By Mike Bacidore
Every good marriage is built on communication and the ability to complement one another. More than two years ago, Rockwell Automation and PTC embarked on a journey together that blended the expertise and products of both organizations to create something that was bigger and more desirable than the sum of their parts.
The partnership has flourished, and the honeymoon is still ongoing.
“If you look at what it takes for an industrial manufacturing company to go through a complete digital transformation, there’s a huge footprint,” explained Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO of PTC. He sat down this week with Chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation Blake Moret for a virtual conversation during Automation Fair At Home about where their partnership has been and where it’s headed.
“Rockwell has a lot of the ingredients, and you’ve acquired some more,” said Heppelmann. “PTC has a lot of ingredients, and we’ve acquired some more. When you put them together, it’s a special combination. We’re going to collaborate more at our customers’ sites.”
The first generation of the partnership involved dividing the customers. “You take some, and we take some,” said Heppelmann. “Now, with a lot of customers, we should be working together because our expertise is important. I’m excited about the extension of the partnership. I’m glad to stay married to you for a while longer, so to speak, but I’m also excited about the expansion and some new ways to think about how we work together.”
Rockwell Automation and PTC recently extended the contract between the companies, as well as making some additional acquisitions on their own. “We’ve added additional time to the formal contract,” said Moret. “We’ve added some measures that really make this more of a shared effort in terms of not just sales efforts but of the integration of the technology that we each offer—including new capabilities added over time.”
Rockwell Automation acquired Kalypso, a PTC partner, in May 2020. PTC acquired Onshape Software in November 2019. Earlier in 2019, Rockwell Automation had acquired Emulate3D, as well.
“Two-and-a-half years ago, you and I stood on the stage together to announce the beginning of the partnership,” reminisced Moret. “It seems like a lifetime ago. Since then, with respect to our partnership, we had our first order that we were all eagerly looking forward to, and then we had our first sizable rollout. Over the past couple of years, we’ve added industries, so I think we’ve seen significant progress.”
Rockwell Automation has risen to become PTC’s biggest and most important partner, said Heppelmann. “The partnership’s been great from a PTC perspective. We really have a partnership that works for customers, certainly works well for PTC, and I believe works well for Rockwell Automation,” he explained.
“It’s really a combination of domain expertise and the technology,” said Moret. “We continue to innovate. I know at LiveWorx [PTC’s customer event], you showed some of the interesting ways that Onshape and our Emulate3D simulation tools can work together. We’ll continue to see examples of that, as well as making sure that we have the expertise to ensure we have the great business outcomes—which are the reasons our customers are investing in the technologies in the first place.”
The partnership was originally conceived to be about smart factories or Industry 4.0, explained Heppelmann, but suddenly it grew to more than just making factories smarter. “We’re actually helping customers to design, engineer and plan smarter factories with Onshape and Emulate3D working together,” said Heppelmann. “We’re also thinking a little bit more about the products being made in those factories and connecting the digital thread from engineering upstream to the factory and downstream as well to service and support.”
Expanding the partnership has been accelerated by the acquisitions of Onshape and Kalypso. “They’re critical ingredients to bring that whole digital thread, cradle-to-grave, digital-transformation story to life,” explained Heppelmann.
“We’ve had some great wins against some pretty strong competition with our digital-thread implementation together, and customers are giving us feedback that it really hits the mark and that the open approach really has been successful for them,” said Moret.
“A lot of smart factories’ strategies are really about the assets, the machines and the equipment,” explained Heppelmann. “We do that well together. But augmented reality (AR) is like IoT for people. How do you do remote connection and support of the workers at these plants? How do you provide information and get information back from them as they do their work in the real-world environment of the factory? This idea of optimizing for both equipment and for people, that’s very special to our partnership. That’s something we can do much better together than either one of us can do alone.”
Both companies are seeing the general interest and desire to accelerate digital transformation at customers across all industries, explained Moret. “We have seen the need for remote work really affect us,” he said.
The work the two organizations have done together at Pfizer is a great example. “Pfizer is an account that frankly you knew much better than PTC,” admitted Heppelmann. “In our CAD and PLM heritage, we wouldn’t have crossed paths with them that much. But, as you know, we’ve been doing IoT projects, we’ve been doing AR projects and training and supporting factory workers, and we’ve been doing some PLM projects around FDA compliance to help with risk management. It’s a great example of both companies working together to implement a footprint of solutions that neither one of us would be able to satisfy without the other.”
In the specific case of Pfizer as well as other critical manufacturing processes involved with making food and medicines and potential vaccines, there’s a sense of accomplishment and goodwill that comes from knowing Rockwell Automation and PTC are contributing to things that are so important for the whole world during the global pandemic, said Moret. “It’s with that optimism that I’m going into this new chapter with a lot of excitement. As we gear up, it’s the beginning of our fiscal year—yours, too—and it’s going to be a great year for us,” proclaimed Moret.
“We’re certainly looking forward to our fiscal 2021, and we’re very bullish on the market in general,” agreed Heppelmann. “COVID has created many issues, healthwise, but it’s also created a much deeper appreciation for digital technology. It’s become clear to companies how Rockwell Automation and PTC take digital to a whole new level, and it’s starting to show up in demand and in our pipeline. I’m excited about fiscal ’21, and I’m excited about being aligned with Rockwell for three more years, and there are probably many more years beyond that. I can’t wait to get started.”