PTC’s claim to fame might be the concept of parametric CAD, but at PTC’s PlanetPTC Live user event this week, mechanical design issues and MCAD technology took a back seat to a vision of product development in the broader context of business challenges confronting the enterprise.
At the introductory session of the user event, PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann talked about global competition. He spoke of the need for closed-loop quality processes and hit on the increasing pressure for companies to embrace sustainability–whether it be part of their product development strategies or simply taking a greener approach to IT. Challenges around embedded software development, supplier collaboration and manufacturing were all part of his set up to where PTC is headed: To become an enterprise product development system that transcends organizational boundaries and takes a view far beyond its traditional mechanical engineering roots.
We’ve heard this talk before and not just from PTC. As the MCAD market has matured and as some would say, reached a plateau, all of the major CAD vendors are taking steps to support a wider view of product development to include non-engineers in the process. But this may have been the most comprehensive step yet by PTC to fill in that vision with a fleshed out and well-crafted product roadmap. “I’m impressed by Jim Heppelmann’s breadth of vision,” tweeted Monica Schnitger, president of Schnitger Corp. , a consulting and market research company focused on the engineering space. “PTC is trying to tie many levels of information and types of users under the PTC umbrella.”
MCAD, obviously, was part of the product roadmap discussion. But it had the same billing (in some cases, even less air time) then discussions around new capabilities in the areas embedded software development and requirements management–to name a few. Fresh on the heels of its $306 million acquisition of MKS and its Integrity Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) tool, Hepplemann and other presenters spent a lot of time talking about how software development has “snuck” into product development, citing a host of statistics, including the fact that many companies now employ more software engineers than hardware engineers and that the average car now includes more than 200 million lines of software code. Andrew Werkin, a former PTCer, who left over a year ago for a role at Integrity and is now back at PTC post-acquisition, reiterated that software is increasingly a more important part of the product, not just for user interface or control systems, but where software actually serves as a way to address product defects easier or to tune a hardware product specifically for a certain market and need.
This growing prominence of embedded software as part of the product all points to the rise (again, not a new concept) of a systems engineering approach, where the different disciplines collaborate early in the design process as opposed passing designs back and forth in an iterative and highly ineffective engineering workflow. With Integrity now under its wing, PTC plans to evolve that platform, but more importantly, create deep integrations to Windchill, in a sense establishing