With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) comes the power for businesses to get to the next level — but harnessing this power is a different story. Enter PTC’s ThingWorx — a technology platform designed to enable the deployment of cutting-edge applications and augmented reality (AR) experiences by delivering the right tools and strategies at the right time. The best part? ThingWorx seamlessly integrates with other PTC technologies.
Although ThingWorx is a relatively new technology, many businesses are making it a focal point of their toolbox because it has the potential to deliver value to a business and improve results. This podcast walks through 3 specific use cases that deliver results to 3 separate functional areas by leveraging ThingWorx. Listen to find out exactly how ThingWorx can enable an industrial business’ growth from an expert — Sandra Humphrey who is a senior consultant at ArcherGrey.
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The transcript is close to a literal transcript of the spoken word. Please excuse any grammatical errors, spelling errors or break in the flow. The podcast is a non-scripted conversation with natural flow aimed to deliver value. The transcript is generated by a computer.
Patrick: Welcome to the ArcherGrey Quick 30, Sandra Humphrey is our guest today. Thanks for being willing to sit down with us.
Sandra: Yes, hi Patrick. I’m glad to get the opportunity to sit down and talk about the internet of things and how that applies to real business.
Patrick: Yeah, great. There’s been a lot of discussion that I’ve heard with clients and people in the marketplace, especially with PTC and their marketing efforts around IOT and all the technology that supports it. Then this evolution from PLM, Product Lifecycle Management, to thinking about it more from a digital thread of, hey, the data exists, what are we going to do with it? Who’s consuming it and how can they leverage it for business value?
Patrick: One of the things that I wanted to talk about today was around the topic of ThingWorx. I think a lot of people have been exploring it, but they’ve been exploring it from a proof of concept perspective and they may be considering it. We’re starting to see large conversions of organizations that have established solid business value and they’re moving forward with it. I know you’ve got tremendous experience in that and that’s a topic I’d like to focus on if that’s all right with you.
Patrick: All right. Good. Tell us a little bit about yourself first, who you are, what you’re doing now, and a little bit of your history.
Sandra: Yeah, so I just joined ArcherGrey a couple of months ago as a consultant for the Windchill implementations. Previously I was at Fujitsu, network communications in Texas, and my responsibility was card tool administration, process improvement, engineering change process and looking at new technology. As I was there for 20 years. Over the time we were always encouraged to improve processes and simplify things for not just the engineers, but for manufacturing the handoff from engineering to manufacturing, how manufacturing can improve their processes with the data that they’re given from engineering. I was approached by PTC because I attend their conferences regularly about ThingWorx and how that can be used at Fujitsu.
Patrick: Fujitsu is a large organization, so I know that you were a division of that. Tell us a little bit about what products you were associated with.
Sandra: Yeah, so we did telecom equipment, so switches and optical networking equipment. Majority of the cell phone companies were our customers, the large down to cable and city network services. They were boxes basically of equipment that connected up and moved data around.
Patrick: Okay, so within the organization you would do the design of a product, you would do the manufacturing of the product. You would sell it to in-consumer, well not in-consumers, but your clients, right? Then was there a service aspect to Fujitsu as well?
Sandra: Yeah, so we also provided the service end of our equipment, right? Once the equipment was installed in a central office or that sort of thing, we would have services that would, I mean these are large networks. You figure the stock exchange, our equipment is all down in their lobby. When major Vince happened, we can go in and replace the equipment or just minor failures of the network, we would send out somebody to repair it.
Patrick: Okay, and then you also used Windchill to store all of the product data, correct?
Sandra: Correct, yeah. For my card perspective, that’s where we kept our data.
Patrick: Okay. All right, great. PTC approaches you about ThingWorx two, three years ago?
Sandra: Yeah, about three years ago. They had been presenting and it’s all on their website and all that about this new technology. Connecting things and sharing data, and so I did their pilot project to try it out. At the time I really wasn’t sure how we were going to use it, but I needed to see how easy it was to use.
Patrick: Did they call you specifically or was there an executive at Fujitsu that said, “Hey, there’s some functionality that I think may help us.” How did that scenario evolve?
Sandra: It came from PTC, because I had really questioned, started looking at it. It did come from the bottom up far as this technology.
Patrick: Okay, so it came from you discovering the technology first?
Patrick: You were just exploring quite frankly in an RND way?
