PTC Sees SMBs as “Essential” to Its Business

While opportunities for new or replacement product lifecycle management (PLM) systems at large enterprises are rare, neither is the small to medium business (SMB) market fully exploited. To that end, PTC recently announced the release of PTC Windchill PDM Essentials, the company’s product data management (PDM) software.

The product aims to bring concurrent engineering to smaller organizations to organize and manage their product content so that they can improve design reuse, broaden access to product information across roles, and ensure control over design versions and release processes. The highlights of PTC Windchill PDM Essentials include the following:

  • Centralized vaulting and revision control of multiple computer-aided design (CAD) models, their structures, and relationship, such as PTC Creo, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Autodesk Inventor, Pro/ENGINEER, PTC Creo Elements/Direct, and PTC MathCAD

  • Efficient management of office documents, such as Microsoft Word and Excel, by controlling changes through “check in” and “check out” functionality

  • Astute search tools and easy copying or renaming of existing designs to accelerate product information discovery and promote design reuse

  • Scheduling and automatic publishing of “viewables” and other formats such as thumbnails and PDFs

Some Historical Background

The SMB space has long been important to PTC (and other PLM/CAD vendors for that matter), given that while SMBs may have only a few CAD licenses, they still need a CAD data management solution. In the early days, PTC had a dedicated Windchill/Pro INTRALINK PDM product for handling its flagship CAD product, Pro/Engineer (Pro/E). In addition to not really being interoperable with other CAD systems, INTRALINK was also a heavy client product during the client-server era. Since then, Windchill PDMlink has proven to be a much better PDM solution—it's Web-based, open to multiple CAD products, and a foundation module for all other Windchill PLM suite modules. On the down side, PDMlink is a full-featured PDM system that comes as a toolset requiring lots of configuration, a lengthy implementation, and a steep learning curve.

Thus, aiming to provide a simpler PDM product for smaller enterprises, in 2008 PTC introduced Microsoft SharePoint–based PTC Windchill ProductPoint. After some initial success and traction, some challenges cropped up, maligning ProductPoint—it was quietly done away with last year. The product didn't work for several reasons, but the most important was that even SMBs need lots of Windchill PDM functionality, which it didn't deliver. Also, SharePoint has had some issues with annotations, and it has different document access permissions than Windchill. This functional catch-up game made it quite costly for PTC to continue to have two PDM platforms.

Enter PDM Essentials

Back to a single platform, PTC Windchill PDM Essentials is right-sized for the existing needs of smaller teams and companies (but it provides the foundation for additional capabilities that a growing company may require in the future). PDM Essentials is basically a role-based, template-based, preconfigured bundle in an optimized Microsoft Windows environment. It is sold on a concurrent user base, primarily to compete with Autodesk Vault, SolidWorks EPDM (formerly PDMWorks), Omnify, Softech, and Synergis Software. Siemens’ Teamcenter Express and Dassault Systemes’ ENOVIA Express still target enterprises that are a tad larger than the aforementioned SMB PDM offerings do.

In North America, PTC is initially relying on TriStar, its largest Windchill sales and services partner worldwide, to bring this product to the SMB marketplace. TriStar has been pre-selling the product for the last month or so, and on the day PTC officially released the SMB PDM product for sale it reportedly sold several copies to those customers that had been awaiting the release. Other channel partners will follow suit soon.
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