[Following is a lightly edited transcript of the recent webinar, “Making Product Data More Accessible for Downstream Teams: EAG’s Success with Navigate”]
Leia: Today’s presenters are Stuart Weiler, Director of CAD and PLM at Elite Aerospace Group, and Graham Birch, Director of PLM Solutions at PTC. Registration is now open for LiveWorx 2019. Stuart began his career in 2005 at Zodiac Aerospace as a design engineer. After a couple of years using CAD and PLM while designing interiors for both business and commercial aircraft, he got into CAD automation and PLM administration. Over the past 12 years, Stuart has worked with multiple CAD and PLM systems and joined Elite Engineering Services in early 2017. He now manages a team who focuses on architecture optimization and advancement of both CAD and PLM, connecting the physical and digital to further engineering data throughout the enterprise.
Next, I’d like to introduce you to Graham Birch. Graham is the senior director of PLM solutions at PTC, responsible for core Windchill, change, configuration management, collaboration, project management, search, classification, supplier management, and Windchill run time. Graham started his career in the UK after graduating from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Engineering. His 30 years experience and his past roles include applications engineer, implementation consultant, director of R&P for PLM products. Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Graham. Graham, over to you.
Graham: All right. Thank you, Leia. Thank you for the introduction. I’m going to take just a few minutes to set a little context here and just introduce ThingWorx Navigate to you, talk a little bit about the concept of the product.
When we think about Navigate and the motivation for PTC developing Navigate, I think this picture sums it up quite nicely. Information is really powerful. It drives product development and the more people that can get eyes on that information, the more powerful it becomes. The challenge is that quite often, really valuable information, building material, part information, documents, drawings and so on, they’re often locked up inside enterprise systems such as a PLM system or an ERP system.
It’s great for expert users, but not so much for the casual user. Sometimes those casual users are just prevented getting access to this because the systems themselves are so overwhelming. So what often happens is, typical scenario, let’s say that the shop floor worker who needs a drawing. So what they’ll often do today is they’ll walk up onto the engineering floor, they’ll tap the engineer on the shoulder, they’ll ask him for a print.
The engineer will pull up a CAD model, they’ll get the approved drawing, they’ll allow them to print, and then shop floor worker will walk back down to the shop floor and use that in his work zone. That problem is fraught with problems. It’s time consuming for the shop floor worker, it’s distracting for the engineer who’s really, at that point, playing a highly played clerical role.
As soon as that print is printed, it’s potentially out of date because it’s now detached from the source data. What Navigate seeks to do is to make information in these enterprise systems easily available in very easy to use self-service apps to the people that really need to get at that information.
Primarily, most of our customers are using Navigate apps to pull information from their Windchill systems and provide that data to these infrequent users. But really, Navigate is built on the ThingWorx platform and therefore, connectivity is part of its DNA. So it does have the ability to link into other back end systems.
Some of the ideas of navigate, we provide a set of out of the box ready to use role-versed apps that require really zero training, very intuitive. It provides very simple tailoring for the roles so the customers can decide, for example, which apps a particular role should have access to and which attributes they see.
And probably most importantly, every version of Navigate works with multiple versions of Windchill. So we don’t have customers in this situation where they can’t take advantage of the new features because they have to wait for a major Windchill upgrade. So Navigate nicely steps around that problem, allowing you flexibility to take advantage of Navigate without necessarily needing to upgrade your Windchill server.
So out of the box, nine very simple apps. This is a screenshot of what it actually looks like to a user that has access to all of those apps. They’re pretty intuitive. If you want to view a drawing you click on the View Drawing app. If you want to view part properties, you click on the View Part Properties app. Each app has a very simple search, very kind of Google-like, and gives the user easy access to the information that they’re looking for.
I did mention tailoring. It’s maybe a bit of a strange word, but tailoring allows customers to adjust the behavior of the apps so that they can be more tuned to a particular role. You can see on this screen here the administrator selects a role at the top. In this case, we selected manufacturing. Then we can choose, for example, which attributes the manufacturing role should see. And even down at the bottom, we can turn on and off different apps, depending on what we would like that role to have access to.
