Last month, as PTC rolled out a new version of its PLM software, Windchill 10.0, the company also resurrected a dying name from the browser history. Navigator, the moniker that once belonged to Netscape’s browser, has been picked up by Windchill. The 10th release of PTC’s Windchill comes with its own PLM Navigator.
As the name suggests, Windchill’s Navigator looks — and behaves — a lot more like Windows Explorer and a standard browser than a PLM application. The search window and browse function are never far from your fingertips. Navigator also remembers your browsing history, just like your favorite web browser, so you can always trace your steps back to a certain part’s requirements or a supplier’s compliance history with a few clicks. You can save your search results, narrow them down with additional filters, or export them as Excel spreadsheets.
If your work happens to revolve around a certain project, you can make that your home page in Windchill. So you’ll always be starting your PLM session with a full report on your outstanding change orders, files you’ve checked out, and files you’ve assigned to others. At the part level, most files you see in Windchill’s Navigator gives you access to tabs with critical attributes: change history, structure, related objects, where used, and so on.
There’s also a Windows integration plug-in, called Windows Desktop Integration. With this plug-in installed, you can access Windchill-indexed documents right from Windows Explorer. You may also check in or check out certain design-related documents right from Microsoft Office applications like Word or Excel.
Just as PTC’s rival Siemens PLM Software and Autodesk have been experimenting with different ways to display product and project data in CAD models, PTC is incorporating similar display functions. In Windchill Cost, the PLM module for cost analysis, you’ll have the option to display cost overruns and budget issues in the assembly model itself.
Responding to rising demands for sustainable design development tools, PTC now offers Windchill LCA, a module for manufacturers who’re interested in lifecycle assessment, sustainability, and compliance. Windchill LCA ships with several material data sets, such as Carnegie Mellon Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment database, and also interacts with International Material Data System (IMDS), a standard in automotive industry.
PTC has also revamped the interface of Windchill SocialLink, the company’s social media-inspired module for community management and collaboration. In the latest version, the desktop client gives you access to both communities as well as collaborators in a single pane, making it easier to interact with group members as well as groups. Over time, PTC may allow users to post questions and comments to SocialLink communities right from within their authoring environment, such as Creo Elements/Pro and Mathcad.
SocialLink is currently designed to deploy internally (within a company’s firewall or enterprise IT network), but PTC may explore cloud-hosted deployment scenarios if its customers show interest. Currently, SocialLink is designed to facilitate communication with only internal sources (internal communities that focus on medical equipment or heavy machinery, for example), but SocialLink R&D team is also looking to enable subscription to public, online communities that offer RSS feeds in the future.
With visual data display, Windows integration, and social media functions, PTC joins its rivals to dramatically overhaul product data management. Dassault Systemes, PTC, and Siemens PLM Software may disagree on what PLM should look like, but they seem to agree that traditional data management interfaces just won’t cut anymore.