PTC LiveWorx on Moving Digitalization from Vision to Reality

PTC LiveWorx on Moving Digitalization from Vision to Reality
PTC LiveWorx on Moving Digitalization from Vision to Reality
At its LiveWorx 2020 virtual event June 9, PTC illustrated its industry leadership and commitment to deliver a partner ecosystem, architecture, and tools for manufacturing and production companies to achieve the benefits and competitive advantage of digitalization. The multi-session live event, recorded and available on demand for those who missed it, described how digitalization is a competitive imperative for manufacturing and production companies that want to thrive and survive.

The event included a keynote by PTC president and chief executive officer Jim Heppelmann, an overview of the PTC technology platform and product offerings, and sessions on spatial computing and “factory insights as a service.” Notable aspects of the technology platform and products include:
  • The ability to use the platform to create a differentiated competitive advantage in users’ specific industries.
  • Straightforward user configuration to deploy manufacturing digitalization tailored to unique operations, resulting in significant gains in efficiency and competitiveness.
  • Functional modules to create systems with tools and application programming interfaces (APIs) for those who want to develop their own software using fundamental building blocks.
  • Cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings providing powerful software that synchronize operations with a low life-cycle cost.

Keynote: Lessons Learned, Paths Forward

PTC democratizes manufacturing & process application development, unleashing subject matter expert creativity, said Heppelmann in a thoughtful and inspiring LiveWorx 2020 opening keynote presentation. He acknowledged that we are in an environment like none of us have ever faced before with a “terrible human toll and the economic toll setting up to be equally bad.”

Hepplmann also noted that the COVID-19 crisis has bought out some of the best in people as well: People have pulled together to reconfigure their daily lives for the greater good. He emphasized the commitment and compassion of frontline workers and, with the lockdowns requiring people to work from home, how “digital has become the big hero.”

“Everyone I talk to thinks we need to adopt this style of working going forward, even after the pandemic fades,” Hepplmann said. Recognizing the disruptions that have happened in the last decade,  he added, “We need to accept that we have entered a less stable and less predictable era, and we need to find new ways to cope and thrive in that new normal.” Reflecting on this situation, he commented, "I think that 10 years from now, we'll all look back on this and realize that we were a part of something special."

Heppelmann described what he believes are four essential needs for industrial companies hoping to thrive as we all move forward.  

1. Workforce mobility and resiliency.  Cloud and SaaS tools have already transformed CRM, ERP, and most other enterprise software, but transformation of manufacturing systems has been lagging. Now there is a large opportunity to improve productivity with the application of SaaS, he said. He noted 75% of workers in the factories are frontline workers, and that field and mobile devices coupled with cloud applications are empowering technologies for those employees.

PTC’s $470 million acquisition of Onshape gives the company a next-generation SaaS platform that will be applied across the entire product portfolio. The new platform has been named ATLAS and the first applications for it are computer-aided design (CAD) and product lifecycle management (PLM). Onshape “behaves like Google docs, but for CAD. We’re able to design and build prototypes in a matter of days versus weeks or months,” said ventilator manufacturer VEMPU, a PTC customer.

IDC predicts that by 2022 70% of manufacturers we use cloud-based innovation platforms. Anyone can experience the PTC SaaS example for themselves by going to using a PC, MacBook, Chromebook, iOS or Android phone or tablet. The example is a read-only-enabled view of a respirator design, which can be manipulated to see the product from various angles, including a look inside the design. Using this, I was impressed with the responsiveness when using my basic laptop and Internet connection. The advantages of the software are obvious. This approach ensures people are always working with the latest data, and system support for upgrades and administration is no longer a burden to an organization.

2. Flexible and innovative supply chains.  The SaaS approach empowers impromptu partners to join forces to blend their ideas as they work together to design and manufacture new products. Hepplmann noted, “This is a powerful capability to have, given the level of disruption of typical supply chains, first, from trade wars and now from the coronavirus pandemic.” The SaaS approach ensures all partners are working with the same models and information, eliminating the need for constant exchange of files. This results in the coveted “one version of the truth.”

