Closed-Loop Lifecycle Management
At the recent PTC Live Event, PTC’s executives outlined a vision they coin “Closed-Loop Lifecycle Management”, in which PLM, ALM, SLM, IoT, SCM and CAD, are linked together. The hexagon shaped relationship depicted in this picture mixes process-centric tools (PLM, ALM , SLM and SCM), engineering tools (CAD) and architectural platforms (IoT), and is not intended to denote specific connectivity and certainly not a product lifecycle workflow. Rather, it is an attempt to convey the richness and the complexity of enterprise information involved in product development, manufacturing and sustainment, information that PTC wants to help manufacturing organizations manage and use to optimize complex decision making throughout the product lifecycle.
While the vision – and company executives acknowledged it’s still a vision rather than a product roadmap – is correct, the tools and “solutions” in PTC’s portfolio are separated by a noncontiguous business strategy (SLM and ThingWorx operate as separate business units), and by the lack of a digital backbone, shared data models, common taxonomies and unified workflows.
It will be interesting to see how PTC is going to move from a strategically rich but fragmented portfolio to realizing a connected PLM architecture. PTC sees the codeless mash-up technology of the recently acquired ThingWorx as the platform to create a unified user experience and workflow. Hopefully, the relentless emphasis on “connected things” will not lead to ignoring manufacturers that do not plan to use ThingWorx’s IoT platform.
Implementing a digital backbone to manage common services across fundamentally different tools, especially in the SLM portfolio, is going to prove more challenging. It will require significant restructuring of data models and taxonomies in order to synthesize information from multiple sources in a manner that supports complex multidisciplinary decision making.
Observing the fragmentation in PTC’s SLM portfolio also introduces an interesting predicament. Unifying the various SLM assets PTC acquired from 4CS and Servigistics, Relex and ArborText, and possibly Kaidera (part of the Servigistics acquisition) makes sense, at least from the point of view of the closed-loop PLM architecture depicted above. On the other hand, many service organizations may not ready to adopt such a “complete” system. The IT landscape of the typical service organization tends to be very fragmented, comprises multiple task-specific tools and numerous general purpose tools, and these organizations will find an incremental approach based on current collection of individual tools far more pragmatic than a monolithic SLM suite. PTC will have to continue to offer these individual building blocks, but offer service organizations a technology implementation roadmap to implementing an SLM, and eventually a unified closed-loop PLM framework.