2009 Innovation Insight Awards: A product development portal

MOST INNOVATIVE PRODUCT BY A VENDOR ¦ FIRST PLACE Windchill ProductPoint isn't the first solution in the product lifecycle management (PLM) software market to tap Microsoft's SharePoint portal technology for Web-based collaboration. But this application, developed by PTC, can lay claim to fully harnessing SharePoint.



Windchill ProductPoint isn't the first solution in the product lifecycle management (PLM) software market to tap Microsoft's SharePoint portal technology for Web-based collaboration. But this application, developed by PTC, can lay claim to fully harnessing SharePoint.

PTC collaborated with Microsoft for two years on ProductPoint. The solution was announced by PTC in June of 2008, with ProductPoint's 1.0 formal release last December.

ProductPoint uses Windows SharePoint Services as a technology platform in a way that gives the portal access to and direct associations with product design data. According to Tom Shoemaker, VP of product marketing for PTC, this native use of SharePoint sets the solution apart.

For instance, ProductPoint enables PLM tasks like bill of material (BOM) management, configuration & change management, component & supplier management, or visualization and digital mockup to be managed within the portal.

"We are utilizing the full breadth of SharePoint, as opposed to just using SharePoint as the skin or user interface," Shoemaker says. "It makes for a very tight and clean implementation." Because ProductPoint can be deployed on Windows SharePoint Services—which Microsoft bundles with its Windows Server—as well as with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS), the solution carries a relatively low cost.

According to PTC, this positions ProductPoint as an ideal solution for smaller companies or work groups currently using network folders or FTP sites to manage CAD files. Or, because of ProductPoint's integration with the rest of the Windchill family, ProductPoint can extend current Windchill deployments.

The central value of ProductPoint is its blending of the low-cost Microsoft portal infrastructure with rich capabilities for managing structured product information. ProductPoint also is tightly integrated with PTC's Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire CAD solution, and PTC plans to make it work with other major CAD applications.

One example of this tight blending of the portal world with the PLM world, says Shoemaker, is ProductPoint's tie between WIKI capabilities in SharePoint, and the graphics window in PTC's CAD tool. This tie allows design engineers to place notes or insights regarding their thinking behind a design directly into a WIKI. ProductPoint will then ensure that any design information resident in the WIKI links to the correct CAD model. That makes information about design intent now easily available to other product designers, something that Shoemaker says is becoming more important given the evolving nature of manufacturing companies, with leaner staffs often comprising teams of design engineers dispersed around the world.

This functionality is the primary reason PTC says ProductPoint supports "social product development."

These feature also carried a lot of weight in the selection of ProductPoint as the first place winner in MBT's 2009 Innovation Insight Awards competition in the category Most Innovative Product by a Vendor.

As PTC's Shoemaker sums up, "ProductPoint offers a blending of the easy-to-use, human-focused aspects of social computing with what can be the more hard-core, design-data aspects of PLM."


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