Then beyond simple tailoring, we also support customizing. Customizing is really the ability to have access to the same underlying development environment that we, PTC, used to develop nine out of the box apps. So we give access to the underlying ThingWorx platform and that’s a very powerful development environment that allows customers to very quickly and easily extend the features of Navigate by building completely new custom mash ups.
So that’s a very brief overview of Navigate and now I’d like to introduce or should I say turn over the control to Stuart. Stuart’s going to talk to us a little bit about Elite Aerospace Group and some of the great things that they’ve been doing with Navigate. So Stuart, over to you.
Stuart: All right. Well, thank you very much for the introduction. As Graham said, my name is Stuart Weiler and I work for Elite Aerospace Group. I’ll tell you a little bit about who we are and why are we using Navigate. I think who we are also ties into why and how we’re using Navigate. It will tell the whole story.
So quick intro, Elite is a manufacturing group. We are primarily focused on the aerospace and defense sector. We do a few other things as well, but what makes us unique is that we’re also a PTC partner. So you can see our engineering services group as Elite Engineering Services is a PTC partner. We support all of the PTC products. And of course, that means that we use them in house.
So in our manufacturing facilities, and here you can see we’ve got three manufacturing facilities that are all out in southern California and we are expanding our company and our usage of products quickly as well. We are using Navigate in these facilities and we use them in a lot of different roles to solve a lot of the problems that Graham actually just described.
So manufacturing department needs to be able to look at the drawings in order to build and inspect, and they need access to the correct release. They need to know that it’s the correct release. So if they were to just go to engineers who are using Windchill to manage the data, then the engineers have to take the time to get them the data, perhaps print it, and then as soon as you hit print, you lose that revision control.
So you don’t know anymore if they’re still using that drawing maybe three weeks later when a new revision has come out. So one solution, of course, is you could just have everyone using Windchill. That’s how we started before we started using Navigate. It solves some of those problems. Now, everyone downstream, what I like to call downstream users being quality manufacturing groups for example, they can log into Windchill and they can pull all the data.
But the problem is that it’s going to require them to learn how to use Windchill and Windchill is a great tool. It really is more of an engineering tool than a manufacturing tool. So we had to take a lot of time to train them and support them in the use of Windchill. And of course, Windchill is a high end tool with a lot of bells and whistles, which means that it’s a little bit difficult for them to understand if they’re not using it on a regular basis.
So really, what we needed was a lighter weight tool, something with a simpler user interface, maybe a lower cost as well, that would allow everyone access to the data without having to take as much time to teach them how to use it, answering all their questions, and supporting it.
Engineering does in fact use Windchill, and once we started using Navigate, they were able to start using it as well. I’ll talk a little bit about some of the custom apps that we’ve done, but the way that we’re using it mostly is those downstream users. We found it to be a very simple user interface and it’s the one thing that they need to go to.
It really operates like a Google search. Someone can just go to navigate, search for a part number, and they find everything that they need as easy as possible, which means they don’t have to get training from our administrator, they don’t have to ask questions and be supported in order to get the information that they needed.
Really, we give them a tip sheet, not even a full training session, and the day they get hired, they get the tip sheet, and they can start using Navigate immediately. They get what they need and it also finds the data much faster than it would have otherwise. The other thing that we did was just keep everything on network drives outside of Windchill. That of course is very difficult to manage, have all sorts of revision control issues, and can take a long time to find what you need.
We’re able to really solve that problem. I already alluded to it, but some of those benefits were, we really found a lot of time savings, and that was the biggest aspect. We don’t have to train people, we don’t have to support people, and it’s faster to use the tool itself. Of course, it does also save money because now instead of having maybe 10 people in manufacturing that need Windchill access, they can use Navigate instead, which is cheaper and much more accessible.
