PTC’s Windchill 11 Smart Connected PLM solution was launched into South Africa on May 11 and 12, 2016 in Johannesburg and Cape Town, respectively. MechTech catches up with business development manager, Riaan du Plessis and PLM solutions architect, Johan Strydom, of local channel partner productONE.
Modern product designs, which leverage a combination of mechanical, electrical, software, and connectivity technologies, require a robust, multidisciplinary development approach, yet these products must be released to market faster, with better quality, at a lower cost, and with more desirable features.
In response to these ever complex demands, PTC has developed smart connected role-based PLM, which strives to target stakeholders at their point of need, aligning Windchill with the underpinning role-based approach now adopted for the Creo Suite of product design applications (apps). “Our Windchill software is now being supplemented by an online platform, accessible via several different apps that access different data sets, designed to suite all of the different stakeholder roles of a product’s lifecycle,” begins Du Plessis.
“Infrequent users of traditional PLM packages used to have to go through several days training. But, because they didn’t use the software often enough, it was still difficult for them to be effective users. Now they can access the role-based app most suited to their needs. These apps have been streamlined and simplified to make them easier to use – and different apps have been developed for each users role within the product lifecycle,” he explains.
Strydom continues: “The first set of these apps on the Windchill 11 platform are the viewing apps. These give personnel peripheral to the mainstream design processes the tools to view PLM data in a minimal structure. And this is all portable. Models, 2D drawings and data can be viewed on any smartphone – including Android- OSX- and Windows-based phones or tablets – as well as any laptop or computer,” he says. “The View App is ideal for design reviews or for communicating and collaborating with stakeholders and partners,” he says.
Once a design moves into production, a new set of stakeholders becomes involved. “From the viewing perspective, shop floor managers might be interested in the 2D-orthographic drawings for the workshop, for example, or the manufacturing instructions. These are now accessible from any device with an Internet connection. The data is also guaranteed to be 100% up to date, while the product IP remains as well protected as ever,” Strydom assures.
The engineering bill of materials (eBOM) as well as the manufacturing (mBOM) and servicing (sBOM) are separately accessible to relevant responsible persons in the same way. “For manufacturing, IGIS, STEP or STL portable file formats used by product manufacturers, are directly downloadable onto CNC machines or 3D printers on factory floors. Through Windchill 11, these files are maintained and automatically updated should any modification be made to the design model.
“In addition, the latest versions of documents in pdf, Word or any other format, containing instructions or specifications, for example, are accessible via any net connected server. Drawings and related assembly instructions and notes, for example, are more accessible than ever before,” Strydom points out.
Coming, in the second release of the View App, will be the opportunity to feed information and ideas back to the system. Called the Contribute App, this tool will enable users to report back about what works, what does not or which pieces of vital information are missing.
Du Plessis adds: “All of this Windchill 11 PLM capability is available for download. That is what we mean by smart and connected. There is no longer any specific software installation required for people to access the Windchill PLM repository. Other than the role-based app that resides on the phone, tablet or computer, the only software programmes that need to be installed for local use in computer systems are the creation apps, such as Creo for product design-related tasks or a word processor to generate documents.”
The Internet of Things
“Windchill 11 has been built with the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution in mind,” continues Strydom. “This approach provides unrivalled visibility over a product, from initial concept all the way through to monitoring performance and maintaining the product through its useful life,” he argues.
Citing an air conditioning product as an example, he says that modern systems are designed with built in sensors connected to wireless networking systems. “Vibration information, for example, is automatically sent back to the OEM. As soon as vibration levels fall above a preset benchmark, an alarm, a problem report and a service requirement notice is generated. As soon as something starts to go wrong, the product user and its maintenance service provider can be made aware of the issue,” he explains.
Through Windchill 11, this automated condition monitoring and maintenance capability can be built into the product from its inception and made available to the end user via PTC’s Service & Maintenance applications. “This includes remote diagnostics, firmware upgrades and performance trending data. Leveraging the Internet of Things, connected data from the product’s operation is used by Windchill to close the product lifecycle loop. By that, we mean that real operational performance is fed all the way back to the product development team, which can then be used for continuous product improvement,” Strydom points out.
Adds Du Plessis: “Maintenance problems, failures and performance trending, therefore, can now be collected automatically and fed back into the design for incorporation in next-generation products – all through a single Windchill system. This PLM system now incorporates most of the features of asset management, condition based maintenance and reliability solutions systems.”
This capability started with the acquisition by PTC of an IoT concept development company called ThingWorx. “By using ThingWorx for PTC’s product design and PLM products, the Internet of Things revolution is being embedded into product design at the inception stage – and ThingWorx is now being linked into the whole suite of PTC products,” Du Plessis explains.
“For Creo, for example, a Performance Advisor has been added, which monitors Creo design sessions and automatically generates suggestion about how to make the software run more efficiently and reliably. Even the software development products now have embedded condition monitoring systems,” he tells MechTech.
Strydom adds that this is also true for Windchill, which has a built-in ability to monitor server quality and performance. “Suggestions are generated as to what can be done to improve the software configuration and to maximise reliability,” he says.
Turning attention back to Windchill 11’s support for physical products, Strydom says that PTC’s Arbortext product documentation and manual generation software is now linked into Windchill 11 via the Author App. The generated documents are automatically updated and made available via the Arbortext product suite. “This new feature gives users the ability to directly print an operating or servicing manual online, so that users and technicians have easy access to the information they need – and the connectedness of the system ensures that all these manuals are ‘live’. Any design or procedure changes or recommendations that emerge from trending or any other feedback are automatically and immediately incorporated, keeping the manuals updated and fresh,” Strydom points out.
“The server-based Windchill 11 PLM solution enables enormous amounts of product information to be put into the system, but getting out what people actually need is another matter,” says Du Plessis. PTC has, therefore, incorporated advanced search functionality. “Across all the apps, we now have the ability to do facetted searches. Based on results of an initial search, users can now drill down into specific areas of interest to quickly home in on the information they need,” he explains.
From a financing point of view, Windchill 11 overcomes the need to buy a single expensive PLM software package. Says Du Plessis: “The idea is to offer flexible deployment options that scale to a user’s needs. First, product developers only need to invest in the aspects of the system and the apps that they actually need. Also though, as productONE, we can now offer new subscription options, which take away the pain of a large upfront investment, and we have a ‘software-as-a-service’ offering that can include hosting of the PLM data,” he informs MechTech.
“There are already two-million Windchill customers, including eight of the top 13 motor vehicle OEMs and almost all of the top aerospace companies, including Airbus, Boeing, BAE Systems and the Brazilian aerospace conglomerate, Embraer,” Du Plessis notes.
“Windchill 11 is the preferred choice of cutting-edge product developers such as iRobot, manufacturers of the cool cleaning robots that wake themselves up in the middle of the night to clean the office, for example. The company uses Windchill PLM to manage eCAD, mCAD, Bill of Materials, and change process information across all three of its product lines: home, defence, and virtual presence. iRobot is an excellent reference for us,” he concludes.