PLM 2.0: Developer of SharePoint-based application promises “social product development”
Product life-cycle management (PLM) software supplier PTC has released an application that it claims will revolutionize the product development process.
The solution—called Windchill ProductPoint—is built on top of Microsoft Windows SharePoint Server. It allows users to incorporate Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, and instant messaging into the product development process. PTC says these capabilities will usher in a new age of “social product development.”
Windchill is the name for PTC’s suite of products for managing and sharing product-related data. Jim Heppelmann, PTC’s chief product officer, says Windchill’s original
Heppelmann says ProductPoint will appeal to smaller manufacturers because the base technology required for deployment is a copy of Microsoft SharePoint Server, which most companies already have on their networks. However, he said larger companies also will find the solution attractive because it will allow them to expand the number of people having access to product data at a much lower cost than buying more seats of the core Windchill applications.
Simon Floyd, worldwide industry director of PLM strategy for Microsoft, predicts ProductPoint sales will grow fastest in large enterprises because those companies
PTC announced plans for releasing Windchill ProductPoint at its annual user conference in June
2008. The product was officially released January 14, 2009, at a special event for media and analysts at PTC headquarters in Needham, Mass.
Windchill ProductPoint consists of a three-tier technology stack that starts with Windows Sharepoint Server. This layer provides the key social computing capabilities, including:
SharePoint also provides the user interface for ProductPoint, which doubles as a portal into pieces of the Windchill product suite, which Heppelmann describes as the “virtual engineering team layer.”
The third layer—also accessible through a SharePoint portal—contains PTC applications for creating and viewing product designs such as Pro/Engineer and ProductView.
Upon deployment, companies can use Windchill ProductPoint to create product homepages. Users with proper security authorization can go to those pages to review information about a product, and make comments or changes if necessary.
The social networking capabilities from SharePoint allow for creating communities for sharing data around specific products. For example, users can set up their own
When accessing products, users also will be able to use a presence detection feature to determine if specific project team or community members are logged into the system and initiate instant collaboration with them.
Currently, the sharing of data through Windchill ProductPoint is limited to products created in PTC CAD applications, but the company promises interoperability with data from SolidWorks and AutoCAD within the year. SolidWorks and AutoCAD are product design applications from Siemens PLM Software and Autodesk , respectively.
Lee Garf, VP product management for Windchill ProductPoint, says PTC has created templates for processes companies can use upon initial adoption of the product, but it can be configured to match a company’s unique processes.
Among the templates are capabilities for creating tasks lists that workers can click on and be directed to the exact applications and data required to complete those tasks.
Nicholas Jensen, chief engineer, at Hess Services, Inc ., a $20-million-a-year manufacturer of oil field equipment, expects Windchill ProductPoint to alleviate some of the problems the company has had in managing product data due to rapid sales growth.
“We simply lacked the infrastructure to support a $20-million business,” Jensen says, adding that a lack of a formal document control process routinely caused critical files to be mistakenly overwritten.
Hess ran a three-month test with beta version of Windchill ProductPoint that consisted of a few subassemblies into the system. Jensen says users, like the product’s search capabilities, which allows them to locate products based on what they do, and not necessarily a part number.
“This worked because sometimes people know what product they are looking for when they see it, but they may not remember a part number,” Jensen says. “So, when they enter its functions and a picture pops up, they can identify it as part they are looking for.”
Even the company president uses the system, and he is most enamored of the markup function because it allows him to tag changes he would like to see a product and be sure that his comments will be seen and acted on before the product is built.
Hess has purchased four seats of Windchill ProducPoint. Jensen expects it to immediate cut the company’s product design time by 50 percent, in addition to reducing product costs, and providing a platform for more efficient engineering change processes.
Video that will give you additional information about this announcement, including customer interviews and a special talk here .