According to Andrew Wertkin, PTC's vice president of Insight
products and technology, the product analytics strategy is designed to help
companies better manage risk, avoid costs and protect revenue. "We're trying to
help companies measure things that could cause a product launch to fail, revenue
forecasts to not be met or (that might) impact margins," he explains. "We want
to move any indications of these events up as early as possible in the design
process so engineers can make informed decisions."
Step one in PTC's fulfillment of this strategy was its December
2008 acquisition of Synapsis, which delivered a rules-based engine and architecture
for analyzing product data in addition to a patented solution for tracking
product compliance at the substance, material and parts levels. The Synapsis
technology, which was repositioned under the InSight brand, serves as the core
foundation for the emerging product analytics line, as well as the initial
environmental compliance component. The software helps companies align their
product development efforts with regulatory compliance requirements around
Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Waste from Electrical and
Electronic Equipment (WEEE), as well as with the European Union's Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of
Chemicals (REACH), for example. It also helps them align
regulatory efforts with individual customer requirements, Wertkin says.
PTC's acquisition of Relex
Software Corp. was part two of the plan. This component provides quality
and reliability analytics, giving engineers early insight into potential risk
and reliability issues in addition to helping them predict and track
reliability performance throughout the development lifecycle. Unlike other
components, which have been or will be rebuilt on the InSight platform, PTC has
opted not to rewrite the Relex software. The company will offer strategic integrations
so this data is not off in some silo, but rather, connected to the rest of the
enterprise. "We don't see the benefit of rewriting Relex to the InSight
platform — some of its capabilities are just not well-suited to an enterprise
analytics platform," explains Wertkin. "Our short-term strategy is to connect it
to the enterprise and get the data in WindChill to make sure the process of
reliability engineering is part of the key engineering practices."
This week's Planet Metrics acquisition continues the story.
The new technology, which will be made available on the InSight platform within
the next few months, allows manufacturers and retailers to model, analyze and
optimize carbon emissions and energy use throughout the entire value chain,
from concept to end-of-life. PTC is also planning a cost analytics module for
InSight, that it is developing internally, which will allow manufacturers to
predict the costs of building products and to do trade-off analysis to optimize
their decision making. Trade compliance and sourcing compliance are other
possible component additions for the InSight product analytics platform.
Doing trade-off analysis to determine the impact of changes
is an area where engineers could certainly use some help, according to Monica
Schnitger, president of Schnitger Corp.,
a market research firm specializing in CAD/PLM software and engineering.
"Reducing weight or switching materials may seem like the right answer, but
doing trade-off studies if very difficult," she says. "Planet Metrics models
carbon footprint and energy use from cradle to grave, which as I understand it,
allows for easier testing of assumptions around substitute materials,
packaging, suppliers etc. It allows a designer to try out multiple scenarios."
As manufacturers add new technologies to their products, designing for compliance becomes more difficult. Prepare for the certification testing process. Otherwise, you increase the risk of discovering a safety issue after a product leaves the assembly line. That will cause significant time-to-market delays, be much costlier to fix, and damage your brand in the eyes of customers.
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