Technology profile: PTC’s Windchill Technology

PTC's Windchill logo

PTC’s Windchill logo

By Robert Israel

Put yourself in the shoes of an IS manager of a large corporation and imagine you face the following scenario:

As it has grown, the organization you work for has added on new computer equipment, running a myriad of disparate software applications. The result is hardware and software that is decentralized and diverse, complicating delivery of product information. The purchasing department, for example, is using software to keep track of material suppliers and stock. However, their software product does not enable them to access the engineering department’s product models in order to price out and order the materials needed in real time to aid in the manufacturing of the company’s products. The bottleneck in information flow leads to increased time to market, which is time no company can afford.

For countless IS managers, solving the information management challenge has been difficult and expensive. According to the Gartner Group, numerous corporations, despite expanding over $4.5 billion spending in recent years on enterprise information management software, have been frustrated with the results. Some managers report wrestling with implementing enterprise software for one or two years, only to have successful integration evade them.

For manufacturers, Windchill, a product data management tracking tool, enables users to “integrate and streamline the management and communication of product information by using Web or internet architecture,” according to Dan Murphy, former product manager at Parametic Technology Corporation (PTC) of Waltham, Mass. (Murphy is now a vice president at Axeda Corp., based in Foxboro, Mass.)

“By basing the architecture totally on the Web,” Murphy added, “information which had previously been inflexible can now be flexibly adapted and deployed to meet the challenges of changing business systems.”

Windchill has, over the years, enjoyed financial backing from Sun Microsystems in California, the Airbus Consortium in France, and other national and international investors.

Windchill works by using a familiar Web-page format to deliver product information to the user community, and creates a technology platform for application development. Its scalable Java applications fit into the widely installed client/serve infrastructure.

Windchill user begins by viewing the company’s product life management (PLM) information home page via a commercial web browser. From there, the user navigates to work areas and product information in the familiar browser-based manner. Using pre-built application modules, users can perform all the vital tasks of product data management, namely, vaulting, workflow, life-cycle management, product structure, view management and change management. The web interface can be made available in multiple ways to anyone in the organization — engineering, sales, purchasing, inventory, even outside suppliers — in a format that is geared to the user’s specific needs.

Windchill was first developed in 1996 and has been updated and improved over the years. As a result of these improvements, Windchill offers IS managers, who often face daunting communications challenges, a way to create enterprise-wide communication.

Robert Israel can be reached at A version of this report appeared in AltaVista MarketSpace Magazine (Maynard, Mass.)


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