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PTC, Jim Heppelmann, Rockwell Automation, LiveWorx

PTC Bonds with Rockwell to Boost Manufacturing Bid

At its own tech faire, LiveWorx, PTC noted that it has partnered with Rockwell to gain greater traction in the manufacturing sector.

At LiveWorx this week in Boston, PTC CEO and chairman, Jim Heppelmann, explained the logic behind the $1 billion investment Rockwell Automation has committed to PTC. According to Heppelmann, the investment that was announced on June 11 will give both PTC and Rockwell a greater digital offering to manufacturers worldwide.

At LiveWorx this past Monday, PTC CEO and chairman, Jim Heppelmann, explained how the partnership with Rockwell will enable PTC to further its technology play with manufacturers. (Image source: Design News)

The idea for the partnership came from PTC’s success in using its digital products to deliver a quick ROI to its manufacturing customers. “We were seeing our greatest use cases with factories. They have old stuff, new stuff, and they have products from 40 different vendors. We found we could deliver some impressive savings by digitizing it,” Heppelmann told Design News. “We brought in Rockwell, so we could scale it. We were having so much success, we wanted to bring in someone with deep expertise in the market.”

PTC’s EVP of field operations, Matt Cohen, concurred that PTC’s success with manufacturers is what brought the two companies together. “The factory space has the quickest adoption pace,” Cohen told Design News. “If you can improve productivity and reduce downtime, you can get to ROI very quickly.”

As part of the deal, Rockwell Automation’s chairman and CEO, Blake Moret, will join PTC’s board of directors effective with the closing of the equity transaction.

Blending the Technologies

The partnership will blend the technologies of both companies while developing joint global go-to-market initiatives. PTC and Rockwell have agreed to align their respective smart factory technologies, combining PTC’s ThingWorx IoT, Kepware industrial connectivity, and Vuforia augmented reality (AR) platforms with Rockwell’s FactoryTalk MES, FactoryTalk Analytics, and Industrial Automation platforms.

Cohen noted that PTC’s technology would be effective in pharma manufacturing, yet PTC has only a small track record in the sector. The Rockwell partnership closes that gap. “We have not been strong in pharma, yet we know our technology is right for pharma,” said Cohen. “Rockwell is credible in pharma, so we’ll train and enable Rockwell’s sales team on PTC technology.”

Beyond the Industrial IoT

In discussing its industrial technology, Heppelmann questioned whether the industrial IoT sufficiently describes the company’s technology. “A fresh look means including AR [augmented reality] and VR [virtual reality]. I don’t know if that’s IoT or not,” said Heppelmann. “We’re not going to stop talking about IoT, but it’s not just IoT. It’s industrial connectivity, it’s data, it’s VR and AR.”

He noted that the difference IoT makes is that it pulls data from non-traditional sources. “What’s different about IoT is we’re not just getting data out of organized databases,” said Heppelman. “We’re getting it from different interesting things. We’re bringing in data from different sources, and then we’re using that data for analytics and for AR and VR.”

Even as PTC consolidates its focus on manufacturing with its Rockwell partnership, the company remains devoted to developing new technology. “PTC is a way different company than it was five years ago. We’re always fighting inertia. That’s our biggest competitor,” said Heppelmann. Cohen added that there’s “a constant pressure for change. We don’t get too comfortable with the new thing, because change is in our DNA.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

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