3. Frontline workforce collaboration. Frontline workers need tools that delivers digital data into the real world where they work. That, said Hepplmann, is “the very definition of augmented reality.” This digitally empowers frontline workers—of which there are 2.7 billion of them globally—to be more productive and effective. PTC’s Vuforia Chalk application, delivers remote assistance with augmented reality. It enables collaboration between front-line workers and remote subject matter experts, with content mapped onto the real world. Vuforia Studio publishes content on real-world objects in real-world places. Vuforia Expert Capture enables systemization of real-world knowledge and know-how from experienced workers for smooth transitioning to new workers.


4. Remote monitoring of products and factories.   Remote monitoring of factories allows operation despite work-from-home orders, travel bans, quarantine areas, and limited staff. Remote monitoring and service enabled by the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) improves uptime and significantly lowers Mean Time To Repair (MTTR), saving massive technician labor and travel costs.


Spatial computing: Next big leap

Heppelmann discussed spatial computing is the next big leap that is the ultimate example of physical and digital convergence. Technologies such as depth sensing cameras can capture a manufacturing space like we’re already seeing for online virtual tours of the home for sale. The same technology works great to capture 3D models of factories and plants. Spatial computing allows the combination and integration IoT, AR, CAD, and PLM together with what cameras see happening in a workspace to create an amazingly powerful 3D digital twin that understands all the dimensions of people, product, process, and location. Leveraging all of this digitization VR can be applied to virtually visit the location anytime and AI can be applied as well creating new opportunities for improvement and optimization. Since worker movements can be captured and analyzed with spatial computing there are opportunities for wide range of improvements including improving safety, finding production bottlenecks, and optimizing worker ergonomics.

 “I like to say that Augmented Reality is IoT for people.” Jim Heppelmann

Heppelmann provided analogies: Microsoft Word is a way to virtualize documents. Zoom is a way to virtualize knowledge workers. CAD and PLM are ways to virtualize products. IoT is a way to virtualize every instance of a product, including the ability to monitor, control, and optimize. AR is a way to virtualize a frontline worker, including the ability to monitor, control and optimize their work. PTC has introduced the Vuforia Spatial Toolbox which he noted, “represents a big down payment” on  moving forward in this area.

Factory Insights as a Service

PTC and Rockwell Automation together announced Factory Insights as a Service, a turnkey solution delivered in the cloud to provide:
  • Real-time Production Performance Monitoring
  • Asset Monitoring and Utilization
  • Connected Work Cells
  • Digital and Augmented Work Instructions
Factory Insights as a Service includes many product components of PTC and Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk® InnovationSuite, PTC’s ThingWorx®, Kepware®, and Vuforia® products, optimized for OT data coming from Rockwell Automation products. This is hosted on Microsoft’s AZURE cloud using Azure IoT Hub and Azure IoT Edge to rapidly connect individual sites and implement projects across their enterprise network. “Factory Insights as a Service offers our industrial customers a leaner, accelerated approach to digital transformation,” said Jim Heppelmann, President and CEO, PTC. “The offering reduces reliance on IT and OT resources, and, most importantly, takes a value-first approach that allows manufacturers to focus on initiatives that create business impact at scale.”

“Simplifying and accelerating digital transformation initiatives for our clients is a fundamental driver for our alliances with PTC and Microsoft,” said Blake Moret, Chairman and CEO, Rockwell Automation. “Factory Insights as a Service builds on the breakthrough capabilities of FactoryTalk InnovationSuite to quickly operationalize some of the most critical use cases improving production, asset, and workforce efficiency, while future-proofing our customers’ digital transformation roadmap.” “We believe in the power of collaboration to help manufacturing companies accelerate the delivery of value to their customers and unlock new business opportunities. By teaming up with PTC and Rockwell Automation to converge IT and OT excellence, we empower businesses to rapidly deploy their relevant use cases at scale – from asset, workforce, and production-floor performance to accelerate impact across the global production network,” said Jason Zander, Executive Vice President, Microsoft Azure at Microsoft.

Overall, the PTC LiveWorx event and the offerings are very impressive. PTC looks to have the most comprehensive digitalization platform complemented with a strong partner ecosystem using leadership technologies. The platform enables users to leverage standard components minimizing customization.

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About The Author

Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. Lydon started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process control technology. In addition to working at various large companies (e.g., Sundstrand, Johnson Controls, and Wago), Lydon served a two-year stint as part of a five-person task group, where he designed controls, automation systems, and software for chiller and boiler plant optimization. He was also a product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and president of an industrial control software company.

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