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PTC Fleshes out Product Analytics Platform

PTC Fleshes out Product Analytics Platform

PTC's announcement this week that it acquired the Planet Metrics environmental analytics application added more meat to its emerging product analytics strategy intended to help companies develop more sustainable products while avoiding the risks and high costs associated with product failures.

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."

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