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Lee Davis

Live from PTC LiveWorx

Stepping through the digital thread

Jun 1, 2023 11:21:47 AM


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We are in a new era of digital transformation (DX) powered by cloud and edge computing, the Internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented reality (AR) technology. And in this new era, businesses will be smarter, faster, more agile, and more sustainable than ever before. Everything from the way we develop and manufacture products to how we sell and service them is changing.


That’s what I took away from PTC LiveWorx, anyway.


It’s All About Creating a Model-Based, Closed-Loop Digital Thread

The central theme of PTC LiveWorx was creating a closed-loop, model-based digital thread across the full product lifecycle to transform the way we engineer, manufacture, and service products.


According to the folks at PTC, a digital thread “creates a closed-loop between digital and physical worlds.” It enables businesses to collect, analyze, and act on a single set of data “as it weaves in an out of business processes and functions” across the entire product lifecycle—from R&D to landfill.


Think of it like this: products are designed in the digital realm (for example, using a computer aided design (CAD) solution to design some gadget). Once that gadget is manufactured, it will interact with other products, people, processes, and places in the physical world—all of which gets recorded digitally. All this data can be aggregated to enable intelligent, fast, and timely decision making across the entire organization. The insights gained from your service department, for example, can be used by the engineering department to create a more resilient gadget.


The Closed-Loop, Model-Based Digital Thread Visualized


I must admit, I wasn’t very familiar with PTC’s portfolio when I arrived at the show. So, naturally, I spent a lot of time walking the convention floor—dubbed “Xtropolis”—to get a feel for what PTC offers and what purpose it serves in a digital thread.


Keeping Everything on Track with PLM and ALM

PTC offers several product lifecycle management (PLM) and quality management system (QMS) tools, including Arena and Windchill. These solutions offer a range of features that enable organizations to manage every stage of the product development lifecycle from ideation and design to testing, manufacturing, and deployment. PTC’s PLM software combines advanced computer-aided design (CAD), simulation, and collaboration capabilities—empowering teams to collaborate seamlessly, iterate rapidly, and optimize product designs for performance, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability.


PTC also offers codeBeamer, an application lifecycle management (ALM) platform. ALM is like PLM, except it comes with tools to handle the unique needs of software development, including requirements management, development planning, task tracking, version control, and testing. It also supports Agile and DevOps methodologies to ensure continuous integration and delivery of value.


Keeping Everything Connected with Industrial Internet of Things

PTC offers two industrial Internet of things (IIoT) platforms: ThingWorx and Kepware. Each solution is geared for different needs within the IIoT infrastructure.


ThingWorx enables businesses to connect, analyze, and leverage data from their IoT devices and systems. It provides a comprehensive set of tools and functionalities to build, deploy, and manage IoT applications and solutions. ThingWorx allows organizations to collect and monitor real-time data from diverse sources, such as sensors, machines, and devices; it then provides advanced analytics and visualization capabilities to derive meaningful insights. With its robust connectivity options, security features, and support for industrial protocols, ThingWorx enables seamless integration and interoperability across the IoT ecosystem.

PTC Kepware is an industrial connectivity platform that enables communication between industrial automation devices and software applications. It acts as a bridge—providing reliable and efficient data transfer between various industrial control systems and software applications regardless of the manufacturer or protocol. Kepware supports a wide range of protocols commonly used in the industrial sector, allowing organizations to easily connect, monitor, and control their industrial assets.


While there may be some overlap in terms of enabling connectivity and data utilization, the primary focus and functionalities of Kepware and ThingWorx are distinct. Kepware specializes in industrial connectivity, while ThingWorx offers a broader IoT platform for application development and data management.


Maximize Uptime and Customer Satisfaction with Service Lifecycle Management

PTC ServiceMax is a field service management solution that helps organizations optimize and streamline their field service operations. It offers a range of tools to manage and automate various aspects of field service, including scheduling, dispatching, work order management, technician enablement, inventory and parts management, and analytics. ServiceMax enables businesses to efficiently allocate and manage resources, schedule and track service appointments, improve first-time-fix rates, as well as enhance customer satisfaction. With its mobile capabilities, technicians can access critical information, update service records, and collaborate with back-office teams in real-time—improving productivity and service quality.


Leverage Augmented Reality

PTC Vuforia is a platform that enables businesses to create and deploy AR experiences for a variety of applications. It provides a comprehensive set of tools and capabilities to develop interactive and immersive AR content that can be integrated into mobile devices, smart glasses, and other AR-enabled devices. Organizations can overlay digital content onto the real world, enhancing user experiences and enabling virtual interactions with physical objects. The platform offers features such as object recognition, image tracking, and spatial mapping—allowing businesses to create engaging AR experiences for areas like product visualization, remote assistance, maintenance and training, as well as marketing.


Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

When you think about it, R&D, manufacturing, and service/maintenance are all just one long process. What you learn in one of these phases can be applied to the other two (and beyond). That’s what makes creating a digital thread so important. It enables you integrate data from R&D, manufacturing, and service arms to create a single source of truth that can help you identify and capitalize on new opportunities, better manufacturing practices, more sustainable products, as well as optimize your service business.


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