PTC Windchill version 9.0 was certified by TEC in January 2010 and version 10.0 was certified recently. Since the latest iteration of the software is considered by PTC to be “the most significant Windchill release in PTC’s history,” I was curious to see the differences in functionality between the two certified versions and gauge whether this was not in fact an overstatement. The first part of this article looks at the functionality covered in TEC's Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Evaluation Center and the second part describes how the new PTC Windchill 10.0 family of products works as one suite for product creation, development, and lifecycle management.
Dominant Functionality Across the Board
In the TEC Certification Report for PTC Windchill 9.0, the product is described to offer above-average functionality for most modules—except for Service Data Management (for discrete manufacturing industries) and Ideation and Requirements Management. This has changed in version 10 (as described in the new TEC Certification Report), which not only offers an above-average level of support for all modules, but also surpasses the average product in the PLM industry by a large margin.
In order to assess the capabilities of PTC Windchill, we first need to define an average solution by using data about real software products available on the PLM market. To this end, we assign numeric ratings representing various levels of support of the average solution for each module in TEC’s PLM Evaluation Center, in order to determine the average score of a typical PLM product. The industry average forms the benchmark from which we calculate the difference in functionality offered by the PTC product. We then create graphs showing the level of support provided by both PTC Windchill and the average solution for the different functionalities of each module. For more details on this determination and on the certification process as a whole, please read this blog post.
Let’s take a look at the major changes in functionality, as reflected in the TEC Certification reports for versions 9 and 10 of PTC Windchill:
- Core PLM for Discrete Industries is one of the modules where both versions of PTC Windchill offer enhanced functionality, compared with the average PLM solution on the market, as shown in the two graphs below.
The first important difference between the two versions is for product cost estimation functionality, for which PTC Windchill 9 offers a lower level of support than the average solution, whereas version 10 fully supports it out of the box. Functionality for change management, design and project collaboration, and computer aided design (CAD) design integration has also been significantly improved in version 10.
- Core PLM for Process Industries is another module where the new functionality for product cost estimation has a great influence on the overall level of support. Another important difference between the versions is that functionality for quality specification management for process industries is fully supported out of the box in the latest version, whereas it is not supported at all in version 9.
Though PTC Windchill does not focus on process industries, which explains why functionality for recipe management is still not supported in version 10, the product definitely saw improvements for other functionality, such as material specifications management, design and project collaboration, change management, and release to enterprise.
- Manufacturing Process Management functionality has been enhanced for production process planning, but the most important change is for ergonomic evaluation and simulation, which is not supported in version 9, but is almost fully supported in version 10.
- Service Data Management functionality has been enhanced not only by improvements made to product service parts, but also by the recent acquisition of 4CS, a service lifecycle management vendor providing functionality to manage policies, execution, tracking, and analysis of service activities. Windchill 10 offers full out-of-the-box support for product identification, product as-built and as-is configuration, and product service parts.
- Regulatory and Compliance shows good improvements in version 10 for design for compliance and management of hazardous and controlled substances, but the most important enhancements are for the managing recyclables and controlled waste, which is at par with the average solution in version 9, but is fully supported in the latest version.
Other enhancements made to the latest version of PTC Windchill are for the Ideation and Requirements Management module (from <60% coverage in version 9 to full out-of-the-box support in version 10) and the Product Development and Portfolio Management module (full support for portfolio management in version 10).
A Closer Look at What’s New in Windchill 10
All these enhancements have been done through internal development to extend existing core functionality and through integration with other products from the PTC family of products and acquisitions (e.g., 4CS). Let’s take a closer look at how all these pieces come together to build a strong PTC Windchill product, which is now more than ever a strong competitor for other PLM vendors (you can use TEC Advisor to compare PTC Windchill version 10 with other software in our PLM Evaluation Center, free of charge).
PTC Windchill 10 brings technical enhancements for users and administrators to not only easily customize and use the system, but also monitor its performance. Here are some of the most important technical new features in the latest version:
- The new interface is easy to use and customize for both the everyday user and administrators installing and configuring the solution. Users can create new tabs, and decide on what type of information they contain and how it’s displayed.
- The new Navigator has two tabs: one for search (includes saved searches, search history, and advanced search utility) and browse (for different types of contexts—e.g., product), including a breadcrumb trail that displays the navigation hierarchy of the object.
- The open source search engine Solr replaces the FAST Enterprise Search Platform (ESP) product (acquired by Microsoft in 2008) used by Windchill in previous versions. Solr offers functionality for full-text searching, dynamic clustering, database integration, rich-document management, and geospatial searching.
- Windchill Desktop Integration lets users better integrate PTC Windchill with Microsoft Office tools. With this tool, users can take advantage of Windows Explorer’s inheritance of Windchill document management functionality to open and edit documents in Windchill directly, without needing to open a new Office window.
- System administration has been enhanced by a new patch deployment system, a troubleshooting utility (System Configuration Collector), which better connects users and technical support teams, and integration with Dynatrace, a third-party solution for system monitoring and performance management.
From a functional perspective, here are some of the major enhancements introduced in PTC Windchill version 10:
- CAD Data Management to verify configurations across multiple product families and understand how changes in configuration affect other parts of the product. Part structures can be compared and design changes automatically detected and flagged for resolution for global collaboration.
- EBOM and MBOM Management in Windchill MPMLink, which now has a dual structure explorer to not only display both the engineering bills of materials (EBOM) and the corresponding manufacturing bill of materials (MBOM), but also to drag and drop parts from one to another, and synchronize or detach the MBOM from the original EBOM. Option filters defined in EBOM can now be applied in MBOM. Finally, Creo Elements View can be used to visualize the modifications.
- Windchill Parts is a new interface to build and maintain relationships between different parts. Windchill Web Parts for SharePoint allows for data access and sharing not only between the two products, but also to and from enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and other business software solutions.
- Windchill Quality Solutions is now enterprise-wide and based on close loop performance feedback to collect production failure and performance data from testing, manufacturing, and field use, which can be communicated for design changes. New functionality lets users align as-designed, as-tested, and as-maintained BOMs. Changes in PDMLink updates let users check new configuration and create tests. Corrective actions can be taken by looking at similar issues for other products using the same components, and the enterprise-wide correction workflow can search for the root cause of the problem.
- Service Information Management extends to after-sales activities through the new Service Information Manager application (single location for service information, including specifications, instructions for maintenance and repairs, and even training materials) and the new Service Parts application (to create a spare part strategy, transform the EBOM into a service BOM, ensure that spare parts are synchronized, and create a spare parts lists in the Spare Parts Editor Application).
- Product Analytics helps users understand how design changes affect compliance by performing environmental assessment, such as greenhouse emission for components. Product cost analysis can determine cost estimates for configuration at or below the target cost and show which components contribute most to the total cost. Environmental compliance BOM reports check all components with the option to drill down to substances or sub-components to ensure that rules and regulations are followed.
Though PTC claims that version 10 is “the most significant Windchill release in PTC’s history,” I find it hard to believe that a new version can radically improve a PLM solution. However, PTC Windchill 10 accomplishes something really significant: it offers strong core functionality (as described in the graphs above), extended functionality provided by partners (e.g., Solr, Dynatrace) or other products from the WIndchill family (e.g., Creo, ProjectLink, PPMLink), and a new, more flexible interface for not only better deployment and administration, but also easier daily use.