PTC Highlights Automation Industry Use of Its Technology

May 23, 2023
Application of PTC software by automation suppliers such as Balluff, Festo and Schneider Electric highlight broad use of the company’s design and connectivity software as the company continues to expand its reach.

All major events in the technology industry feature key customer highlights as a predominant feature of the event’s kick-off session. Considering PTC’s broad range of design and IoT software products—such as its familiar Creo CAD, Windchill PLM and Vuforia augmented reality offerings—as well as its customer base that includes household names such as HP, Merck, Hitachi, Carlsberg Group, Toro, Toyota and Volvo—plenty of customer case examples were expected at the first LiveWorx held since the start of the pandemic.

More unexpected was how many of these customers are automation technology suppliers.

During his kick-off presentation, Jim Heppelman, CEO of PTC, first focused on how we are all experiencing one of the “greatest periods of change for industrial companies.” He said this change, of course, revolves around the digital transformation of industry, adding that, in many of its initial uses, the term “digital transformation” commonly referred to technology upgrades and alignment to boost speed to market. Though the term still refers to that, Heppelman said it now also connects to manufacturing reshoring, greater operating efficiencies, easier compliance and more intelligence based on industry adaptations post-COVID.

He added that PTC has invested $3 billion in development and acquisitions since 2019—including Intland Software for its CodeBeamer asset lifecycle management software, Arena for its SaaS CAD and PLM software, and ServiceMax for its field service software. Much of PTC’s development expenditures have centered on extending PTC’s existing capabilities into software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings.

PTC Atlas is the portfolio name for all of PTC’s SaaS products, which include: Creo+, Windchill+, Thingworx+, CodeBeamer+, Kepware+ ad Vuforia+.

Hardware development at Balluff and Festo

As a supplier of industrial sensors, HMIs, networking, power supplies and related software, Balluff is family-run company with a global presence in 68 countries and headquarters near Stuttgart, Germany. To boost its global collaboration capabilities, Balluff adopted Windchill+, the SaaS version of PTC’s Windchill PLM (produce lifecycle management) software. PTC says Windchill+ offers the same capabilities as the on-premises version of Windchill with additional SaaS features of built-in security, real-time collaboration and zero downtime upgrades.

Florian Hermle, managing director at Balluff, said the company used to host its systems on premises in Germany. However, the global reach of the company created performance and bandwidth issues.

According to Hermle, PTC’s Windchill+ provides Balluff with global accessibility with the same level of speed and security as on-premises systems. He said this allows Balluff engineers to more effectively collaborate across countries and time zones, adding that the company is using Windchill+ not just for hardware design, but software development as well.

Heppelman underscored the collaborative capabilities of PTC’s SaaS products noting, for example, the dynamic real time multi-user collaboration in Creo+ means that multiple users can work on one doc at same time without having to check the document in and out.

Festo, a supplier of pneumatic and electric automation technologies, uses PTC’s CodeBeamer asset lifecycle management (ALM) and Windchill PLM. Like Balluff, Festo is a family-owned Germany-based company with operations in 60 countries.

Christian Tarragona, Festo vice president and head of the company’s robotics division, said the company’s diverse array of technology products means they have to manage a variety of requirements from different companies. “This explodes the need for software,” he said and led them to explore the use of agile development (a process more well-known in the software industry) for different components across the company.

Heppelman noted that Festo employs the waterfall methodology for its agile hardware development applications.

According to, the waterfall methodology is “a linear approach to project management that requires each phase to be completed before moving on to the next. It is so named since it is a sequential software development process that flows in a downward motion like a waterfall, with each project phase cascading into the next.”

Steve Eppinger, professor of management science and innovation at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said agile development methods used for software can be used in hardware development now because “we have the right tools.” He explained this transfer of methodologies is possible because hardware companies, which used to work on large scale, (i.e., what they needed to achieve this year), are increasingly focused on achieving specific value in a shorter time period to show progress and absorb learnings along the way.

“Agile is gaining attention because remote work showed how effective a distributed team can be with the right tools and disciplines,” Eppinger said. “Now we have cloud-based tools that allow distributed teams to collaborate easily. We’re on the verge of seeing agile used in pretty much every realm of engineering.”

Heppelman added that PTC’s Onshape SaaS CAD and Arena PLM and quality management software can be used for agile product development of software and hardware products.

Asset service use by Schneider Electric

Noting how the ease of making changes to a product becomes much more difficult once it leaves the software realm and becomes physical, Heppleman said, “you need a technician with parts and tools to change anything. And this can lead to parts being changed differently around the world.”

To track these changes for more effective maintenance, each product’s serial number should be connected with these physical changes. That’s where PTC’s ServiceMax acquisition (the largest in the company’s history) comes into play. ServiceMax enables PTC to achieve its vision for “a complete digital thread for total lifecycle management,” Heppelman said.

Schneider Electric uses ServiceMax and Windchill as part of its “asset-centric strategy to link services and IoT asset data to become more predictive and unlock new services,” Heppelman said.

PTC sees its own asset-centric vision for service lifecycle management as being a unique approach. With ServiceMax serving as the asset system record to drive asset-centric work execution, PTC is connecting it to Windchill to provide access to bills of materials and digital twins to serve as the digital product system of record. Meanwhile, ThingWorx is used for remote connectivity and monitoring of connected products, Vuforia provides 3D work instructions via augmented reality, PTC arbortext supplies dynamic service information, PTC Warranty can be used for streamlined warranty claims along with PTC Servigistics for spare parts management and integration with Salesforce as the customer system of record.

About the Author

David Greenfield, editor in chief | Editor in Chief

David Greenfield joined Automation World in June 2011. Bringing a wealth of industry knowledge and media experience to his position, David’s contributions can be found in AW’s print and online editions and custom projects. Earlier in his career, David was Editorial Director of Design News at UBM Electronics, and prior to joining UBM, he was Editorial Director of Control Engineering at Reed Business Information, where he also worked on Manufacturing Business Technology as Publisher. 

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