Some of the customizations that we’ve done, we’ve really found they extended how we’re able to use Navigate. Some of these were based off of some starter programs or apps that we were able to get from PTC. So it didn’t actually take us that long to develop. We have one that we call the Viewable Downloader, which just allows us to collect all of the viewable files and then essentially package them up.
So if a customer says they needed some data, we can use this app to get the CAD file or a step file that we create for it as well as the drawings, and it puts them all into a ZIP file. So from a single search, get everything that you need. We have another one that opens a workflow report, tells us what the status of all of our open workflows are.
Another one called the Network File Downloader, which as I mentioned, Navigate is now serving as the single source for our users. So from Navigate, they can be searching Windchill and it’s also connected to our network. That means they can find those files that are still on the network and we found it to be significantly faster because it’s indexed. It means it can search about 30 times faster than if you were to just do a Windows Explorer search of our network drive.
We are, of course, continuing to develop new ones. We’ve got one that actually connects to FTP as well, and we’ll show you that in just a little bit. Actually, I’ll pass the presentation on to my colleague, Daniel Araki, who’s going to give us a demonstration. Daniel is a PLM solutions architect with Elite Aerospace Group, and he’s going to show us the app that he’s created. Thanks, Daniel.
Daniel: Thanks for the introductions too. So I will be going over these four custom apps that we’ve developed at Elite Aerospace Group. The first one is the Viewable Downloader. It’s an app with enhanced search and download functions for viewables or lightweight representations in Windchill. The second one is the Workflow Reports app, an app that generates KPI reports for open workflows and workflow rejections in Windchill.
The third one is the FTP File Transfer app, an app that allows user to directly transfer files from Windchill to FTP. And lastly, the Network File Downloader. This one’s an app that allows users to search and download files from our file server. Each app allows an easier access to enterprise data. In addition, the first three apps that connect to Windchill saves lightness and cost by directing users to access data through Navigate instead of Windchill.
Licenses for Navigate are approximately half the cost of Windchill so the more users that decide to use Navigate instead of Windchill, the more the savings. The key is to provide an easier, faster, and more convenient functionality in Navigate, so users prefer it over Windchill. With that, let’s jump right into the first app, the viewable downloader.
At Elite, we are automatically generating viewables for our CAD documents and Microsoft Office documents when they’re checked into Windchill. Viewables for CAD drawings are generated in PDF and/or DXF, CAD models in STP, and Office documents in PDF. So we wanted to provide a single app that would allow users to search and download these viewables.
So far, I know it sounds very similar to what the native apps offer, but this app provides three additional capabilities that are valuable to us. The first enhancement is that it searches across multiple types and classes. With the native apps, to download a CAD document, the user needs to access the View Design Files app.
To download a document, the user needs to access a different app, the View Documents app. This app eliminates the need to switch apps for different types and classes. The second enhancement is that it downloads viewables for our office documents. The native View Document app downloads the original file and not the viewable file in PDF format that’s being generated.
And lastly, the multi-download function. Users can multi-select from the search result and download them with a single click. I’m going to move on to the demo of this app. This is our ThingWorx Navigate landing page. We have our custom maps down at the bottom. We’ll take a look at the Viewable Downloader.
All right. So this is the Viewable Downloader app. The colors and the styling is similar to the out of the box apps of Navigate so hopefully, it looks out of the box somewhat. Let’s give it a part number. So I type in a part number and then click on the search button. This is going to give me results and as you can see under the Type column, it has a drawing. It also returned a CAD part and a work instruction, which is a subtype of a document class.
To download, I can multi-select all these, click on the download button, and as you can see, it kicks off the download of the step file at the bottom left corner. Then it is loading up the drawing and/or construction. I’m going to close these out. So that was the Viewable Downloader.
One additional thing is for the drawing, I can switch between PDF and DXF format here. So if I wanted a DXF format instead, I just hover this over here and then click on Download. Okay? Moving onto the next app and the Workflow Reports app. This app generates two different KPI reports that are related to workflows.
