a logical system architecture platform with a large and growing partner ecosystem. PTC’s effort democratizes application development and unleashes the creativity of subject matter experts in manufacturing & process operations.
The PTC software platform complemented with its partner ecosystem is a scalable and flexible platform architecture for digitization of both discrete and process functions including design, manufacturing, product lifecycle management (PLM), and services. The PTC philosophy embraces providing functional modules to create systems with tools and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces ) for those that want to develop their own software using fundamental building blocks.
Digitalization: A Critical Manufacturing Success Factor
Manufacturing companies are rapidly coming to an understanding that the application of technology is a requirement to be competitive. The digitalization of manufacturing is the next logical step in modernization following the re-platforming of enterprise systems with technologies including real-time ERP, analytics, AI, and cloud applications. The PTC ThingWorx platform provides the architecture and building blocks for integration of manufacturing automation into the enterprise to help manufacturers accomplish their digitalization transformation. This includes integration of edge devices such as sensors with embedded processors.
The PTC platform and offerings satisfy two fundamental criteria that are important for manufacturers in their digitalization process:
- Flexible platform that can be configured and molded to make manufacturers most efficient and productive based on their unique operations.
- Flexible and configurable platform that users can create a differentiated competitive advantage in their industry.
It is important for manufacturers to be empowered for developing systems and methods to satisfy their needs based on their know-how, combined with tribal knowledge to create unique efficiencies, quality, and productivity. This open, collaborative environment becomes a fundamental part of their unique competitive advantage in their markets.
The Rockwell – PTC Collaboration
Not surprisingly, Rockwell Automation had a prominent position at the LiveWorx 2019 event after they invested $1 billion in PTC as part of a strategic partnership. Punctuating this relationship was the announcement that the Rockwell Automation TechED event will run in conjunction with the LiveWorx 2020 in Boston. They also prominently displayed FactoryTalk offerings which included the addition of FactoryTalk Innovation Suite, powered by PTC software.
As described at the Rockwell Automation Annual Investor Conference, the FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, will be sold under a common FactoryTalk brand, in an exclusive relationship.
ThingWorx Core to Architecture
The open ThingWorx platform provides software designed for new and brown field, manufacturing and process plants to start evolving to modern digitalized operations. The ThingWorx platform appears to have all the functionality to become the single user interface for an entire manufacturing or process operation.
The ThingWorx demonstrations illustrated the ease of creating data mashups and visualizations, and was certainly impressive. The ThingWorx software is a focal point for pulling together data from essentially any source - including real-time control & automation systems, images, drawings and documentation - in order to create relationships and user interfaces. The Kepware suite provides bidirectional interfaces to virtually all industrial and process automation controllers, systems, and applications.
ThingWorx has utilities designed specifically for managing and orchestrating across devices, processes, and business systems. The integration of manufacturing in an open environment toolkit vs packaged systems was presented as a particular advantage for several reasons:
- Source: Source data from anywhere, CAD or PLM systems, Factory Floor, or clouds from AWS or Azure.
- Contextualize: Makes it simple to organize, access, and leverage data using a ThingModel
- Synthesize: Apply machine learning analytics or simulation to extract insights form the data
- Orchestrate: Take action on those insights by automating processes or creating new workflows
- Engage: Deliver those insights to humans via desktop or mobile apps or AR/VR experiences
In addition, the ThingWorx platform contains a broad set of features, including multiple connectivity options, application development tools, analytics, and Augmented Reality (AR) built around the ThingModel, a single, real-time view of a physical object.
Industrial AR experiences are created and viewed using real-time connected asset and system data via Vuforia integration. The Vuforia Studio is a fascinating application which can be used to create visual content, contextualize it with data, and deliver virtualized information on multiple platforms.
Inside The Elements of ThingWorx
ThingWorx Foundation is the heart of the ThingWorx platform, offering functional capabilities to connect, build, and deploy IoT solutions. Based on model-driven, rapid application design, it eliminates the need for manual coding and provides connectivity options intended to minimize integration work.
ThingWorx Analytics delivers automated analytics capabilities including real-time pattern and anomaly detection, automated predictive analytics, and contextualized recommendations. Utilizing interfaces, visualizations, and tools, it works to eliminate the need for developer or user expertise in data modeling, complex mathematics, or machine learning.
ThingWorx Industrial Connectivity
ThingWorx Industrial Connectivity powered by Kepware delivers a solution for connecting industrial devices and systems. It enables users to connect, manage, monitor, and control diverse automation devices and software applications through one intuitive user interface.
ThingModel is the key to the ThingWorx platform. It provides a consistent representation of “things” to tie all components of the ThingWorx platform into one. This works to increase development velocity and deliver solutions that are easier to scale and maintain.
Vuforia Studio works to simplify the creation of AR experiences for the industrial enterprise. It is an authoring tool for creating use-case specific experiences. It enables a composite view of digital and physical product data, dashboards, and alerts presented in 2D, 3D, and AR and accessible via desktop, mobile devices, and wearables.
Vuforia Chalk is an example of integration and mashup to deliver powerful remote guidance and collaboration in an application designed for technicians and experts to effectively & efficiently communicate to solve problems.
Thoughts & Observations
PTC has created an easy-to-use, logical system architecture platform with a large and growing partner ecosystem that democratizes application development and collaboratively unleashes the creativity of subject matter experts in manufacturing & process companies across the industries.
PTC has an impressive team starting with Jim Heppelmann, President & Chief Executive Officer and the people I interacted with at LiveWorx 2019. I find PTC to be an innovative and vibrant organization and I look forward to see their work going forward.
- Automation Fair 2018 - Rockwell Automation & PTC Partner for Industrial Digitization Journey
- Tension in Industrial Automation: Open Systems and the User’s Dilemma
- 2019 Hannover Messe Wrap Up - The Growing Realization of Industry 4.0 & Digitalization
- Can Manufacturers Compete When Trapped in Existing Automation Architectures?
- Is IT/OT Convergence Becoming Misguided Thinking?
- Bill’s Top 10 Automation & Control Trends for 2019 – Accelerating Change & Reaching the Tipping Point
- What is open source & why you should care?
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