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Give it Up for PTC’s Next-Gen PLM Concept Built on IoT

Sure, there were synchronized industrial robots, mind-bending lasers and a concert-style light show courtesy of a swarm of connected LED wrist bands. Yet the real star of LiveWorx 2017 was PTC’s Internet of Things journey, which has transitioned from an interesting, but disconnected side show, to IoT as the main event for delivering on the original cradle-to-grave promise of product lifecycle management (PLM).

Touting PTC’s mission as helping customers create new business opportunities by leveraging the convergence of the physical and digital worlds, CEO Jim Hepplemann wove together the company’s forays into IoT, machine learning and analytics, augmented reality (AR), 3D printing, application lifecycle management (ALM), and industrial connectivity. He created a narrative about a model-based digital twin used to provide insights along every step of the product lifecycle, from its roots in CAD and engineering all the way through supporting new sales and customer relationship processes to serving as the engine for predictive maintenance services.

LiveWorx 2017 kicked off with a killer laser show complete with synchronized industrial robots. Image Courtesy of PTC

“We were years ahead of our competitors, maybe even the market, in terms of realizing that IoT is the next-generation PLM concept,” Hepplemann told the keynote crowd, gathered in Boston. “We’re helping to guide the PLM industry through generational transformation reimagined in the context of AR and IoT. It’s the industrial revolution colliding head on with the digital revolution.”

Lofty words, but Hepplemann, with partner and customer Bosch Rexroth, pulled together a pretty comprehensive demo to showcase how all these moving parts are starting to come together as part of Industry 4.0—the next generation smart factory concept that PTC hit hard at this year’s LiveWorx event. The lead actor was the CyrtoPac, Bosch Rexroth’s compact hydraulic power system that was designed from the ground up as a smart, connected product using Creo and Windchill’s digital mockup capabilities to create a digital twin. Bosch Rexroth’s digital team put its stamp on the product using ThingWorx Navigate to create an app that would give different stakeholders full visibility into what was happening with with CyrtoPac once it was out in the field, providing hard and fast data, the demo team stressed, that was never accessible prior to IoT.

Turning IoT Data into Design Deliverables

To illustrate what’s possible in a world of digital twins, IoT and smart factories, the demo data revealed that the unit was operating at a temperature outside the boundaries of what was expected—a scenario that presented an opportunity to go at an untapped market. The combination of data collected in ThingWorx, analytics capabilities from a PTC partner Kalypso, machine learning predications and physics-based simulation helped determine what additional cooling capacities were necessary to improve the design. The verdict: The design team needed to squeeze 30% more efficiency from the CyrtoPak’s cooling system without changing the footprint or packaging.

This is where the IoT version of PLM got to work. Engineers leveraged the digital model, 3D printing techniques and Creo’s new lattice design capabilities to optimize a cooling path that would never have been previously possible, exceeding their targets in this fictional representation. Down the hall, a new digital organization was dipping into that same IoT data to evaluate customer usage and product performance, leveraging machine learning insights to create a recommendation engine that would enable its sales team to zero in on up-sell or cross-sell opportunities. Another digital group was using the digital twin, IoT data and AR capabilities to create 3D experiences that would eliminate traditional service manuals. And then there were the field technicians and plant personnel newly empowered with real-time data and AR experiences that would help them more effectively track and monitor far-flung assets to make adjustments to optimize production, for example, or to ward off problems with proactive maintenance.

ThingWorx Asset Advisor is an app for alerting maintenance and service technicians to potential problems with assets in the field, including anomaly detection. Image Courtesy of PTC

Bolstering ThingWorx capabilities on the factory floor was a big part of this year’s LiveWorx message as PTC advanced the digital thread beyond engineering and design as part of IoT-driven PLM. The company announced ThingWorx 8.0, which adds an array of native platform functionality, including industrial connectivity, anomaly detection, and deeper cloud support for leading cloud providers like Amazon AWS and GE Predix. The new release also features native authoring and publishing AR experiences for Microsoft HoloLens in the ThingWorx Studio codeless authoring environment. As part of the announcement, PTC also also announced a trio of role-based manufacturing apps:

  • ThingWorx Controls Advisor, which lets controls engineers rapidly connect to and remotely visualize data from any PLC, IoT Gateway, or connected asset for proactive troubleshooting and the ability to reduced unplanned downtime.
  • ThingWorx Asset Advisor, an app for alerting maintenance and service technicians to potential problems with assets in the field, including anomaly detection, so they can take proactive measures before problems impact production.
  • ThingWorx Production Advisor, which unifies disparate sources of operational and business data to provide real-time visibility into production status and critical KPIs.

“Everything has come full circle—what’s old is new again,”Hepplemann said. “IoT is really the next generation PLM and the possibilities are unlimited.”


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About Beth Stackpole

Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.