This first one is the open workflow report. Open workflows are workflows that are pending someone’s action or approval. Ideally, we want workflows to be constantly flowing and not stuck at a specific role. This app is used to monitor which workflows are pending approval by which role.
The benefit of this is the dashboard allows managers to easily visualize the programs struggling with processing workflows and helps identifies bottlenecks in the workflow process. This data can be used to accurately allocate resources where needed if a particular program [inaudible 00:20:45] needs help.
Moving onto the demo, I’m going to close this one out. This one is showing the open workflow report. I generated the report in advance and as far as the user input goes, I left these two blank so the report is returning all the open workflows in Windchill. But if I’m a manager of a particular context, I can select that here and narrow the results down.
If I’m interested in a particular workflow type, I can select that from here and narrow it down as well. Okay. So explain the numbers starting from the top right corner. It’s showing the total number of open workflows in Windchill, the number right below it is the average days open. Obviously, we don’t want them open this long so there must be some workflows that we should delete or clean up down here.
Moving onto the charts, the one on the left, this is breaking down the open workflows by context or product or library, basically. From here, you can tell which program’s busy at the moment with workflows. On the right hand side, it is breaking down the open workflows by role or task.
So you can see that our document control has the most workflow tasks in their My Tasks table. If this number was high to the manager, they could ask for help from different divisions or facilities to jump in and help them with these tasks. And the table at the bottom, this is a data dump from the query, which these numbers and charts are based off of.
Here’s the next one, the workflow rejection report. This is the second KPI from the Workflow Reports app. At Elite, we are enforcing workflow behaviors to select rejection codes that describe why the workflow is being rejected. This app collects that data and generates KPI reports for workflow rejections for context, workflow category, rejection codes, and rejections over time.
Managers can analyze this data and identify weaknesses in their team, then provide necessary training. For example, if we find too many interference or class issues in 3D models, we may schedule training for the CAD software that the specific group is using. If it’s dimensioning errors, we can schedule a refresher course on proper dimensioning and tolerance.
The goal is to improve first time quality and reduce unnecessary rejections. If we take a look at the app, that is on a separate tab of the workflow reporting. Here, I need to select a starting date and an end date. I’m going to pick, let’s do three months from today. I want to see results from the past three months.
Over here, this is the same. I can pick a specific context to filter the results in. Over here is the workflow category. So we have three categories. One is CNC programming workflows, and the second one is general documents, and the last one is engineering workflows. I’m going to do a report back for all of them and click on Generate Reports. Okay.
So the report loaded and let’s start with the number on the top left corner. So this is the number of the workflows that had rejections during this period. Second number is the number of rejections that happened during this period. And the third one is showing the average rejections per workflow.
Moving onto the charts, the one on the left right here is the rejections per context. This one shows which project had the most rejection during this period of time. The chart to the right is showing the count of rejection codes that was selected by the workflow review. So we have the most rejections that is related to this code, DOCQ.
If I’m not sure what DOCQ is, I could toggle this button, which will show a list of the rejection codes. The DOCQ means missing and inaccurate information. Okay. Then finally, the chart at the bottom, this is showing the rejections over time during this period. So we see five on September 11th and then one on the other days.
What’s good about this chart is if the manager identifies an issue, provides a training, and he wants to know if there’s actually performance improvements, he can come to this chart and ensure that the rejections are actually decreasing but related to those codes. That’s the workflow rejection report.
This one’s the FTP file transfer. This app enables users to transfer files directly from Windchill to FTP. A use case would be that some projects require deliverables to be uploaded into a customer folder in FTP and to do this, users have to search or browse in Windchill and download first. Then they’ll upload the files into FTP.
So this app puts out that manual download and upload process. All right. We’re going to close this one out and move onto the FTP application. Okay. So the top section, this is where the user enters the FTP credentials. So I did that. This is where I specify the upload location in FTP. Okay. This box right in the middle on the left hand side, I will feed a list of part numbers in here.
