PTCLive-Global-300x168PTC has spent the last, well, decade redefining itself. For a long time, it was the feature-based modeling powerhouse in a direct-modeling CAD world. Then it decided CAD was passé and devoted itself to building a PLM platform. Most recently, PTC entered the brave new world of electromechanical systems and moved to take design info into new directions, helping customers unite design, manufacturing and services offerings. We learned just how diverse, and yet focused, the company is at PTCLive Global, the recent user conference in Anaheim, CA. GraphicSpeak, PTC’s own blog and SolidSmack have great recaps, if you want more info.

Ah, guitar riffs. I’m an East Coaster, so 8AM Pacific is no biggie, but I think some people were more than a little startled when guitarist Pat Hennessey took the stage, playing some of the most famous riffs in rock and roll history on a beautiful Aristides guitar. After his mash-up, Mr. Hennessey segued into a Jimi Hendrix-like version of the Star Spangled Banner and, from there, into Black Sabbath’s Iron Man to bring CEO Jim Heppelmann on stage. It’s hard to explain – it was both more elegant and goofy than I can describe. PTC has put a bunch of sessions online — hope this is there somewhere! (But check YouTube, too.)

Mr. Hepplemann’s keynote outlined 7 major trends hitting the manufacturing landscape right now, saying that companies that can’t harness these forces will ultimately lose to those who can. Possibly most important from PTC’s perspective is the blurring of the lines between product and service. Mr. Hepplemann used the term ‘servitization’, the bundling of products and services into one offering that confers more benefit to the customer than either would alone. This requires changes in the way offerings are designed, to include service early in concept development, incorporate not only warranty but spare parts considerations in design, and so on.

This is one area where PTC has a clear edge on its traditional PLM competitors — and an area, too, where it is walking the walk. I had a chance to speak with some of the Global Support organization about how PTC is revamping its services offering and to better understand how the company has transformed “maintenance” into “support”. Like just about every software company, PTC has to make the case over and over that those periodic bills after the initial license purchase offered more than bug reporting and point releases. To build the value proposition of its services offering, PTC looks at how customers want to interact with their solutions, and their vendors, to redefine how PTC can best deliver what they need. There’s a lot more going on here than I realized, both with PTC’s intentions and from a looking/listening/acting perspective, that I need to devote a whole post to it soon.

It’s been interesting to watch PTC’s evolution in services life cycle management (SLM). It started with Arbortext, so that Pro/ENGINEER models could be used in ads, instructions and repair manuals. Add in Servigisitcs, and PTC has the start of a more comprehensive solution for manufacturers who also want to get in on the lucrative after-sales market. Once seen as a non-core function, a cost center or a way of (grudgingly) keeping in touch with customers and hearing their complaints, service is now often seen as a lucrative revenue generator and a way to build closer strategic relationships with end-customers.

Which brings us full-circle to PTC’s own services offering. Mr. Heppelmann said that “the vision seems clearer than ever for us” and that really does ring true. Rather than hunting out new industries to sell to, PTC is looking for ways to deepen its presence in its core manufacturing customers, making its products more functional, easier to use and deploy (hello, virtualization?) and by getting some of the annoying bits out of the way (Windchill is now more integrated and less intrusive for designers).

Oh, and Creo 3.0 will be able to open CAD files from just about any CAD system, pop them into assemblies and onto drawings, and (sit down) changes made in the original file will propagate into Creo. Without creating and intermediate files (in most cases, more work being done). There are some gotchas, such as parts changed in Creo won’t update in SolidWorks, NX or wherever they came from, but that seems reasonable given how most heterogeneous environments work today. The audience in the hall loved it. I can’t wait to see this in action — or to watch you use it and hear your thoughts.

So all that stuff, about no longer being a CAD company — doesn’t seem so true any more, does it?

More soon.

Image credit: Monica Schnitger

Note: PTC graciously covered some of the expenses associated with my participation at the event but did not in any way influence the content of this post.