Sandra: Yes, because just the AR aspect of it, of how to reuse the card models was very attractive. How we could do that, and how easy it was to do.
Patrick: Well, you could use that, so was it PTC planning the idea and the vision for you, or were you looking for that type of solution in the marketplace and the technology was there for you?
Sandra: Well as a company they’re always looking for new revenue streams. Whenever I would see companies or PTC present on the services aspect, in my mind I was like, “That’s something we can really get value from.” Monetarily we could sell this, a service to our third party service providers. We could for ourselves to save time on track rolls and reduce the time it took to fix equipment. Then looking at whether you don’t have to send a level five tech out to do a job, you could send a level two out, provide additional information via mobile apps and save yourself some money.
Patrick: Okay, all right, so it sounds like there’s a little bit of a scientist in you, right? This RND aspect, so you want to discover and you’re also thinking about different ways that you can bring value to the organization, either providing data to consumers within the organization more efficiently and/or creating revenue?
Patrick: All right, that’s great. You decided that this technology might be something for you to explore. Tell me about the steps that you took. There may be people out there listening to this podcast that see all of the hype and the marketplace and they’re just trying to decipher, “Hey, is this something that is going to be worth my time? If I’m going to prioritize my time to focus on it,” what’s a way that they can do early qualification where they focus on it for a specific amount of time and then can make decisions of whether to advance that moving forward to build business cases and all of those things? How would you go about doing that?
Sandra: Right, so what I did was, engineering tends, in most companies, tends to be a silo out away from other organizations. Whether it be sales, sales engineering, somewhat manufacturing, but service, there was really no connection between engineering and service. I started just speaking with other groups and how were they using our card models. Come to find out they weren’t, they were redrawing or having some other company re-digitize for user manuals or training documentation or even going to manufacturing. They would re-do the visual representations of the card models.
Sandra: Then that’s where I started. I just started talking to people and then built up the used cases and the proof of concepts that we would start moving forward with.
Patrick: What were the top, I like to work in buckets of three. What were the top three business cases that you defined, that you thought would resonate with executives to prove whether or not the proof concept was successful?
Sandra: The service aspect was certainly the top one.
Sandra: Then how this could be used from a sales perspective, and then how they could use it internally for the engineering. Specifically how test engineers that may be offshore or in other locations could connect to equipment that was installed in the lab and be able to troubleshoot and make changes remotely with the data that was presented in a ThingWorx mashup.
Patrick: All right, so let’s break those three down. You said service was the first one by far.
Patrick: I know we touched on it at the beginning, but I’d like to dive into that a little bit. The other one was sales and then the other was?
Sandra: Was internal …
Patrick: For RND or for?
Sandra: Yes. It was all in RND.
Patrick: Okay. All right, so let’s talk about the service side of things. I believe you said it was a revenue …
Patrick: Opportunity, brand new?
Sandra: Yes. A lot of companies in this space, in the telecom, they outsource their service maintenance support to third-party service providers that those companies do HVAC, they may do telecom, they may be doing some other, but they have a wide range. You use them to go out and service your equipment that may be in the middle of the field in Nebraska, but they’re responsible for when a ticket comes in that a network is down, it is dispatched to them. Then they’re responsible for sending someone out to the location to fix the issue.
Sandra: Most of the time, the majority of the time they know the equipment, but there are those cases where they’re deploying people who are new to the company and that sort of thing. That may not have worked on that specific piece of equipment. The proof of concept was to be able to use ThingWorx to notify the service provider that there’s a failure. Right now that’s what happening via a phone call or an email, somebody is back at the nock, which is the central hub of when problems are happening.
Sandra: They would send a message, make a phone call and somebody would have to react. Automating that process so when the network goes down it’s automating through ThingWorx to notify them. At that point, they dispatch somebody, so that somebody like I said, could have worked on the equipment before or not. At the point of dispatch they get out to the location and they have a laptop or an iPad or a phone and they’re troubleshooting the equipment. They have internet access, so they may have to log into a Fujitsu website to get content that is in some PDF file that’s located somewhere on that server. They’re presented with some LEDs and that sort of thing to tell them what’s going on.
Sandra: The thought is that we could provide them with a mobile app that they could connect to that piece of equipment. It would display exactly what they needed to do, not be going through 300 pages of a document to find what that alarm means and then what to do with it. They’re presented at the location with exactly what the alarms that are going off, so they can work on the high priority ones, so that they would select that alarm, it would immediately tell them, here’s what you do to fix it.
