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PTC Windchill 11--A Foundation for the Evolution of Manufacturing

The current transformation of manufacturing is being driven largely by the Internet of Things and smart, connected products. PTC's new PLM release, Windchill 11, marks a major step towards a full-lifecycle, closed-loop PLM that enables and embraces this transformation.

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A New Release of PTC Windchill PLM for the New Era of IoT

In 1999, I was asked by one of our clients, PTC,1 to help define the messaging and positioning for their recent acquisition of a small PLM software firm called Windchill Technologies (founded by Jim Heppelmann).2 We focused on ‘Design Anywhere/Build Anywhere’ as the core theme. While that is still an important part of Windchill’s value proposition today, the manufacturing world along with PTC, Windchill, and Jim Heppelmann have all come a long way since then. This was made abundantly clear when I attended last month’s analyst briefing for the launch of Windchill 11.

PTC’s tagline for Windchill 11 is “Smart Connected PLM,” highlighting its support for and integration of smart, connected products. My own, much less elegant and somewhat clumsy tagline for it might be something like “Closed-Loop, Full-Product-Lifecycle PLM,” because PTC Windchill 11 ties together everything from design through production, service, and use out in the field, with feedback to development, build, and service processes via the Internet of Things (IoT).3

IoT is PLM

At the start of our analyst’s briefing, Jim Heppelmann stepped out of his board meeting for a couple of minutes to talk to us. His message was summed up in three words: “IoT is PLM.” That might be where PTC’s tagline and my pseudo tagline for Windchill come together. Jim explained that PLM with IoT can be used to optimize a product throughout its lifecycle in a closed loop way and that Windchill 11 has those concepts built into it. He said “This release is a critical milestone for bold new releases planned for the future.

Windchill By the Numbers

PTC Windchill has about 1.5M active users across 17K companies worldwide. It has been ranked the #1 PLM system in A&D and Industrial Manufacturing. 

Core Themes: Smart, Connected, Complete, Flexible

Brian Shepherd, EVP of Enterprise Segments, then talked about how Windchill 11 is designed to address new challenges brought about by the evolution to smart, connected products and the changing nature of manufacturers’ products, services, and business models. Brian used four key themes to talk about the Windchill 11 release:

  • Smart—PLM tools need to be accessible to a broader group of users—one of PTC’s clients, iRobot, said that 70% of their PLM users are outside of engineering. To achieve this, the tool needs to be easy to use, collaborative, and highly secure. To support these needs, PTC Windchill 11 added new role-based applications, improved Search functionality, and enhanced IP Protection.
  • Connected—When we look across the product lifecycle, traditional PLM typically ends at the end of manufacturing and does not extend out into the field. PTC Windchill 11 provides several elements to make Windchill more connected throughout the lifecycle, including Connected Quality, Performance Advisor, and Requirements Traceability. Brian said that HPE (HP Enterprise) used PTC Windchill Quality Solutions to realize 15%-20% improvements in reliability in the field by leveraging past products’ failure results in next-generation risk analyses. Coca Cola Enterprises uses CREO, Windchill, and Windchill Quality when designing and operating their Freestyle vending machines, enabling a pilot project whereby diagnostic codes are sent back from the machines so preventive maintenance can be performed before an issue arises.
  • Complete—To provide a complete, single-source-of-truth about the product, PTC has tightened the connection between Windchill, CREO, and manufacturing systems with BOM Management, BOM Transform & Compare, and a number of other new features. As an example of the benefits of managing complete product data in Windchill PLM, Brian said that GE Appliance realized a 75% reduction in the release management process time and a 30% reduction in parts through better reuse enabled by Windchill.
  • Flexible—Flexibility in ownership, payment, and deployment is achieved by Windchill’s support for Cloud Deployment, Subscription Pricing, and SaaS PLM. This helps in more rapid implementation and scaling from small to very large firms.

New Modules and Capabilities

Below are some of the key components that we heard about and/or saw demoed in the analyst briefing, starting with those that were brand new in PTC Windchill 11.

