Putting the Q in PLM (PTC does quality management)


I had the chance to talk with PTC about the important role that PLM plays in ensuring product quality. PTC shared their views on quality and reliability and followed up by giving me some detailed insight into their Relex reliability management solution and how it fits into the PLM ecosystem. It turns out PTC is doing quite a bit to bring a comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS) to their PLM community.

Putting the Q in PLM

The discussion was a follow up to some of my past posts (rants?) on expanding PLM to include quality management. Addressing quality early in the product lifecycle offers significant advantages by designing quality into the product up front. I have written in the past about the importance of Quality Lifecycle Management (QLM) and Quality Risk Management (QRM), and proposed that Quality Risk Management might be the missing link in PLM. My belief is that quality is inherently a product lifecycle issue and that integrating quality management into PLM helps companies design for quality and then close the loop between Engineering and product quality in the field.

What do they Do?

So where does PTC, one of the leading PLM vendors, come into play when we start talking about quality management? Well, PTC has been busy. They acquired Relex in 2009 and NetRegulus in 2007. With this combination PTC covers a large spectrum of the quality management systems spectrum. PTC helps companies develop quality requirements, and then trace them through design FMEAs to process FMEAs and all the way to control plans (including test procedures). This ensures that those criteria that are critical to quality are both designed into the product and designed into the quality assurance processes. At this point, the quality plans are ready to be passed on to execution systems (as shown in this diagram on integrating PLM, ERP, and MES).

Beyond planning, PTC also offers tools to help improve quality and reliability by capturing failures, documenting test data, developing non-conformance reports, and analyzing trends. PTC supports quality management processes such as FRACAS, 8D, and CAPA that are designed to help companies learn from failures and observations to improve quality. With these processes, PTC is executing on a vision to close the loop on product quality.

What don’t they do? I think it is important that PTC recognizes their role in the product lifecycle. Another main portion of QMS supports the execution side of manufacturing. This involves shop floor data collection and statistical process control (SPC) among other capabilities. PTC is sticking to the planning side of quality and design for quality, along with capabilities to provide feedback on quality performance to engineers. A good move on their part, because the execution side is crowded and more integrated to manufacturing execution systems (MES) than PLM.

What do they Offer?

Relex is PTC’s suite of solutions targeted at improving quality, reliability, safety, and risk management. NetRegulus is now a part of Windchill QMS which covers complaints, CAPA, non-conformance, and supports quality audits. Windchill QMS helps companies show due diligence and comply with industry standards for quality. Together, PTC has developed a suite of quality solutions that covers a broad spectrum of quality management needs that complement and integrate with their other products. PTC has clearly made a statement that quality management is a big part of PLM. Expect more from PTC, including increased integration of QMS into Windchill and PLM workflows. Integration will be a key value driver for PTC’s offering in a market where QMS systems themselves are frequently built of a collection of standalone tools. PTC has the opportunity to offer not just an integrated application that allows integration, communication, and data flow between QMS applications but also links into Windchill BOMs, ECRs, ECOs, and other product data. Pretty compelling.

So that’s what I hear from PTC, I hope you found it useful. What do you think? What else should I have asked them?