Then click on the Search button. I’ll run the search and Windchill returns the number and the version that it found. So if there’s a typo in Windchill, the search can’t find the result, it will show an error. The final step is to click on the Transfer Files button. Okay. The transfer results will show up at the bottom for each item. We can see that they uploaded successfully.
If we go to FTP, to the path, I’m going to drag this over. So the FTP upload location that was under [inaudible 00:28:18] FTP test, and now we see these three documents transferred over. Okay. All right. Moving onto the final app, this one is the Network File Downloader. This app enables users to easily and quickly search and download files from our file server.
This one is unique from the others as it does not pull data from Windchill but the file server instead. Searching and browsing for a file in the network drive can be very time consuming, especially if you don’t know the exact folder names or file path. This app only requires the user to know the file name or just part of it and perform the search in the entire file server, returning results in several seconds. I do want to mention that the file permissions remain intact and are controlled by active directory.
Okay. I’m going to go back to the landing page and the Network File Downloader. Okay. The first drop down, this is where the user selects a file repository. Each one file repository is tied to a network location. So far, we only have one but as our company grows and merges with different divisions, we could easily add some locations here.
The second input is the file name or part of it. We’ll just demo. I will type this in, the asterisk, then click on the Search button. This is connecting to our file server, scanning through the files, and returning us the file path of each one that it hits. So we can see it returns three text files and it scans through the entire file server. You can see that this one is in a different location than the other two and the search was still very quick.
To download is very similar to the Viewable Downloads app. I can just multi-select, click on the Download button, and it’ll start the download. Okay. So that’s it for this app. This was the last app that I wanted to show. These custom apps are just a few examples of what ThingWorx Navigate and its platform is capable of.
Navigate gives you an entryway to IOT apps connected to Windchill, but that’s really not the end. The possibilities that the ThingWorx platform offers is endless with customization. I hope today’s demo was helpful and hopefully increased your imagination on what can be accomplished with ThingWorx Navigate.
Stuart: Thank you very much for the demo. I think that was a great demonstration of how we’re using Navigate Elite. Thanks, Daniel.
All right. Well at this point, I’ll pass the presentation back to Graham. But Graham, I do have some questions for you. I can tell you that we are currently using version 1.6 and so I know at least in my office, there’s a lot of questions of, what comes next? What does the roadmap look like? So I was wondering if you could tell us about some of the updates available in version 1.8 and what comes after that.
Graham: Yeah, certainly. I’d be more than happy to. Quickly, here’s the grand scheme. Right now, you’re here in 1.6 release. That was released almost a year ago. We just released a 1.8 release in October and then you can see that we have a 2.0 [inaudible 00:32:08] about the middle of 2019.
I’ll answer your question in 1.8 in just a moment. Let me just explain a little bit about some of the things that are driving the Navigate strategy into the 2.0 and beyond. Then I’ll back up and explain what we did in 1.8. The thing that we’re really focusing on now is we’re introducing the first of our Navigate’s Contribute app in the 2.0 release. This will be an app which is targeted for more the kind of managerial type users, those people who need to review and approve or reject or reassign a change request.
I’ll have a little bit more for you on that in a few minutes. Secondly, we’re focusing on improvements in the Navigate ADK, the toolkit that you’ve actually used at Elite in order to create your custom apps. We’ve got some ideas I’d like to share with you, which I think is going to make your development of apps even faster than they are today.
Then again in 2.0, we are still working on the Navigate installer. So we still think that we have work to do in order to make the whole system easier to install, easier to upgrade, and so on. Then looking beyond 2.0, we’d be developing more and more apps. We’ve got quite a back log of interesting apps that we’d like to deliver. We will be adding more features into the Navigate ADK for custom apps. We have some really interesting new technologies around the ability to navigate to reach into multiple systems, which I’ll share with you in a moment.
So to answer your question about 1.0, we jokingly call this the Ilities release, which is really not an English word, but it comes from the fact that we spent a lot of time in the 1.8 release dealing with things like installability, upgradability, maintainability, and usability. So in particular, in 1.8 we introduced an installer.