PTC Navigate: Role-based Apps—Windchill contains a set of seven simple role-based applications, called PTC Navigate, geared towards giving non-technical users access to PLM data and functionality. These are built using the ThingWorx platform, which makes them tailorable and mashable—customers can mash up these apps with other system and machine data, and modify the apps for their own use. To encourage widespread use, apps are available via subscription only, and may be used with past versions of Windchill back to 10.1 M040.

The seven out-of-the-box applications are View Document, View Drawing, View Part Properties, View Parts List, View Part Structure, View Design Files, and View & Measure in 3D. Example scenarios include someone on the shop floor entering the part number (type ahead shows recent searches) and the app shows them the drawing and the parts list. Within that view, you see the part structure and, by clicking on any part number, can highlight that part in the 3D view. The 3D view can be fully rotated.

The PTC Navigate View collection will eventually be joined by two other collections: Navigate Contribute and Navigate Author, allowing engineers and non-engineers alike to comment on and modify PLM data. Each type of app (View, Navigate, Author) can be licensed separately to the roles throughout your organization at their varying levels of access. On the surface, these Navigate View apps appear to be cross-functional. When asked how they are role-based, PTC replied that you can selectively expose to a specific role just a subset of these apps and configure what data they see, based on that person’s role.

Medtronic—Consolidating Systems, Parts-Centric Design, and Extending Access

In our briefing, two of PTC’s customers gave elucidating presentations about their use of Windchill 11. First was Joel Hembrock, Windchill Administrator from Medtronic’s Surgical Technologies group. Medtronic is a $28B medical device manufacturer that grew through acquisitions and has many diverse divisions. As a result, they have four different Windchill systems, three different Integrity systems, and three Workgroup Managers, with a total of 1,500 PTC users, making it challenging to work across sites and instances. They want to get to a point where any engineer can work on any project, across sites and systems.

To do this, they are trying to consolidate processes and systems and integrate with various ERP and other systems’ data. Medtronic is aiming for a part-centric design approach, maintaining eBOMs and mBOMs, getting rid of drawings, and having all the data as part of the model. Joel said standardizing on Windchill 11 will help them achieve these goals and share data across business sites. They will be able to standardize processes for any data type, with a common UI to make training easier. He praised the system’s flexibility and ease of migration. He said eventually they want to expand the user base to allow their buyer planners to access the data. He thinks the role-specific apps could be useful for extending access like that.

Connected Quality—PTC Windchill Quality Solutions (WQS) now has a ThingWorx adaptor that allows it to participate in any mashup, such as mashing up machine data, enterprise data, and quality data all in a single UI. WQS was already a rich tool allowing customers to do predictability and reliability planning, CAPA,4 FRACAS,5 FMEA,6 and much more. Incident reports can now be tied to a specific BOM,7 allowing users to see all of the incident reports against a specific component—how many incidents, what was happening at the time of the incident–  or, by bringing in IoT data, even see a live view of current conditions in the vehicle or machine. In the past, the user only had access to historical information, and it was not very granular. Now there is more real-time, detailed data that can be both viewed at the granular, machine-generated level and through the analysis lens of the Windchill Quality Solutions suite to take action on analyzed data and learnings in the context of PLM.

Requirements Traceability—This provides bi-directional traceability between customer/market requirements specifications and the underlying technical requirements specifications and designs. Windchill 11 introduces the use of the OSLC8 standard and ThingWorx to connect Integrity (PTC's ALM tool) with Windchill. This is PTC’s first integration between those two solutions using this standard. It allows customers to upgrade both solutions asynchronously.

Smart, Connected Support in PTC Windchill Performance Advisor—PTC delivered Performance Advisor for CREO in February of 2015 and now is delivering Performance Advisor for Windchill. This opt-in and totally anonymized capability allows PTC to see more deeply what customers are doing so they (both PTC and the customer) can make improvements to Windchill. In a future release, they will add anonymized benchmarking, so customers can see how they stack up against their peers. You don’t have to be in the cloud, but you do need to opt-in to use Performance Advisor. On CREO, they have had about 60% opt-in rates within these first few months.

PTC Windchill 11 PLM Cloud and New Subscription Offering—PTC said they now have a ‘true SaaS’ offering,9 with no setup required for specific preconfigured set of use cases. They have hosting around the world using AWS.

