Home Event Reviews PTC’s LiveWorx 2016: the WhichPLM Report (Part two)

PTC’s LiveWorx 2016: the WhichPLM Report (Part two)


LiveWorx header 2

This marks the second instalment of our LiveWorx 2016 coverage. Our CEO attended the multi-day LiveWorx event hosted by PTC in Boston, MA. This second instalment continues straight on from the first, and focuses on the remaining keynote sessions, FlexPLM V11, ThingWorx, and the retail sessions.

Jim Heppelman, President & CEO of PTC, invited Terri Lewis, Digital & Technology Director at Caterpillar Inc., to join him on stage to demonstrate the IoT in action.

Terri is driving a digital transformation project at Caterpillar using a combination of physical, virtual and augmented reality to help the business improve the way it rents and services a range of Caterpillar equipment. In the demonstration Terri and her team showed us a generator that is often used at construction sites, and concerts, and for power outages in factories and schools. The generator was using a combination of the physical, virtual and augmented reality during the presentation.

Caterpillar wants to improve their consumer experience by making it easy for customers to rent and use their equipment; in the case of the generator, customers can remotely monitor the equipment to better understand where it’s being used (GPS location) and it’s readiness (battery power, fuel, and health) for use.


The generator can be operated and maintained remotely from any mobile device.  Terri used the analogy of renting a car, having it breakdown and you/us being unable to find the user manual to address the problem. Having blown a tyre on a US highway and been unable to find my user manual myself, I could certainly relate to this! In the demo the team used an iPad to hover over a smart logo, which in turn brought up a dashboard highlighting several dials including fuel gauge, battery power, and overdue maintenance metre. The team ran a fault diagnosis, which pointed to a blocked filter that needed changing. The team went on to use the augmented product via the iPad to look inside the body of the generator, in order to learn how to change the filter using technical CAD drawings.

Following Terri’s VSE demo, Jim announced VSE (Vuforia Studio Enterprise) –  a powerful solution for building and publishing AR (Augmented Reality) experiences in the enterprise. Designed for content creators, VSE does not require programming skills. Content creators can build experiences in minutes, and take advantage of existing 3D assets, created with leading CAD tools and working together with FlexPLM. Additionally, VSE harnesses the power of the ThingWorx IoT platform to deliver intuitive AR experiences for connected products. The second announcement of the day was ThingWorx Analytics, formerly known as Coldlight, acquired by PTC in May 2015.


I’ll explore the Thingworx platform further shortly, but first, let’s continue the keynote sessions. Part one of this report covered David Pogue and the ‘Mythbusters’, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt and PTC’s own Jim Heppelman (continued above).

Another keynote this year came from the Chairman, CEO and Co-founder of iRobot Corporation, Colin Angle. The company, originally an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) spin-off, has transformed under Angle’s leadership to deliver more than 13 million home cleaning, remote presence and military robots. Years ago, iRobot designed NASA’s behavior-controlled rovers that led the Sojourner exploring Mars.

When studying at MIT, Angle produced an autonomous walking robot named Genghis, which is now at the Smithsonian National Air and Science Museum. Having appeared on CNN and CNBC, and profiled in BusinessWeek and CNET, you can imagine the world of expertise Angle had to share!

The final keynote speaker was Michael Porter of Harvard Business School. Porter is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School – a university professorship being the highest recognition possible for a Harvard faculty member.

A leader on company strategy and competition, Porter’s work is globally recognized by governments, corporations, non-profits and academics. We learned that Porter also chairs Harvard Business School’s programme for newly appointed CEOs to multi-billion dollar companies. What’s more, Porter has written nineteen books and countless articles. A seven-time winner of the McKinsey Award for the best Harvard Business Review article of the year, Porter is the most cited author in business and economics.



So, having covered the major tracks for LiveWorx this year (in part one), as well as the fascinating keynotes, what our community will be interested to learn is of some sessions specific to our industry. In an event covering an array of industries, I’ll explore some focused on the RFA sector, and in particular on PLM and the potential future of the IoT (as it relates to the RFA sector).