You probably remember from when you installed Navigate 1.6, there’s quite a few moving parts in the installation. You have to download all those right pieces of software and then go through a fairly lengthy manual installation. Well, all of that’s gone now in 1.8. You really download one executable, you run the installer, and it lays down all of the software, and configures the connection to Windchill, and configures your licensing for you. So much easier now with 1.8.
The other thing I think you’re going to find particularly useful is you said that you took some of our out of the box apps and you extended, and you used that as a bit of a template and reused some of that in your own custom apps. Some of the feedback we got from customers is sometimes we make changes to our apps and it’s not always obvious to customers where we’ve made changes to services.
So we’re now identifying all of those in the documentation and you’ll get a complete list of areas that you need to look at as you upgrade your own custom apps. A few things around maintainability, we introduced in 1.8 the ability for customers to put a banner at the top of the out of the box apps. This might be something that …
Actually, the real driver for that was a customer who, they’re actually in the defense industry and they needed to put ITAR information across the top and do it in a way that can be upgrade safe and it’s easy to accomplish. But you can also use that to put your company logo on there or a notice to users or something like that.
We also introduced in 1.8 full support for Windchill clusters. There were a few use cases where it wasn’t working as we expected it should with Windchill clusters so we closed all of those gaps. We also introduced a feature to allow you to connect a single Navigate instance to multiple Windchill systems. So this again, funnily enough, was one of our defense customers where they have multiple Windchill systems. They want to find a part which could exist in any one of them.
Search once, have it, search multiple systems, and then come back with the results where the part was found. We made quite a few improvements on usability, including some fairly substantial updates to the product documentation to make that easier to read, easier to use. We made improvements to search performance, we’ve made improvements to the tailoring user interface.
Then one enhancement to the product structure viewer where it interacts with the 3D viewer, there was a [inaudible 00:37:37] there where if you were to select something in graphics, it didn’t always highlight on the tree because maybe that section of the tree was collapsed. Well now, that will just auto expand and by clicking anything in the 3D graphics view, you’ll always see the part highlighted in the filler material structure.
That’s the 1.8. Talk a little bit about what’s coming in 2.0. As I said, the 2.0 is where we’ll introduce our first Contribute app. So this is the ability to review and approve a change request. So the user would see something like this. Now, first thing you’ll notice is this does not look like any existing Navigate app and I’ll explain why that is in a moment.
But here, you can see if I click on the app what I see is a list of tasks that have been assigned to me. These are Windchill tasks, they are change request review tasks. If I select any of the rows in there, then I will get a quick preview in the right hand side here of what that task is all about. So what was the problem, what’s the proposed solution? Any attributes like fixed costs, recurring costs, and so on.
Then the ability right within that preview to say, “Okay, I’ve got enough information. I can just approve or reject right at that point.” Now, if I don’t have enough information, I can dig into the next level and now the whole page is consumed with giving me all the non-information about that change request. So all of the attributes, all of the affected items, any attachments, along with any previous comments or approvals or rejections from other people in the workflow that have already reviewed this particular change request.
So that’s one big thing we’re doing in 2.0. The second big thing we’re doing in 2.0 is this idea of making the ADK’s very much more productive. I’m sure when you came to develop your own apps, you probably looked at some of the out of the box apps and you probably thought, it would be nice if we could take maybe the builder material component and just reuse that in one of your apps, or maybe the document viewer, or the search results.
You can do that today, but really, you’re almost starting from scratch. So the idea of 2.0 is to deliver a set of reusable components, high level components that are already PLM aware. If you wanted to do something around, let’s say, a builder material. You built the fine in a masher builder, a component called builder material. Right? Simply drag it and drop it into your own app.
It comes ready configured and all you need to do is give it a part number and a config spec and it just knows how to fetch the builder material, how to render it, and how to tailor it. So we think that really, the more and more of these components we develop and deliver to you, our customers, the faster it makes your app development so that really, your final development is really an assembly process of so-called kind of last mile development.
