PTC showed its hand in the move to better integrate the worlds of product development and manufacturing, previewing this week at its user conference in Tampa, FL, the new Windchill 9.0 platform, which features a built-in module for manufacturing process management (MPM).
The MPMLink module of Windchill 9.0, to be released in September, is a redeveloped version of the Polyplan manufacturing planning software that PTC acquired in June 2005. PTC has developed the technology since, but had not offered it for sale. By integrating the software as a fully integrated component of Windchill, PTC aims to let manufacturers develop manufacturing process plans from the same product information created by engineers. The goal of such integration, according to PTC officials, is to eliminate the redundancy of maintaining two separate repositories of information. That, in turn, should help lower manufacturing costs, improve product data quality, reduce scrap and rework, and shorten development cycles, PTC officials said.
PTC has spent the past two years working to make the Polyplan capabilities an integral piece of the Windchill platform, according to Tom Shoemaker, PTC's vice president of solutions marketing. Similar systems from other PLM providers, while they may offer digital manufacturing capabilities, are centered more on simulating how things move through the factory floor than on creating core manufacturing process plans, Shoemaker told Managing Automation.
"We are offering one integral system that shares the same data and the same change management processes, and the others don't do that yet," he maintained. "It's not an easy thing to do, either. The fact we've taken two years to build that capability on top of the Windchill platform is testament to that fact."
With Windchill MPMLink, users can easily transform engineering bills of materials (eBOMs) into manufacturing bills of materials (mBOMs) and manage associative links. In addition, the software has been built to share a common change management process between design and manufacturing, and delivers revision control, lifecycle management, and access control to manufacturing data configurations. Other capabilities include the ability to dynamically generate on-demand, visual shop floor work instructions according to a specific process plan configuration, as well as the ability to define plant-specific sequences and operations, officials said. The software is purchased separately, as are all modules making up the Windchill platform.
In addition to MPMLink, Windchill 9.0 delivers a variety of features. For instance, in the area of change and configuration management, Windchill 9.0 delivers usability improvements, including a Wizard-based user interface, to facilitate changes across all areas of Windchill. The upgrade also delivers features to help manufacturers of engineered-to-order products quickly create and define new product variations so they can address customer-specific requirements without increasing cost or lengthening delivery schedules. The full Windchill 9.0 will be available in September.
PTC is not the only PLM vendor merging the two formerly disjointed worlds of product design and manufacturing. At the close of Siemens' acquisition of UGS last month, UGS officials said the long-term plan would be to bridge the physical world of industrial automation and the virtual world of engineering and product development software to make manufacturing for design a truly parallel process. UGS' Tecnomatix digital manufacturing software is a step in that direction, as is rival Dassault Systemes' DELMIA product. But the Siemens-UGS powerhouse would drive tighter integration between technologies that currently exist as separate packages, creating a system spanning both processes.
Ed Miller, president of CIMdata Inc., a market research and consulting company specializing in product development, predicted that the UGS-Siemens merger would accelerate similar efforts by competing vendors in the PLM space. "This is the delivery of computer-integrated manufacturing as we talked about 30 years ago," he said in an interview with Managing Automation.
In separate news, PTC announced the expansion of its relationship with Adobe Systems Inc. for digital rights management capabilities. PTC will integrate the Adobe LiveCycle Rights Management ES software into its Pro/Engineer 3D CAD tool, allowing organizations to apply persistent document security and management to their Pro/E models, specification sheets, and supporting design documents, both inside and outside the firewall. The move is designed to help organizations better protect their intellectual property in global product development environments, where collaboration happens across multiple sites and often among multiple outsourcing partners, PTC officials said.
The integration will be available with the next production release of Pro/Engineer, and PTC said it expects to ultimately incorporate LiveCycle Rights Management ES into its entire product line.