Augmented reveals the stories behind the new era of industrial operations, where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers.
In this episode of the podcast, the topic is "Product Lifecycle Management's Momentum in Manufacturing." Our guest is Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC (https://www.ptc.com/). In this conversation, we talk about the why and the how of product lifecycle management's momentum in manufacturing.
If you like this show, subscribe at augmentedpodcast.co (https://www.augmentedpodcast.co/). If you like this episode, you might also like Episode 93: Industry 4.0 Tools (https://www.augmentedpodcast.co/93).
Augmented is a podcast for industry leaders, process engineers, and shop floor operators, hosted by futurist Trond Arne Undheim (https://trondundheim.com/) and presented by Tulip (https://tulip.co/).
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The momentum is clear, and one indication is the trend that PLM is being elevated to an enterprise system. But why is PLM such a hot market right now? One key word is greenhouse gas reduction because companies need a system of record to track their emissions, and this is not easy to do without a system in place.
TROND: Welcome to another episode of the Augmented Podcast. Augmented brings industrial conversations that matter, serving up the most relevant conversations on industrial tech. Our vision is a world where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers.
In this episode of the podcast, the topic is Product Lifecycle Management's Momentum in Manufacturing. Our guest is Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC. In this conversation, we talk about the why and the how of product lifecycle management's momentum in manufacturing.
Augmented serves an audience of executives, industry leaders, investors, founders, educators, technologists, academics, process engineers, and shop floor operators across the emerging field of frontline operation. And it's hosted by futurist Trond Arne Undheim and presented by Tulip.
Jim, welcome to the show. How are you?
JIM: I'm great, Trond. Great to be with you here this morning.
TROND: Yeah, Jim. I thought we would talk a little bit about industrial automation and some specifics. But first of all, I wanted to talk a little bit about you. You grew up in Minnesota, got yourself a mechanical engineering degree, and became an entrepreneur, and sold your company to PTC. You were the CTO, I guess, for a while and now the CEO. It's been quite a journey.
JIM: Yeah, it's fun. And by the way, industrial automation and related topics is my favorite topic. I was born on a dairy farm in Southeastern Minnesota, part of a very large family. It was a tough life. We never quite had enough money. So I was ambitious. I wanted to do something. I wanted to have a better life than I grew up with, not that it was bad, but maybe I wanted to have a little bit more economic security.
I decided to become an engineer because I had spent a lot of time with equipment, machines, using them but also fixing them, taking them apart, putting them back together. I was good at math and science. So I went into mechanical engineering, but right away, I was drawn to software. And so I really got a major in mechanical engineering, a minor in computer science, and focused on how do you use computer science to do engineering? That led me to join a computer-aided design company, a CAD company.
As an intern, I was assigned to a new idea they had which they called product data management. It was not very glamorous compared to the graphics of CAD, where you could twirl models around on the screen and so forth. So it's the kind of thing that you assigned to a new intern. As an intern, I took to it; I mean, it made a lot of sense to me. So basically, that's what I specialized in in my career, especially the early part of my career.
And I became quite an expert at PLM, or at the time; it was called PDM. That led me, ultimately, when I was exposed to the internet, to say, "Wow, if you really leverage web technology with a light client, a web browser, make it easy for people to engage no matter what company they're in, then you could have whole supply chains working together in a very efficient way.
So that led me to create a company called Windchill Technology, kind of a funny name based on a company in Minnesota; that's where the Windchill part comes from. But PTC came to acquire this company, and the business just really took off at PTC. In the ensuing years, I became the Chief Technology Officer across all of PTC, and then, as you said, that led to becoming the Chief Executive Officer a dozen years ago.
It's been a great ride. It's been a lot of fun. We've accomplished a lot. The technology has come so far. Hard to imagine in the early days, it would end up here. But it's been a very exciting career trajectory, for sure.
TROND: So, Jim, before we move into talking about product lifecycle management, I wanted to ask you a more generic question: what is the most challenging part of being a CEO? So you've gone from being an entrepreneur to being a CEO of a much larger structure here. What's exciting, and what's challenging about that?
JIM: Yeah, I mean, I think what is exciting is also challenging, which is so much context-switching. In a single day, I go from worrying about budgets and financial plans to meeting with happy customers, sometimes frustrated customers to meeting with sales teams and R&D teams and R&D projects. And it's just a constant switch from one topic to another, which is exciting because they're all topics I like.
But it puts a lot of pressure on you to very quickly remember where you left this conversation off last time you were involved and how to dive right back in and pick it up. And I think there's some pressure that comes from that, you know, to be on your toes ready to go and just switch from topic to topic to topic. And then, of course, there's the pressure of a public company that every 90 days, we have an earnings call. And our investors want to hear good news. Fortunately, we've had a lot of good news, but there's always a lot of pressure to make sure you keep it going.
TROND: I wanted to jump then to product lifecycle management which is a specialty topic to you; it's not, right? Because you've been involved with this for a while, [laughs] and it's a passion for you. I guess in industrial automation; there are a lot of three-letter acronyms and such. But if you'd give your best way to explain how this software got started, what was the original intention? I mean, this is a while back now. We're talking 1998 when this software suite got created when Windchill started creating this software. What did it do then, and what does it do now?
JIM: Well, PLM is really the system of record for product data. So if you think of salesforce.com, they got started just a couple of years later. They're a system of record for customer information, the 360-degree view of the customer. And in most companies, they have an ERP system, and that's the system of record for the financial data, all the purchase orders, and invoices, and whatnot, and might have a human resource information system, something like Workday, that's the system of record for all your employees.
But if you're an industrial company that makes products, you have a lot of product data. And where is the system you can go to to find and interact with that data in your day-to-day job as part of that product development, or manufacturing, or customer support process? And so PLM really has become that system of record. And for an industrial company that makes products, it's a pretty important system of record. Like a CRM system or an ERP system, you're not just collecting and managing the data; you're also transacting against it, applying change orders, and building configurations of it, and whatnot. So PLM has become recognized in industrial companies as a critical anchor system of record. That's the way I like to think about it.
TROND: Yeah, and we'll get into some of it after a while. But I guess product lifecycle is something that has gone much higher on the agenda for environmental reasons and others. So, I guess, if you think about a product from its ideation and to its disposal, essentially, it's a long chain of events that such a system, theoretically, could help a company with.
JIM: Yeah, for sure. And just to go a little deeper in that, a lot of products are made of mechanical parts, electronic parts, software parts. They come in lots of different configurations. They change from year to year and sometimes month to month, so there are a lot of engineers and product managers involved. And then purchasing gets involved, and supply chain management gets involved because very few companies build everything themselves; they work with a supply chain.
Then you're bringing in the factory and production planners, and then ultimately, the production process. They need this data, and they need the right configurations and versions of it. Then you ship the product to the customer, and you provide, in many cases, service and support. And you can't do that well without understanding the configuration of the product and all the versions of mechanical electronics and software parts in it.
Really what we're talking about is, yeah, following that product throughout its lifecycle. Sometimes I like to use a golf analogy, like the front nine and the back nine on an 18-hole course. The front nine is everything that leads up to the product being manufactured, and the back nine is everything that happens thereafter. And to really do product lifecycle management, you have to think of all 18 holes, and that's kind of the focus we've had here at PTC.
TROND: To what extent is product development kind of a management discipline, and to what extent do you feel like it's a technical discipline? And c