So this is what it looks like. I said to you that the Navigate 2.0 app looked different to any other app and the reason is that we’re fundamentally changing the basis of the apps, which is what we’re calling our PTC design system. So this is going to dictate what all of the components will look like and how they behave.
On top of that, on the ThingWorx platform, there’ll be a set of packaged components and services and templates and connectors. These will be things like drop downs and lists and the fundamentals of the mashup builder. But then on top of that, each of the PTC demands will be building demand specific components. So I spoke to you about some of them in the PLM demand like the builder material and so on, but we have other departments within PTC that are building apps.
For example, we’re building apps for the factory and so they’ll be building their own components. The real exciting part of this is that as a customer, as a developer, as a partner, you can take any of these components and mix and match to build completely new apps for yourself. We believe that as we deliver more and more of these, that process should become easier and easier until it becomes really a question of last mile development to quickly assemble an app to address a particular job to be done in a very short timeframe.
Then lastly, the third thing that we’re working on in the 2.0 release is this idea of, we call it multisystem orchestration. So we’ve really spoken so far logically about Navigate obtaining data from Windchill, but as I said, it does have the ability to get data from multiple systems.
So with the ThingWorx 8.4 release, we’re introducing a new subsystem. It’s called ThingWorx Orchestrate and that comes with an out of the box list of backend connectors along with an environment which is a little bit like Windchill workflow, if you’re familiar with that. It’s a drag and drop environment but instead of dragging and dropping tasks, you’re really dragging and dropping systems.
So you can draw out what in fact we call a flow. You can draw arrows between these systems and the arrows really determine the direction the data is flowing in and what information flows from system to system. So for example, you could say that to start, this flow is listening for a state change, for example, for a part release inside of Windchill. And when that happens, the flow is triggered and it calls the next node and the next node is connected to Windchill and it says, “Go and get me more part information.”
Then based on the information that we get from the part, whether it’s for example, a supplier part or whether it’s a [meg 00:44:23] part, that might determine then a branch in the flow. So maybe in one branch, we add it to a Trello board as a new part released, or maybe we upload it to Box and send an email to the supplier.
So why is this interesting to Navigate? Well, if we think about today, Navigate has this connectivity and we build connectors into the Navigate system and they connect into the backend systems. It’ll show in here like Windchill and SAP and other systems. But they’re really point to point systems and connectors.
In the future, Navigate will connect to flows and these flows are very visual and highly editable, which will make it super easy to be able to very graphically adjust the way in which Navigate is gathering information and maybe the systems it’s gathering it from. So for example, you might build a builder material today and it might only be getting that information from Windchill. Maybe tomorrow you’d like to extend it and also pull information from SAP.
Well, you could do that by simply editing the flow and telling the flow to go get that information from SAP and send it back to Navigate and Navigate will ingest and display it. So three things to think about in Navigate 2.0. It’s a Contribute app, it’s enhancements to the app development kit to make development much faster, and the introduction of ThingWorx Orchestrate as a way of pulling information from multiple systems.
There’s a lot on our roadmap, Stuart, which I hope you’re going to find interesting and I hope it’s going to make your development of future apps even easier at Elite Aerospace Group.
Stuart: Thank you, Graham. Yeah, we’ve started to see a little bit of that as we’ve moved into the latest update, but it’s great to see what’s coming on further down the road. Thank you.
Leia: At this point of the webcast, we will now take the next few minutes to answer any questions you may have. We’ve seen quite a few come in, but again, if you’d like to ask the speakers a question, you may do so now. If we don’t get to your question, rest assured, we will follow up with you directly. There are lots of great questions coming in. Let’s take the first one.
Graham, this first one is for you. You mentioned Navigate View and Navigate Contribute. Can you please clarify what the difference is?
Graham: Yeah, that’s a great question. I probably glossed over that a little bit as I was flying through those [inaudible 00:47:10] When we think about interacting with a backend system, there’s a spectrum of interaction. At the one end is simply viewing information and that’s pretty straightforward.