Most of the sessions I’d like to focus in on were from the ‘design’ track this year, and relate, for the most part, to FlexPLM. The first was an overview of Flex version 11. ‘Next Generation PTC Windchill FlexPLM v11 Overview’ was presented by Quach Hai, Director of Product Management at PTC. Having held the position for the best part of two decades, Hai is an expert in retail product development. And those of you who know me well will know I don’t throw the term ‘expert’ around too often. Hai is responsible for delivering supply chain solutions to PTC’s customers, with the main product being FlexPLM.

An aspect of Hai’s role includes understanding customer requirements and market trends to determine how PTC’s products should evolve to meet those needs. And evolve they have, especially over the last twelve months since the rebirth of PTC’s RFA group. This point was confirmed by many of FlexPLM’s visiting customers.

PTC’s v11 retail system has plenty of ‘newness’, demoed by Hai. The new release has updated capabilities and architectural changes that will allow customers to understand how the IoT can support Windchill FlexPLM. There are also considerable updates to the user experience, web services, and a soon-to-be-latest release of the Adobe Illustrator plugin and design tools, as well as PTC’s first role-based app.

As well as demonstrating the new version of Flex, Hai also presented the ‘PTC Windchill Retail FlexPLM Roadmap Update,’ which, as the title would suggest, gave attendees an update into PTC’s roadmap for its retail solutions. This session covered both near-term and longer-term objectives on the retail roadmap, pinpointing the capabilities that would address these goals. Quach explored how they will improve some core PLM processes, as well as really extending PLM in a number of new key areas and, like any vendor Roadmap, this part of the presentation will remain private between PTC and it’s customers.

> A TOUR OF 5th AVE 

Before I attended the FlexPLM presentation, I took a tour around 5th Avenue, PTC’s Liveworx Retail showcase, with Quach.

We began at the Optimize kiosk. The kiosk was demonstrating an Optimize Store Planning tool that combines prior sales history with consumer personas and the preferences and buying behaviors of those personas – plus product attributes and the influence attributes on prior sales – to predict what should be the automated assortment plan for next season. The tool could literally predict the number of SKUs and, for each SKU, the type of characteristics it should have. Then it could be handed off to the design team, made up of prior sales data, product attributes and social media insights to predict future designs and their attributes – in this case taken from First Insight’s data mining solution. The planning solution is a development in partnership with First Insight and PTC’s ThingWorx platform.

I said I’d come back to ThingWorx, and it’s worth noting here that RFA customers can use the “open ThingWorx platform” to work with other technology partners – the likes of Kalypso – to develop their own mining data solutions coming from a broad range of social media sites. The “openness” of the platform is really something.


The next stop we made on 5th Avenue was to see the new digital design apps. The first was the social design app taking trend feeds from Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr; users can pull in live imagery from each of the social media sites and drag these images onto inspiration boards. And, using FlexPLM, add sketches, materials and trims to create a new inspiration board that captures the concepts that you’re brining to market.

Next on show was the new Adobe Illustrator plug-in (2D design) that is working together with FlexPLM and, in this case, Optitex 3D for sample making. What’s great here is that all solutions share the same library data (materials, colours, trims, sketches etc.).

Another new partner sharing the ThingWorx platform and FlexPLM was Nexgen Packaging. Nexgen are helping clients to develop new packaging and labels integrated to the BOM library and reaching out to the Nexgen library showing the availability, status, quantity, and when it can be delivered to the factories.


The ThingWorx platform is being used as an integration hub for partners and an analytics hub that can share data on what’s happening in-store (in our case on 5th Avenue) including number of sales in a particular style, colour, fit, and return rates.  As attendees walked around the stands they could use the many iPads on show to view smart codes that provided extra information on a product (sizes, colour options, images, videos).

Also demonstrated was a material ‘look up’ app, allowing you to hover your iPad over a piece fabric to display data directly from FlexPLM showing the material properties, including: supplier material ID, mill, fibre content, price, lead times, colour availability, and sample yardage.



