At Texprocess 2015 WhichPLM caught up with PTC; in the first of many exclusive interviews given at the show here Andreas Keller, Strategic Accounts Sales Representative Retail & Consumer at PTC, and Dörthe Palkus, Business Development Retail & Consumer Europe at PTC, answer our questions.
Mark Harrop: Firstly, do you see Texprocess as a regional show, or as an international show?
Andreas Keller: Well, in 2013 I think the show had a more regional emphasis; we had visitors from France, Germany, India, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, UK, etc. on our booth, with the majority coming from Germany and Switzerland. So, from that experience, the show had a more regional emphasis for PTC. I have asked companies from the Nordics (from Sweden, from Denmark): ‘Will you be coming to the fair this year?” but they did not know about it. However, we are hoping and expecting to find more international contacts in this year’s event.
We have a PTC event (PTC Live) this year, taking place in Nashville, TN/USA in June, which we see as our own fair. So, in a sense, we create our own traffic. But, for us, Texprocess seems to be a trade fair which suits us – centered on topics like PLM in the RFA industry.
MH: A question on the German market in general: do you find that customers here see PLM as a platform and, furthermore, are investing in it?
AK: PLM acceptance has been growing in the German market for the last few years. Companies which, in the past, had decided to focus on more departmental oriented or own-developed solutions are now growing into a company size where an enterprise PLM solution can unfold its advantages by offering a scalable and closed-loop PLM.
MH: Of course, a large part of a presence at any trade fair is uniqueness – offering something special – so what do you think sets you apart from the other vendors that prospective customers are going to be looking at on the show floor?
Dörthe Palkus: Well, to begin, we support of all types of products: Apparel, Footwear, Accessories, Hard goods including seamless 3D CAD Data Management of various CAD applications.
A comprehensive and complementary suite of PTC solutions, being Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Computer Aided Design (CAD), Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), Internet of things (IoT) and Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) allows development of ‘Traditional Products’ and ‘Smart Connected Products’ side by side while benefitting from a true Closed-Loop-Lifecycle-Management.
We just brought FlexPLM version 10.2 to the market. We now have full alignment with the Windchill platform, which is a huge benefit for customers that offer Consumer Products (or hard lines) to market. We have portfolio or product category management in Flex, enabling full product line sheet management and reporting, as well as a suite of material, component, color, artwork, and document library management and reporting. But now we also have the possibility to report over several levels – multi-layered reporting. Version 10.2 takes full advantage of Windchill. This is just one example of the improvements we’ve been making.
Additionally, product development processes can be enhanced to include the data generated from smart connected products and allowing clever usage of real-time-collaboration to smoothly integrate all related parties.
MH: And how are global supply chain pressures affecting your solution enhancements?
AK: We have seen a lot of interest in our Vendor Portal. FlexPLM offers customers a competitive advantage through our Vendor Portal facility – enabling close collaboration with Tier 1 (Finished Goods), and Tier 2 (Materials) suppliers, as well as Test Labs, Compliance Auditors, etc. Our solution continues to evolve in making this vendor collaboration more feature rich, to ensure continuous value improvements through reduced data entry, shortened time to market, co-design/development with partners, tightly coupled volume forecasting, supply chain consolidation, and real-time competitive bid management.
DP: So, what I see is that omni-channel is not where it should be at every company. The preparation for omni-channel – what the price is for each region, what the colours are – and all of this regional management is a very hot topic. In FlexPLM we are able to separate everything by region (price by region, colour by region); this is really a hot topic where we are seeing more interest.
We see more interest in 3D, where we have the capabilities from various 3D tools, enough to dock them in. We can see, in 3D, a sample which we can move around, we can turn, we can evaluate whether we like it or not. So this is something which has really demanded developments.
MH: You mentioned earlier the ‘Internet of Things’; for our readers, who may or may not be familiar with this term, can you sum up what this means for FlexPLM users? And when these users can expect to benefit from these IoT developments?
AK: The engagement of PTC in ‘Internet of Things’ or ‘Smart Connectivity’ will allow FlexPLM customers to benefit from a market transition: development of mere ‘Traditional Products’ moves seamlessly into development of ‘Smart Connected Products’ such as wearables or other smart connected items (e.g. sports equipment).