Patrick: You had mentioned those who were censors, and so you were using AR to troubleshoot?
Sandra: Yes. The equipment’s all based on rest, so the ThingWorx is connected to the unit actually in looking for these alarms. The alarm goes back to the ThingWorx app and then the mashup will tell them, “Okay, you have three alarms that are high priority and one that’s low,” and so what to do with those alarms. At that point, it will tell them, “Go do this, this and this.” The AR piece would then show them exactly you need to pull this card, you need to unplug this. How to do all that. It shows them visually how to do that.
Patrick: That documentation has already created that?
Patrick: That was an artifact that was already within your organization, you were just taking flat data that was documented. To your point, rather than going through 300 pages, you were digitizing that and changing the way people were consuming that information in ready time, real-time?
Sandra: Yes. Then through the AI experience, they would be shown how to do that. We were at the point of running a real trial out in the field with a third party service provider. Also during that time, another application became available from PTC that would do real-time troubleshooting, just by porting your mobile device at the unit and you could communicate real-time with the person back at the central office network center and be able to mark up exactly what that person needed to do. You need to move this cable from here to here, his plugged it in the wrong spot and it’s still not working. He doesn’t know it should have gone two slots over. Being able to do that saves a bunch of time.
Sandra: Then those markups could be saved down in the Windchill so that when you’re doing postmortem and that sort of thing, to evaluate whether your training is adequate, whether your installation and turn up process, that when you install that equipment, is that adequate? Being able to capture those things which we’ve never been able to do to improve your installation and service process.
Patrick: You had mentioned it was a revenue creator on the service side. Tell me, you’re still leveraging the relationships with the third party, right?
Patrick: Where does the service revenue come from in that model?
Sandra: In the infield proof of concept there was an agreement that they would help us validate that what we thought we could do we could do. At that point you would sell it as a service, right?
Sandra: To the third party.
Patrick: To the third party?
Patrick: Okay, all right.
Sandra: Then we could provide the models and it doesn’t necessarily have to be Fujitsu models, product models so we can take models from other companies and be able to provide that same information, not just on our equipment. Yes, at that point the conversation with the third party was, we have our preventative maintenance we do every year. You have these conversations with people and you start figuring out, well, we could provide an app or a ThingWorx mashup that could notify you when your maintenance is due on a piece of equipment. Then you could start looking at trends on, okay, we had failure on that equipment in nine months could the preventative maintenance be moved up to prevent that failure from happening.
Sandra: Then you can do some analysis on failures and maybe prevent some of those through maintenance. They were keeping their maintenance workers in an Excel spreadsheet that some guy’s looking at it from Monday morning or whatever and saying, “Okay, here’s what we have to do this week for this piece of equipment.” There are thousands of pieces of equipment, so that was another aspect when we had the conversation with them about how we can provide more service to them. That’s another service aspect of it that you would provide as a subscription. It doesn’t have to be really expensive for the end customer.
Patrick: Okay. All right, that’s compelling. Yeah it’s interesting you hear the general comments in these demonstrations, but until you start to dig into the use case in that example of then managing their maintenance schedule on an Excel spreadsheet, which Excel is just a massive application as far as it’s use across all organizations, regardless how big and small they are. There’s a lot of opportunity in there, but it takes stories like that to realize that there’s an opportunity to be recognized.
Sandra: Right, so that’s what you do. You go in and you look and say, “Okay, what do we do it manually?” That’s across the board with any of these tools is, you shouldn’t be reworking or doing things manually. We have too much information to be doing that. That’s what kind of kept driving me, kept digging further into what we could do.
Patrick: All right, so thank you for diving deeper on the service side. Let’s go to the sales opportunity and the use case there, tell us more about that.
Sandra: Okay, so I was having a conversation with the sales guy, the director over the sales group. He goes, “It would be nice if I could just take this and show my customer up in Canada our equipment. It’s not overly large, but it’s heavy. I’ve got to ship it up there. Maybe it’s not ready.” We did up an AR experience so that he could take it up to the customer, show it sitting on the desktop. He could take the cover off, he could look inside, spin it around. Actually look at it and so the customer’s like, “Okay, I understand what you’re talking about.”
Patrick: How much extra effort did that take from, so I assume engineers are collaborating with sales or is that data that already exists? Are the models more defined? Is it the marketing group that’s starting to create those? How much extra effort is it to have that capability where it’s defined enough where the customer can have a realistic virtual representation?
