Liveworx 2017 proved that manufacturers can dramatically simplify their digital transformation and accelerate efficiency.
by Jayashree Kini Mendes
It is rare to see over 6,000 partners,
customers, influencers, and innovators from around the world, and another 4,000 logged online, from 40 different countries come together for a single technology four-day conference. It is even rarer when you see most of them diligently attend sessions and gatherings on all the days of the event. One guesses that this is the outcome of being in the business for 30 years and having a loyal base of over 35,000 customers. The four-day tech conference was also attended by media from round the globe, tech enthusiasts, and others who registered out of a sense of keenness and curiosity from May 22-25 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Centre held by Needham-based PTC.
PTC’s LiveWorx 2017 is essentially a global technology conference and marketplace for solutions engineered for a smart, connected world. Over four days, participants were exposed to a range of subjects from IoT, AR/VR, product design, manufacturing, aerospace & defence, robotics, and business process, that allowed them to glean about what’s happening in the industry now and what they can expect in the future. More often than not, technology sessions can often be unvarying and if a complete session can interest you, then you are a geek!
LiveWorx 2017 had over 225 breakout sessions, 250 speakers and 84 exhibitors — so it was music to the ears of the attendees. What’s more, a scintillating laser light show and dancing robots seemed to delight the audience even more. Even more thrilling for the innovators and customers was Xtropolis — a sprawling area that contained displays of technologies from vendors demonstrating technologies that were hitherto unseen.
Never before has the manufacturing sector has had it so good. There’s a large global focus to grow manufacturing and this happily coincides with auxiliary companies building up ammunition to boost manufacturing. PTC has played a substantial part in this role. From solid modeling software to being the first to market Internet-based solutions for product lifecycle management (PLM) to CAD and Augmented Reality, the company has redefined its thought of PLM to include the Internet of Things (IoT) as the future that even conventional manufacturers cannot ignore anymore.
One cannot adopt IoT in isolation. Jim Heppelmann, president & CEO of PTC, says that IoT should match with the new generation of PLM. One needs to catch up with the increasing complexity of product development. The buzzword today is Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing. Adopt or get left behind. “We took the friction out of engineering so that engineers could remain longer in the digital world. That allows them to collaborate globally and collect perspectives and try new approaches and still complete the process faster with new and approved designs,” he added. Heppelmann partnered with Bosch Rexroth to demonstrate to the hundreds present in the audience on how the physical and digital world is converging through digital innovation in sales & marketing and in operations.
At a time when competition is nipping at the heels and the market is rife with challengers, Heppelmann has realised that he needs to accelerate revenues. One way is to reach out to more companies after having tasted success with 31% y-o-y growth in new software sales, a strong growth in PLM and CAD and, more importantly, fruitfully introducing a subscription model from a perpetual licensing model alone.
The ever evolving tech company has more solutions in store for its customers. Having acquired and integrated technologies such as Kepware, Coldlight and Vuforia into its IoT/PLM platform, the behemoth’s growth will come from ThingWorx. It has taken the company years to invest and further develop this product and at the event it announced ThingWorx 8, which promises to help users with operations, products and solutions. If you have the apps, then you are encouraged to explore efficiencies, build new or modify existing products and introduce industrial IoT solutions and services to the market. That is exactly what sensible and vigilant manufacturing companies want. ThingWorx 8 is the new Industry 4.0. In one session, Kathleen Mitford, executive VP, segments, PTC, said that this platform brings in AR, analytics, big data, mobile, cloud, application enablement and connectivity. What makes it easy is that this integrated set of capabilities can work from any data source. Mitford stressed that PTC’s accentuation is more on making the ‘how’ easier for everyone. With 15,000 registrations for the ThingWorx developer portal released last year, and more than 600 developers are still adding to the platform.
Ever faster development cycles are also compelling manufacturers to speed up the development process, while curtailing costs. In this sense, IoT aids R&D of manufacturing companies to produce mock-ups or ‘digital twin’ of products by using augmented reality. Heppelmann said that AR is a wonderful companion to IoT. AR needs data, and IoT provides this missing link, which leads to the next generation of PLM.
Another method of manufacturing that is catching up is additive manufacturing (AM). PTC has a ready solution here too. Speaking of how Creo helps print what is designed, Jose Coronado, product manager, PTC, expounded that lattice structures, which are inherent to AM, can be built directly using Creo, while allowing companies to make hundreds of parts. With Creo Product Insight, designers can better understand how products are used and how they behave, and proactively design products with custom data streams by integrating sensors into the design process.
Large-scale events as these are ideal platforms to showcasing and launching new technologies. During the ThingWorx event, PTC also launched more apps that focused more on manufacturing. The new ThingWorx manufacturing apps are part of a new generation of industrial IoT web and mobile applications, which also includes the ThingWorx Navigate app. The new apps are:
ThingWorx Controls Advisor: This allows control engineers to quickly connect to, access and visualise data from virtually any Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), IoT Gateway or other connected devices. It assures instant communication to the production head and help manufacturing companies to reduce downtime.
ThingWorx Asset Advisor: provides data on critical assets. This is most suitable for maintenance and service engineers.
ThingWorx Production Advisor: With this, production managers have real-time access to production status and critical CPIs, such as accessibility, performance, quality, and Total Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).
Hallmarks of the event also included individual talks. Eric Schaeffer, senior MD at Accenture, spoke on Industry X.0 where digital is transforming industrial beyond recognition. This is changing the way industrial manufacturing companies produce and sell. The entire journey is about transforming products.
Ivo Rock, director, IoT, Vodafone, said that the disruption of the digital domain has surprised even stalwarts. Small companies are threatening the big ones. Flexible working is allowing small companies to challenge the system and big companies are adopting or buying out these technologies.
Speaking on the digital economy, Eric Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative, averred that all it needs to change the world is a power system and a control system. “For most of human history, the power and control system was us people. Humans provided the muscle and brains and that’s how it was done. Industrial revolution changed the way the world operated. It made humans more valuable,” he added.
Disruption is the key to advancements in development and PTC has been quick to realise this.
Where real meets digital
PTC partners gathered at the LiveWorx conference to demonstrate innovations with IoT and augmented reality. Partners showcased ways they are taking advantage of ThingWorx, along with PTC’s other technologies. Bosch Rexroth used PTC ThingWorx Navigate to give a demo of its flagship product, CyrtoPac, its hydraulic power system. It also used PTC’s Creo to create a digital twin so that operators could remotely view what was happening with CyrtoPac while it was on the field. Another partner, EAC, showed how using augmented reality and IoT is helping it create a new experience for NASCAR fans, while Boston Engineering helped the Navy to develop an autonomous underwater vehicle that was highly maneuverable and could work in shallow waters. Similarly, using ThingWorx, Industrial Network Systems has deployed analytics tools on industrial floors to help customers achieve business return on investment, enabling operators to better organise data reports through dashboards and scoreboards from the data collected on their connected industrial systems, devices and assets.
Ultimately, it only goes on to prove that IoT is indeed changing how products are made. Connecting smart products with platforms and analytics is important to push digital transformation of services via the IoT. Industry 4.0 can only be successful when necessity pushes ambitions to bring in new levels of efficiency.