It is true that PTC has been talking up the ballyhooed Windchill 10.0 release for some time. But the company officially took the wraps off the new platform at an online event this week and by all accounts, it looks like it’s made good on its long-time promise to make PLM technology and the veteran PLM platform more palatable–even enticing, maybe–to users outside of engineering.
I know, making product-related information and materials accessible to all stakeholders within the product development value chain from a central repository–that old “one version of the truth thing”–was supposed to be the crux of what PLM was all about, even when I first started covering the technology back in the late 1990s. The truth is, early PLM systems and even their offspring were still finely tuned to the needs of engineering organizations and were pretty arcane in terms of usability-none of them more so than early versions of Windchill, which was really considered no more than a toolkit.
To say Windchill has come a long way, baby, might be an understatement. In his address at the online event, PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann provided a backdrop of Windchill’s evolution, from its launch in 1998 to where it stands today–over a $500 million business with over 1 million users, accounting for nearly half of PTC’s revenues. Attracting new PLM users is definitely one of the goals of the 10.0 upgrade. The latest release sports a completely revamped user interface and streamlined user experience, the result, PTC execs say, of copious amounts of research where users and noted usability expert Steve Krug (author of “Don’t Make Me Think-A Common Sense Approach To Web Usability) waded in to provide feedback on how they used the software and what they wanted. The result is improvements in high-traffic areas, including search and browse, which make it easier and more natural to access functions. There is also the ability to customize the user interface and to access Windchill’s document management capabilities from mainstream Windows tools, dramatically shortening the learning curve for new users, PTC says, and enhancing the productivity of those who already know Windchill.
Beyond Windchill 10.0’s user interface makeover, the other area where PTC made strides in making the platform more enterprise-centric was around the addition of new modules and process improvements to address key steps in the product development cycle such as quality lifecycle management, field service support and product analytics. Windchill 10.0 has a new closed-loop quality module designed to help engineers prevent repeat design errors as well as to build reliability and risk management into the product lifecycle. Notable in this area are new Corrective Action Preventive Action (CAPA) capabilities for monitoring and identifying the root cause of quality issues. There are also new Product Analytics functions for evaluating product designs on such factors as cost, environmental factors like carbon footprint and materials makeup as it relates to compliance risks.
Another area of focus in the 10.0 release which PTC officials didn’t necessarily play up, but will likely help the platform gain traction in the enterprise is the upgrade’s array of new features that make it easier to deploy and manage from an IT perspective.
Easier to use, easier to deploy, process oriented well beyond engineering. I’d say that’s a new Windchill.