At the other end of the spectrum is full blown authoring where you can create, read, update, and delete information. Somewhere in the middle is what we call Contribute. The idea of Contribute is that you can do some things but you can’t do everything.
So in this case, our Contribute app is really around participating in a workflow. So you’re viewing a lot of information and then with a responding to that information and registering a vote to progress the workflow. That’s what I mean by Contribute. Something is light touch authoring.
Leia: Stuart, this next one is yours. How long did it take Elite to set up Navigate?
Stuart: That’s an interesting question because it kind of depends on what you mean by set up. But I’d say initially it took us about two, maybe three days to get everything installed. We did set up version 1.6 initially. As Graham mentioned, 1.8 is now a lot faster. We actually did notice that just the other day as we set up in a sandbox the newer version.
Then we did just out of the box and once it’s installed, just set up those roles. So within a couple days, we were actually able to show it to our first users. Of course, you’re never completely done. We’re still developing new apps and such. So if you add all that time in, of course it’s much longer. But within just a couple days, we were functional. So I think probably to answer your question, we’ll say three to four days.
Leia: Graham, how is data integrity and access control ensured when Navigate users access Windchill through a Navigate app?
Graham: Yeah, that’s another great question. That does come up quite frequently. So what Navigate does is it uses the available Windchill APIs. In particular, it uses a system called restful APIs, which are an industry standard for accessing a server system over the web. Those restful APIs use all of the underlying Windchill access control rules.
So nobody can see anything in Navigate if they’re not allowed to see it in Windchill. So we fully respect the Windchill access control.
Leia: Stuart, what was the best ROI for Navigate at Elite?
Stuart: Well, it depends on who you ask. For me, it was definitely that we were able to get people using Navigate immediately. So those downstream users I talked about, really we just give them that tip sheet and a one page document and they’re up and running. It shows them what to do. So myself and my technical team don’t have to do the training, we don’t have to answer all the questions, do all the troubleshooting and support.
So it saves us a lot of time, it saves manufacturing and quality a lot of time, eliminates the bottlenecks. Of course, if you asked our CEO, he’d probably talk about the license savings. Windchill licenses are more expensive than Navigate so we save both time and money. In my opinion, it was the time savings for the technical team.
Leia: Graham, if a custom Navigate app is connecting to other systems such as ERP, does the user also need a license for the other system?
Graham: Yes, they do. We can’t violate another software vendor’s licensing policies and so just as we use the Windchill APIs, we also use the APIs of the third party vendors. Usually those require a login. So yeah, you have to comply with third party vendors’ licensing requirements.
Leia: Stuart, it looks like this question is for you. Can Navigate be used remotely or outside of the office?
Stuart: Absolutely. I actually personally do that myself very often. I am still connected to VPN so that way I have a connection to our network, but it works outside the office and actually one of the benefits is it’s very fast. It’s not very chatty, if you will. So using it remotely doesn’t really have any lag. I can still access all of the data pretty quickly and probably still much faster than if I were trying to access those network drives directly.
Leia: Ladies and gentlemen, we only have time for one more question. So Graham, this last question is for you. What is the difference between tailoring and customization?
Graham: Yeah, maybe that’s something else I skipped over a little bit too quickly. I would define it like this. Tailoring is fine tuning the application and it’s done through the user interface and tiling. It’s done by an administrator, no programming, no coding or anything. It’s all out of the box.
Customization, on the other hand, is really where a developer would take the underlying ThingWorx development environment and just as they’ve done at Elite Aerospace Group, use that development environment to build your own unique purpose built apps. So tailoring, sold through the UI, no coding involved. Customization is a developer having access to the underlying development environment to build completely new apps.
Leia: I’d like to thank our presenters for making this such an informative hour and thank our audience for participating in today’s session. We hope you found today’s event valuable and will return for future webcasts. Before you go, I’d like to remind you to check out the following additional resources that cover PLM ThingWorx Navigate.
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