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Windchill 10.0 Expands the Tent Beyond Engineering

Touting what it calls the largest release in the product's history, PTC released a major upgrade to its Windchill Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) platform, featuring a completely redesigned and more accessible user interface, a heightened focus on process improvement along with new modules to support field service requirements and product analytics.

 Windchill 10.0 Expands the Tent Beyond Engineering
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The Windchill 10.0 upgrade aims to help companies address the escalating complexity surrounding product development, driven by a range of factors, including an increased focus on product differentiation, mounting regulatory requirements, quality pressures and attention to the environmental impact of product development. "Our customers are facing far more complexity in their products and it's a huge challenge," notes Michael Distler, product marketing director for Windchill. "But the challenges go far beyond the traditional boundaries of engineering. There are concerns about field service productivity, hardware and software coordination, quality issues, issues around product cost and environmental compliance. Appropriately, with the 10.0 release, the Windchill tent has expanded and it's not just engineering, but other groups within the product development ecosystem are now involved."

One of the primary themes of the new release is increasing the type of content that Windchill can manage. For example, Windchill 10.0 unifies its ECAD data management capabilities, offering a common user experience and single repository for managing ECAD data that is consistent with its approach for handling MCAD data. In addition, there are new integrations for supporting and managing embedded software data as part of the Windchill 10.0 repository, which will improve visibility and eliminate many of the bottlenecks and miscues that erupt from having to manage software and hardware components in separate systems. "It can be a real headache for our customers making sure they get the right version of the software," Distler explains. "This keeps the software guys in the loop and helps connect two worlds."

Windchill 10.0 also sets the stage to better connect the PLM platform to the field service world. To ensure that the process of service and spare parts planning is in sync with product development, PTC will buttress future maintenance releases of Windchill 10.0 with capabilities for managing service information and spare parts lists along the lines of a BOM (Bill of Materials) for engineering or manufacturing, he says.

Process improvement is another area of focus in the upgrade. To accommodate companies' push into top-down-design and configuration management, Windchill 10.0 supports a number of optimizations for such business processes as Detailed Design, Variant Design and Verification and Validation. For example, a new Design in Context feature filters out the product structure to deliver the right information depending on a user's need as opposed to requiring them to download an entire product model. The new Windchill Interference Management Service, which can be configured to run as needed, automatically simulates moving parts in a model to check for interferences, another boost for companies trying to optimize processes around designing many variations of a single product.
 Windchill 10.0 Expands the Tent Beyond Engineering
Click here for larger image.

Know More Through Analytics
To help product development organizations "know more" about what they're building, Windchill 10.0 draws heavily on prior PTC acquisitions to build out a suite of capabilities in the area of product analytics. The new Windchill Quality Solution, which builds on the former Relex product line, is designed to reduce the cost of poor quality by helping engineers prevent repeat errors and build reliability and risk management into the product lifecycle. New offerings under this umbrella include a CAPA (Corrective Action Preventive Action) module for helping to resolve problems by improved monitoring and root cause identification.

In the same vein, Windchill Product Analytics (formerly known as the Insight products) provides users with early knowledge of product performance in such areas as cost and carbon footprint analysis. These new areas complement Windchill Product Analytics' existing solutions for materials and substance management, which helps companies meet their reporting requirements for compliance with regulations like REACH and RoHS.

To better deliver all of these new areas of functionality, Windchill 10.0 has been completely revamped with a new user interface intended to both appeal to more casual users and make tasks more efficient for power users. The ability to access menus and functions via right clicks as opposed to pull-down menus, new wizards and customization capabilities are just a few of the user interface enhancements that should broaden up use of Windchill to a wider audience, according to Terry Gimbre, engineering manager at Thales Communications, a manufacturer of defense communications and software. Thales, a long-time Windchill customer, currently has about 300 Windchill seats across a variety of users and departments.

"We have users, from CAD engineers to the CEO," Gimbre says. "Many have been reluctant to use the system, but with the new UI, it's very user friendly." While Gimbre doesn't see the new UI necessarily attracting new Windchill users, he believes the changes, in addition to tighter integration with mainstream business tools like Microsoft Office, will increase usage of the tool.

Windchill 10.0 is available now, but some of the quality, service and product analytics solutions will be released later this year.
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