Sandra: Right, so there’s in our flow the models and the units are generally prototypes very quickly in the front end. The engineers would have put something together, whether it was a knockoff from another unit and then within 30 minutes we had something that he could use.
Patrick: What was the use case? There’s the visual experience, right, but often times you don’t get funding for an initiative unless it’s going to bring some type of significant value, so you describe that from a service perspective.
Sandra: Just not having to ship the units, because it could be a rack, a seven foot rack with 10 of these things in it. Not just a piece of equipment, a whole system. You’re not going to want to ship all that. You could show a seven foot rack with real life size, actual size units that the customer can walk around, get an idea of space. There could be multiple racks. How would we layout your central office with this equipment? That has real value when you can quickly take this and show the customer.
Sandra: Some of it’s mock ups, some of it is functioning equipment, some of it is still being developed. Being able to do that the sales guy can get out there sooner, because you have information for him to use.
Patrick: You’re increasing sales team’s ability to meet with more customers and I assume not only are you filling the pipeline with more opportunities because it doesn’t take much time to get all that equipment. Is there also the scenario where you’ve taken out a step in the sales process? Was that part of the use case or?
Sandra: Well, I guess having to deal with the equipment piece, because they’re always having to manage, how do I get the equipment up to the customer.
Patrick: That was the scope for the PLC?
Patrick: Was the shipping aspect of it and that role in the sales process for the sales teams?
Sandra: Right, he wanted to be able to take a unit that was still in prototyping phase, but he knew he had a customer that the technical specifications of that unit were what they needed. He needed to be able to show them what it looked like.
Patrick: Great, all right, good. All right, service, sales, and now on the internal RND side of things.
Sandra: Right, so this equipment has to be tested. It has to be put out in the lab. One of the good things is that, with the ThingWorx mashup you can show how the equipment is behaving. What is the temperature of the area it’s in? Is it on or off? Are all of the cables plugged in? If the cables are plugged in, are they actually getting data? You have an engineer in Texas who’s putting this stuff in a rack that’s sitting out in the lab where they do their testing for design. Then you have the actual test engineers who are running all of the other tests that are required for certifications and the requirements, customer requirements and that sort of thing.
Sandra: Those engineers overseas don’t, they can’t see the unit. You can provide a mashup that shows them what’s the software that was loaded on this? What is the unit? What’s its serial number? What connection does it have? What color its LEDs are, and then the alarming again, so that as he’s testing and he sees that alarm has come up, he can then select on it. He’s like, “Okay, I need to go, this is what I need to go fix.” It makes that process of debugging during test and even turn up, like in design shorter.
Sandra: You’re able to communicate with them, get the information to them quicker. Now if a cable has come loose or whatever, he doesn’t have to call the tech that’s working in the lab in Texas to say, “Hey, can you go look and see which one of these is loose?” He can say “Input one, the cables fell out,” or whatever the deal. He can tell him exactly what needs to be done.
Patrick: Time is money ultimately, right?
Sandra: Right and so you’re looking at different time zones, and so if you need to wait until the next day and then communicate, yes, time is money.
Patrick: I mean those are great examples and I talk with a lot of customers out there and some of them have PLCs in place. Their PLCs some have experienced technical hurdles as they’re doing it by themselves. Others haven’t built a business case strong enough or compelling enough for executives to give them funding to bring it to production. It sounds like with those three use cases, taking any one of those and they’re pretty compelling, but combine all three of them and it could be a game changer for business.
Sandra: Right, yes. As you start looking and digging, there are other areas of opportunity to save your company money by getting all this information, your models, the data, just like tech pubs, right? If they’re redrawing a model and it’s taking four days to do that, these tools that you use to do AR would also provide tech pubs with a graphical representation in 30 minutes. You start digging and you start finding other areas that these tools can help just with internal processes, so having someone to do that is I think pretty powerful.
Patrick: Yeah, well, I’d love to be able to set up multiple conversations and there are various folks that I know that we can talk with to help them identify their use case. I’m looking forward to having those discussions with those clients and prospects because there’s a lot of folks that need some help and I think you helped bring some light into what, a gray lighted room?
Sandra: Yes, right.
Patrick: I appreciate you coming in today for ArcherGrey’s Quick 30.
Patrick: We’ll look forward to having future discussions.
Sandra: All right, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you.
Patrick: Thank you.