Additionally product development processes can be turned into being ‘smart connected’, allowing clever usage of real-time-collaboration to smoothly integrate all related parties of the value chain down to the POS to benefit from a true Closed-Loop-Lifecycle-Management. FlexPLM customers can benefit immediately, when deciding to use the related capabilities. More insight to these topics will be given in our presentation “Smart Connected Product Development – How connectivity can change product development”, which will be held [we interviewed PTC on the first day of the show] on Tuesday 5th May at 12:00 at TexProcess Forum Hall 5.0 C06.
MH: Can you give some actual examples of how the IoT will work with FlexPLM and other solutions?
AK: In continuation of the prior response above, FlexPLM is planned to provide integral connectivity to enable our customers to establish a shift to Retail in Real Time, powered by the PTC ThingWorx offering. Combining the Product information rich solution of FlexPLM with the real-time connectivity of a customer’s myriad of internal systems (i.e. ERP, POS, Inventory), cloud-based services (i.e. Amazon, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, Weather), in-store devices (i.e. RFID scanners, proximity beacons, intelligent dressing rooms, magic mirrors), and loyalty applications (PriceFinder, OmniShopper, Customer Experience Tracking); our retail customers will bring direct value to their top line revenue, and bottom line margin by gaining real-time Retail Insights that can then drive Supply Chain Agility. Enable our retail customers to put the right products at the right price in the right channel for the target customers.
DP: IoT is all about connectivity. When you are using smart connectivity for your product development it can start to work completely differently. So, looking at a product you are testing – you might test this product using testimonials and feedback; a sportswear brand could get the feedback that “I was sweating more in this, and less in this”. What if, today you could add sensors to this? You could see why people were reacting a certain way. It would start to work completely differently.
Let’s think about intelligent samples – for example, a sample itself would know it is the first prototype and needs to be approved. You can bypass a situation whereby you aren’t sure if this is the first or second sample. Then, you can have the possibility of smart connection where you are combining mobility functions with the platform itself. From this, you can get mash-ups, dashboards where you can connect all of these dots together. And if you don’t know where your sample is – which is often the case – you can find it with connectivity. Your iPhone will tell you “it’s in that room because it passed through this”.
MH: Great. So, we have seen that the show this year is placing some emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility; there are a couple of events at least exploring sustainability. How does your solution support CSR?
AK: PTC Windchill FlexPLM supports Corporate Social Responsibility by enabling integrated management of various types of regulations, supporting both governmental and internal guidelines to ensure social, environmental, safety or technical compliance of all kinds of partners in the value chain. Besides communication of relevant regulations, relevant third parties in the supply chain can be audited in a multi-layer procedure and based on auditing results joint development steps can be defined and followed up.
PTC has Inter-Product Analytics, which is integrated to PDM-Link. And PDM-Link, as a Windchill platform, is where we are now aligned. The Product Analytics tool is not only about this compliance check, it’s also about analysing customer structures. So, I suppose, the capability and integration are both there, but the process map continues to evolve in how this fits a customer’s sourcing and channel/market distribution of products.
MH: In terms of new enhancements, what do you see as emerging process developments to your software solution in the next twelve months?
AK: Three things:
- The introduction of role based / task based apps built with the latest UI technology for the most appropriate device for the end user (desktop, tablet, mobile, augmented reality platform etc.).
- Expansion of vendor portal capability to facilitate hard line sourcing and product co-development.
- Expanding Solution breadth to support Consumer goods industry (early success already with companies like Hasbro, and a few others which, unfortunately, are private).
MH: Finally, at Texprocess we see a broad range of systems (2D, 3D, CAM, PLM etc.) that fall under the umbrella of ‘Core PLM & Extended PLM’; do you have plans in place to embrace and integrate other systems into your solution platform? Or, do you already partner with other solutions?
AK: We are continuing to improve our integration with Adobe AI and plan to expand with other Adobe products through partnership.
We are working with partners such as Optitex to provide tight integration with 3D CAD Tools. FlexPLM already provides integration with Creo, Solidworks, CATIA, and UG.
We are also building an infrastructure of web services that will facilitate basic (file management or Digital Asset Management) and advanced integration with CAD, supply chain, and enterprise solutions.
*Watch out for more interviews from Texprocess over the coming weeks.