Improved Capabilities

All of the above capabilities are brand new in Windchill 11. In addition, PTC has improved a number of areas since the previous version, as described below:

Windchill Search—This is ‘Amazon-like’ search, with faceted search capabilities. It combines PartsLink classification search with traditional attribute-based search. PTC said they spent a lot of time with specific customers defining and refining these new search capabilities.

BOM Management—PTC believes comprehensive BOM management is strategic, and needs to be easy to access and use. They did a lot of usability testing with working, viewing, and visualizing BOMs. That was apparent to me when we saw the demo. Today they support three sets of interrelated BOMs—the eBOM (Engineering BOM), mBOM (Manufacturing BOM), and sBOM (Service BOM), plus the Manufacturing Process Plans and the Service Bill-of-Information (BOI), which contains assembly and disassembly procedures. These are purpose-built, role-specific tools that are interrelated, so that an engineering change (for example) will get propagated through to the other BOMs. Electronics and software can be included within the BOMs. They use OSLC for requirements traceability.

BOM-Transform and Compare—Now this allows broad deployment of MPMLink and the ability to transform eBOMs into mBOMs with a simultaneous visual view of how things got moved in that transformation.

Advanced IP Protection—PTC took what they had learned in Aerospace & Defense with regard to security labels and agreements and made it more broadly available, so that other enterprises can have object level security protection inside the firm and with partners.

RAB Lighting—Windchill, Not Just For the Big Boys

We also heard from Pat Rocchio, a mechanical engineer at a considerably smaller (under $500M) PTC customer, RAB Lighting. They are making their lights smarter, for example lights that automatically self-dim when the daylight is strong. They want to make their products easy to distribute, install, and use. They want to accelerate development and double their current pace of launching one product per month, while eliminating waste. Up to now they had been using a file system to save CAD data and Excel to manage ECNs, but now are beginning to implement Windchill. They chose to implement Windchill in the cloud for scalability, availability, and ease of management.

Accelerating Time-to-Value

The traditional approach to implementing PLM is to get the ‘wish list’ from the customer, translate that into requirements, and go through a fairly long set of implementation steps. One way to shortcut all that is a one-size-fits-all quick-start program, but that is not practical for most PLM implementations. So PTC has taken a different approach to enable more rapid implementations. PTC took the best practices that they had accumulated over the past 20 years and defined Value-Ready Deployment (VRD); pre-defined configurations that can be deployed within a set period of time, that may also be combined with mashups that let customers customize those deployments without having to go into the core. VRD compresses the traditional 12-18 month implementation cycle down to about 3-6 months. Right now VRDs are not industry specific, but starting in 2016, PTC will deliver industry-specific VRDs starting with Medical Devices, then High Tech, then Automotive.

A Strong Foundation for Coming Changes

We are in a time of dramatic changes across manufacturing industries, with changes to business models and industry structure and more being driven by IoT, robotics, 3D printing, shifting globalization, and more. These all demand new ways of leveraging engineering data throughout the life of products, and connecting machine-generated IoT data back into the process. They also mandate broader access beyond engineering personnel to the data locked inside PLM, not just by manufacturing personnel, but by service, customers, and third party partners outside the company. This is a multi-year journey. No PLM platform, including Windchill, has it all yet, but PTC Windchill 11 puts a lot of the right pieces in place—flexibility using ThingWorx, a cloud-based approach, and more—to provide a strong foundation to evolve as manufacturing changes.


1 This was before we founded ChainLink in 2002. I was working for Benchmarking Partners at the time. -- Return to article text above

2 Windchill Technologies was based in Minnesota, so I have always assumed, but have never confirmed, that their bitter cold winters were the inspiration for that name. -- Return to article text above

3 IoT = Internet of Things -- Return to article text above

4 CAPA = Corrective and preventive action -- Return to article text above

5 FRACAS = Failure reporting, analysis, and corrective action system -- Return to article text above

6 FMEA = Failure mode and effects analysis -- Return to article text above

7 BOM = Bill of materials -- Return to article text above

8 OSLC = Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration -- Return to article text above

9 This does not mean that all of the components are multi-tenant, single instance. Some of the modules are multi-tenant single instance and some require an instance per tenant. -- Return to article text above

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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