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From CAD User Mechanical Magazine Vol 24 No 05 - June/July 2012
PTC's Windchill 10.0 puts 'wind in the sails' of the widely used PLM package, making it more user-friendly and introducing a user customisable interface
There’s a big difference, it turns out, between 'user customisable interface' and 'customisable user interface'. Having spent the last so many years developing a PLM package to meet the needs of the manufacturer, PTC has decided to give its individual users the opportunity to mould the package to suit their particular ways of working.
This all comes with the recently launched Windchill 10.0, the latest version of PTC’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution. Those that follow the PLM market will know that Windchill has become one of the leaders in the field since PTC acquired it in 1998. From its genesis as a new breed of tool for managing the complex data, interactions and workflows associated with the product development process, it's now on its 10th major revision.
For all those already using Windchill, the biggest news is the much more streamlined and customisable user experience. While undoubtedly powerful, Windchill has always had a reputation for being somewhat less than intuitive. Windchill 10.0 changes all of that, and the user interface has been completely rethought in line with today's expectations.
Customisation is now allowed by both the enterprise implementing the system and those interacting with it on a daily, if not hourly, basis. On a per-user basis, this means that each user can configure the interface to present the information they need - whether they are project updates, work items or whatever - and where it's needed most.
RICHER PRODUCT MODELS EQUALS DEEPER KNOWLEDGE
Besides improving the user experience, major enhancements to Windchill 10.0 include the depth of product data that can be managed within the software. The last few years have seen the company add support to not only traditional 3D and 2D CAD data, but to the usual raft of documents as well. The integration and management of electronic data was added a while back, but 10.0 now includes the management of embedded software development information.
As well as handling the development of the software (in terms of build, release and delivery), it will also integrate it fully into complete digital models and their inherent product structures. This ensures that the correct code is always available and linked to the correct product, throughout its development. Windchill integrates with a wide range of today's development platforms, whether it's ClearCase, JIRA or more open source options, such as Eclipse, Bugzilla or Subversion.
GREATER COMPLEXITY VS CUSTOMISABILTY
For those involved in the development of complex products, Windchill 10.0 adds a raft of new capabilities that are also designed to make life much easier. For instance, the system now allows users to more effectively manage complex variants in a product range, enabling them to create design variations long before CAD data has to be brought into the mix.
Using an intuitive interface, customer requirements can be introduced and products created that accurately reflect complex variants, dependencies and configuration rules - in a very short space of time. These Variant and Design Generation tools allow an enterprise to see exactly what has been specified and is being worked upon - giving the right sort of information to those responsible for project management, taken from what is, essentially, a list of product features (and/or sub-systems) and options, in the form of a Bill of Materials, and use it to drive the design and engineering process.
The design process is also backed up with greater support for large assemblies and tools for top-down design -approaches that should always be linked to the eventual CAD structures, making product configurations more intelligent, and enabling the knowledge developed on one product to be used in subsequent projects.
Analytics is much more prevalent than it was just a few years ago - describing the application of computer technology, operational research and statistics to solve problems in business and industry. Companies can use analytics within Windchill to leverage the wealth of data and provide gateways and greater visibility to all aspects of a development project.
Analytical tools in Windchill 10.0 cover four distinct core areas. Three of those relate to tracking materials used within products, but each of them has a discreet function. At the core is Windchill Materials & Substances, providing a central storage facility for the content of parts and products in substantial detail. Those of you who are experienced in compliance will be aware that all materials must be stripped down to their chemical level (or CAS reference).
On top of this, Windchill Compliance brings together the technology that PTC acquired from PlanetMetrics - tools to manage and report upon the compliance of products with a wide range of regulations and requirements, such as REACH and RoHS. Finally, on the materials front, Windchill LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) manages and reports on the environmental impact of all parts, products and supply chain.
The fourth analytical tool is Cost Analytics. This has the potential to provide much greater insight into the cost of projects and products, allowing an organization, in the first instance, to define rough estimates at the very beginning of a project, and then to refine the costs as the project develops. Using BOM management tools, project managers can either taker a high-level snapshot of overall costs, or delve into the project and take a much more detailed view.
Combined with 3D data visualisation tools from Creo Elements/View (as well as more traditional charting tools), the user then has a set of tools that allows them to find out where costs lie, where they're building up and where things are on track - in a very digestible manner.
PLM adoption faces several challenges within an enterprise, not the least of which is knocking down the prejudices that exist in old-style management. To get most out of the system, it's critical that all users are fully engaged and able to work within the system. PTC's work on the user interface means that all operators can configure their own workspace, ensuring that they can get the most out of Windchill from the word go.
Work done on other areas adds depth to the system, like the new embedded software development tools, which provide everyone involved in the development, sales and servicing of a product with a much more holistic understanding of the complete product - simplifying and providing access to the geometry, the documentation of the product, the electronics - and any other associated scrap of information!
Analytics is intriguing. First of all, Compliance and LCA tools are becoming more critical for many organisations. Within an OEM environment, the ability to centralise all of the materials and substance data of a product, whether generated in-house or by suppliers, and interrogate them from both the compliance and environmental impact perspective, is invaluable. Alternatively, if you are part of a supply chain like most companies, such tools allow you to manage your own products more effectively before supplying your customers.
Windchill is a leader in the PLM world and allows you to track almost anything involved in the product development process. While its background is in 3D design and the associated data, Windchill 10.0 shows that PTC are expanding the parameters of what can - and what should - be managed during a product's lifecycle.
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