LNS participated in Plex Systems’ annual customer event, PowerPlex 2020, held virtually for the first time. Three themes emerged from the event.
LNS recently participated in the PTC’s LiveWorx Virtual event. Last year, we noted that LiveWorx, “is in a league of its own in the world of industrial software and automation events when it comes to marketing flash and audio-visual sizzle.” Going virtual dramatically limited the flash and the sizzle, but there was still plenty of meat this year as the company rolled out new products, updated alliances, and revealed a refined product strategy.
Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, put the company's strategy and ever-increasing product portfolio in two wrappers:
- COVID 19 and the “new normal”
Most virtual events this year are talking about the impact of COVID on industrial operations and every software supplier takes time to discuss how they have responded and how their products have helped manufacturers. Jim went substantially further organizing the bulk of his presentation around the 4 capabilities manufacturers need to thrive in this new normal and how PTC products delivered those capabilities:
- Workforce Mobility & Resiliency: where SaaS-based tools have inherent advantages spotlighting the new corporate acquisition of Onshape the SaaS solution that combines CAD, release management, workflow, collaboration, and analytics on the Amazon AWS Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service.
- Flexible and Innovative Supply Chains: highlighting PTC’s Digital Thread across supply chain partners via Onshape including a consortium of companies that came together to design and build respirators for COVID patients.
- Connectivity and Workforce Collaboration for Front-Line Workers: spotlighting Vuforia’s AR/VR capabilities to support remote workers and operations.
- Remote Monitoring Products and Factories: portraying Vuforia and ThingWorx as critical in the new normal.
Positioning the pandemic as only the latest of a series of Global disruptions, he asserted that “Digital has become the big hero.” Case studies across large companies (Toyota, Autoliv) and small enterprises (e.GO, Francisco Gavidia University) did seem to back up the importance of Industrial Transformation and digital in these uncertain times.
- Spatial Computing
Heppelmann also positioned PTC within a new form of computing: “Spatial Computing” and the world of physical and digital convergence. Positioning CAD and PLM as the means to virtualize products, IoT as virtual representations of specific instances of those products and AR as the virtualization of front line works, he wrapped all the PTC products under this Spatial Computing umbrella enabling 3D Digital twins of complete work environments like factories or refineries.
The meat continued with a series of presentations across the PTC portfolio and customer base. ThingWorx 9.0 was announced. New joint offerings from Rockwell and Microsoft were detailed. Creo 7.0 and Windchill 12 were highlighted. Stepping back from all these individual presentations a few trends appear:
Maturation of IoT and IX: Multiple presentations talked about the maturation of the IIoT market and technologies. This maturation is reflected in the ThingWorx product roadmap with increasing importance on configuring applications and a focus on the “ilities”: system stability, scalability, availability, etc. The market now cares more about roll-out and payback, so PTC is promoting prospects, “Think Value First” (which closely aligns with the LNS Industrial Transformation Framework). And Applications are critical to market success in a mature IoT market, so the company continues to roll out new products directly and launched Factory Insights as a Service with Microsoft and Rockwell “at” the event.
3D as Core to PTC: The newest acquisitions always get special attention at these types of events, so it is not surprising Onshape got the spotlight at LiveWorx 2020. In fact, the Onshape Platform-as-a-Service capabilities have been rebranded to PTC Atlas as the “SaaS platform for all PTC products over time.” But Vuforia also got significant attention throughout the keynotes. 3D is clearly a thread throughout PTC’s vision of the future. 3D is imperative for discrete product design, Additive Manufacturing, and Digital Twins. Too much focus on 3D can lead to an undervaluation of the power of tabular and times series data and analytics. LNS will be watching to see if PTC’s vision will continue to balance 3D and less spatially oriented computing that is still required to manage the full picture of enterprise computing.
Value Chain “Reappears”: It is not unusual for older acquisitions to fall from the spotlight over time as they are pushed into the background by newer acquisitions. ThingWorx, Vuforia and the energy around all the buzz phrases of IIoT/AI/AR/ML/VR had pushed the value chain wide focus of PTC into the background. In 2020, it reemerged with an emphasis on CAD, PLM, and even after-sale services. IIoT Solutions for Services were featured, roadmaps outlined, and success stories highlighted.
Last year, we commented on the market momentum around ThingWorx and the Rockwell partnership. Chairman and CEO Blake Moret did discuss Rockwell’s use of Vuforia and the new joint product in his keynote. Further, in follow-on briefings for analysts, the two companies shared the business and technical progress in the partnership. The momentum continues with strong sales growth, often to “net new” customers for one or both companies, until the impact of the COVID crisis slowed business overall. Product integrations deepened and expanded in more directions to accommodate customers across the Industrial Transformation maturity cycle. LNS expects to see additional integrated product offerings announced in 2020.
Key Takeaways and Recommendations
As manufacturers evaluate PTC (and the Rockwell partnership), we believe the following should be front and center:
- What is the PTC cloud strategy? It had been very Microsoft-centric (“first among equals”) yet Onshape deploys on Amazon AWS and is positioned as the “underlying….platform” for PTC Atlas which will be the future “SaaS Platform for all PTC products”. Until reconciled strategies are fully executed, customers should make sure they understand PTC’s long-term plan and how their specific preferences fit within it.
- PTC has demonstrated repeated success “wrapping and extending” legacy systems with ThingWorx and Vuforia. Rockwell has added significant connectivity, automation, and analytics capabilities. The question still is whether the partnership can deliver and roll out deep and wide applications to their joint customers. It is a challenge for every vendor in the space, but partnerships are especially tricky.
One of the advantages to virtual events is the availability of all the presentations in online archives. Click here to access those online archives.
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