Adding to its recent string of acquisitions, PTC has snapped up 4CS, a maker of warranty management and service lifecycle software. The purchase extends the growing portfolio of service management offerings at PTC, which is aiming to deliver a more closed-loop environment between service and engineering.
The vision for a closed-loop system between service and engineering has long been the goal in the product lifecycle management world (not just for PTC, but for competitors, as well). However, most of the platforms support only limited functionality around service and warranty management. Instead, most have focused their energies on fleshing out platform capabilities in areas such as up-front requirements, quality management, and supplier sourcing.
This is a view of an item's service information structure, which supplies the technical and parts information to support repairs.
PTC has been out in front with service management, mostly as a result of its acquisition of Arbortext way back in 2005. Slowly, the company has been morphing what started primarily as a technical content creation tool into a platform that delivers intelligent, interactive service information for people in the field maintaining products, including configuration-specific service procedures, 3D part lists, and interactive training materials.
4CS software, used primarily by dealers and OEM service network partners responsible for servicing products in the field, captures information and provides analytical insights into data related to warranty claims, product registration, service calls, and quality. The software captures the data as an "as maintained" bill of material (BOM), providing a history of configuration changes, component fixes, and other changes that may have occurred while the product has been in the field.
Because 4CS software is used primarily outside an OEM's circle, manufacturers have had little visibility into all this rich product-related history and no real way to funnel the intelligence back into product development systems like PLM. That's exactly where PTC sees a big opportunity in terms of integrating its service management solutions with 4CS software. Once the two platforms are integrated, they will allow companies to develop and provide guidelines and service policy coverage before service is performed, automate warranty and service processes to capture a complete service history and update as-maintained BOMs, analyze product and service-level performance, and leverage those insights for future designs.
"This completes the loop," Tom Sears, PTC's senior director of product management, said in an interview. Today, his company can take information from engineering to create service content and use it within the apps used to maintain and support the product. With 4CS technology, PTC will eventually be able to extend that integration back to Windchill and leverage the service history data to conduct reliability analysis on how particular products perform in the field or to evaluate common failures.
There are an array of warranty management solutions out there on the market, but PTC officials say 4CS's technology is highly complementary to its own service information portfolio in that it takes a product-centric approach, while other offerings in this area are more transaction-based.
"4CS is a whole system based around the definition of a product just like Windchill, which creates a nice link between the two solutions," Sears said. "Most service solutions are transactional-based, so they don't associate back to specific products or analyze where warranty costs are or what parts are failing. They have no idea where parts are used."