For the final element of this report, I’d like to touch upon the sessions at LiveWorx delivered by retailers and brands in the fashion sector, and in particular with respect to FlexPLM.

‘Vendor Portal: Case Study’ was presented by Stéphane Gaillard, PLM Business Process & Innovation Manager for Devanlay-Lacoste. Gaillard has been with the company since 2003, originally coming on board as Organisation Project Manager. In his current role, Gaillard drives the innovation roadmap in line with strategic objectives of the brand platform.

In a session slightly more ‘techie’ than others (hinted at by the ‘intermediate’ content level stamp), Gaillard spoke for FlexPLM’s vendor portal, stating how it had enabled Lacoste suppliers to have a direct and secured access to Lacoste’s product development tool. He explained how the vendor portal was (and is) a major pillar in helping Lacoste reduce time-to-market of operational execution as well as assess manufacturing practicalities from the outset of a product’s development.

Next up was ‘Levi Strauss & Co. – the PLM journey!’ was presented by three of the Levi team– Debdulal Mahanty, Jamila Hubbard, and Leigh Anne Oden.

Mahanty has held the position of Senior Solution Architect for Levi Strauss for almost four years, having moved from PTC in 2012, where he was a Solution Architect for six years. His expertise lies in leading globally diversified teams (with a strong emphasis on cultural principles) in multiple roles. Mahanty has had prolonged exposure to solution & process architecture, integration, infrastructure, performance tuning, and project planning.

Jamila Hubbard has been with Levi Strauss for close to a decade, joining as a product development assistant in 2008. Having made her way up the ranks, Hubbard now sits as the Manager of Business Systems & Process Support for M&D Operations. In her previous role (Business Process Specialist) for Levi’s, Hubbard was responsible for managing the training of PLM users, including creating training materials, and acting as liaison between users and the IT team. Now, she leads and supports global pan-brand merchandising and design teams through the completion of GTM related processes and FlexPLM system activities. Still the key contact between business users and IT support, Hubbard also communicates system changes to broader, pan-brand merchandise and design teams.

Leigh Anne Oden joined Levi Strauss & Company in 1991, residing as Account Executive & Senior Merchandiser for 9 years. In 2000 she pursued consultancy, working for a number of companies (including Walter Wilhelm Associates and Centric Software) over the next decade, only to re-join Levi’s in early 2013. Oden is the Senior Manager for Global Merchandise & Design Operations, in which she puts to good use her blend of experience across product and brand management, merchandising, project management and technology sales and implementation.

For their session, Mahanty, Hubbard and Oden presented “the transformation” of Levi Strauss & Co.; they shared the key lessons the PLM team learnt during the launch process, as well as how they are continuing to support the tool.


Home Depot also shared their PLM Journey. Julia Fort, Senior Manager PMO, and

Raghavendra Rao, IT Lead, delivered their session, ‘From Unsupported System To Enterprise Solution’. In 2012, the Home Depot was not supported by IT, and incapable of supporting their planned growth. Like with any successful PLM project, they created the right team, developed a roadmap and selected the right tool for the business.

Home Depot opted for a phased approach, with stabilization between phases, and they required minimal customization to their FlexPLM solution. The team shared each phase they went through, and the ways in which they stabilized each. Their phases were split into onboarding, sourcing, and after sales support. They ended their session by sharing the successes of their project – an on time, to budget, project with detailed user training – and some of the benefits they are now reaping (namely improved system efficiencies, and elimination of duplicate data).

The version of FlexPLM the Home Depot implemented was 10.1.

Hallmark also shared their success story at LiveWorx; although not technically a fashion company, Hallmark delivers consumer goods and their journey is one worth sharing. Monica Alderson, IT Business Services Director at Hallmark, and Amy Beau, Product Manager for Hallmark Ornaments, delivered ‘Building a Foundation of Success through Consistency’. The duo opened with their mission statement: “We will be the company that creates a more emotionally connected world by making a genuine difference in every life, every day.”

At the beginning of their journey (some two decades ago), Hallmark operated 22 different systems, and over 100 spreadsheets. Their main goal was to implement a solution, which would help to provide a “single source of information for product development.” In 2014 the company completed their POC, underwent the selection process, and began phase one of their approach in August of last year. The company is using FlexPLM version 10.2 and began phase two of their project in April of this year. They shared the benefits they are already seeing, including the streamlining of assortment planning, improved collaboration, and consistency of process. They are set to begin phase three this month.


First Insight explained that, according to their research, new product success rates, today, are only at 40%. Their approach comes in four steps: select items, engage consumers, apply analytics, and gain insight. When selecting items they combine new items with both strong and weak performers; they then combine this with consumer feedback and predictive analytics to help make better decisions.

The session went on to show how First Insight’s solution has been integrated into FlexPLM, and how this is supporting Dick’s Sporting Goods. The partnership puts the customer at the centre of the product development, maximizing the performance of new products. They shared a quote from Lee Belitsky, EVP Planning & Product Development at Dick’s, saying, “By using First Insight to test items – both branded and private label – before making our buys, we are increasing speed to market of the right items […] we have projected the solution will deliver a strong return on investment.”



And that brings us to the end of this two-part report on LiveWorx 2016. There were some clear takeaways from the event. Firstly, it confirmed my own thoughts on the Internet of Things: that this isn’t just hype, it’s real.

I do have some important advice as to how I believe our community can get the best out of the IoT: all vendors, partners, and extended PLM partners will need to change the way that they implement PLM and related E-PLM solutions. PLM is, by it’s very definition, an end-to-end, constant circular solution. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, all too often I see customers from around the world purchasing PLM, only to implement PDM. What I mean by this is retailers or brands using PLM to connect internally and then, as opposed to using direct data connections, reverting to sharing PDFs via vendor portals, thereby breaking the data links for external partners.

Unless we get this situation resolved, we will never be able to truly harness the value of PLM and the Internet of Things. It will take a great deal of hard work for all concerned and, based on what I heard at LiveWorx, there are some great things happening, but there’s also still a great deal for all parties to do if we are to begin benefitting from the advantages that the IoT has to offer the RFA sector.


LiveWorx was an event brimming with inspiring keynotes, which certainly helped to get the creative juices flowing; it was an event that made me feel that a revolution of change is heading our way. It reminds me of the birth of internet. However, and those that were working on solutions back in the mid-90s will probably agree, only a very few people then really recognised the Internet’s true potential and thus it evolved slowly over time.

The Internet created many new business models, B2B, B2C and at the same time many re-modelled businesses started to operate on the Internet using data to create new platforms and helping to grow new communities, all sharing data. Some of these businesses went on to establish themselves as the giants that we know today, dominating their respective sectors (Google, Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn etc.), using the data and analytics to make smart predictions and decisions.  The qualities they all share are a deep understanding of how new technologies can serve their business strategies. They each have a proven flair for implementing these strategies; they are ambitious and have the guts to be “first movers” and impressive. Although these fiercely entrepreneurial firms may be terrifying (for some of the old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar retail companies), they are just a prelude of what’s coming when you add to the Internet the IoT.

Speaking with Kevin Ashton (the British inventor of the ‘IoT’ term) recently, he said that, “the beauty of the Internet of Things is the Internet itself” and the Internet continues to grow, with the advent of IPv6 the next generation Internet protocol designed to work alongside and eventually replace IPv4 delivering new addresses that enable the connection of everything. There’s around 340 trillion, trillion, trillion available IPv6 addresses, in comparison to the 4 billion addresses available at the launch of IPv4, so the internet has the opportunity to grow even further and will allow every “thing” to be connected including our business processes, machines, humans just about every “thing”.

We need to educate ourselves to the opportunities ahead and this time around we can expect it to happen much quicker than the introduction of the Internet in the 90s!

If you missed the first out part of the LiveWorx 2016 report, you can find it here


Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for eight years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like our PLM Project Pack, or our Annual Publications, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.