Autodesk’s Cloud Approach Lures First-Time PLM Users

Autodesk’s bet on a cloud-based delivery model for PLM appears to be paying off, with the platform gaining traction among smaller manufacturers, which historically have been shut out from traditional PLM due to the associated expense and complexity around implementation and on-going IT support.

One year post debut, Autodesk is claiming a user base of 350+ companies using PLM 360 in production mode, encompassing 8,000 individual users, more than 40,000 active workspaces, and managing more than 2.2 million items. While its roster of customers is impressive, it hardly reads like a Who’s Who’s of typical Fortune 500 PLM adopters. Rather, for most of the early adopters, Autodesk PLM 360 is their first foray into the world of PLM technology. In fact, according to an Autodesk PLM 360 Customer Survey conducted in October and reflecting insights from 20 organizations across nine industries, 61% of respondents had been using Microsoft Office tools to handle their PLM needs with 28% having no PLM system at all in play prior to their use of PLM 360.

So why turn to PLM now and why specifically Autodesk PLM 360? According to that same survey, the answer lies with the cloud’s more flexible and accessible delivery model. In fact, two-thirds of the respondents said they selected PLM 360 for its ability to deliver immediate access to critical design and product-related data anywhere in the world, while 64% were swayed by the improved flexibility and responsiveness of a cloud-based platform.

“The more traditional PLM business model is very restricting, expensive, and slow,” Richard Blatcher, Autodesk’s senior industry marketing manager for PLM/PDM told us when explaining the survey’s results. “Customers who purchased PLM 360 specifically needed fast access to processes, workflows, authorization, and data any where in the world on any device that is increasingly used to collaborate out in the field.”

Cloud Enables Collaboration

Unlike traditional PLM systems that tend to get stuck in the engineering department, Blatcher says the cloud approach opens up collaborative access to those working in other environments equally critical to the product development process such as sales and marketing, quality, and product management. A changing engineering environment is also contributing to organizations’ willingness to embrace the cloud, he says. “Engineering organizations have to be more flexible and nimble as they look at new opportunities and aim to be more efficient and profitable,” he explains. “There’s also much more of a mobile mentality in manufacturing. People are no longer limited to working at their desks seven days a week.”

MariCorp U.S., a small, but growing manufacturer of boat docks can attest to the need for an alternative to traditional PLM. The 30-person company had mostly relied on manual processes and limited tools like email and Word files to share design information and as a platform for collaboration. “Our typical process was kind of a hodge podge,” admits Luis Cuestas, IT manager for the firm. “We needed something that could reach beyond engineering and tie in everyone from sales to drafting to assembly and water crews. We needed something you didn’t have to be an engineer or CAD user to use.

That something came in the form of PLM 360, which Cuestas says has made project management and collaboration much more efficient. Today, MariCorp’s engineering department receives all the forms, images, and notes for each dock project as attachments inside the PLM 360 system, while at the same time, the sales group can see how the dock designs look, including the results of any change requests, he says. Design reviews, scheduling, and order and inventory tracking is currently all done in the PLM 360 system. The ability to access the PLM system in a familiar Web browser helps ward off any user resistance, Cuestas says, and the system is much easier to manage from an IT administrative perspective.

Security of critical intellectual property, an on-going reservation among many companies when it comes to making the leap to cloud-based systems, is not a concern for Cuestas. In fact, MariCorp eventually plans to get on board with Autodesk’s Simulation 360, a complementary, cloud-based simulation technology. “The type of manufacturing we do is not rocket science—there are no trade secrets and it’s just common-sense engineering,” Cuestas says. With the reputation of Autodesk and a rigorous back-up process on its own local servers, Cuestas says MariCorp feels pretty secure.

Want a first-hand look at Autodesk PLM 360? Click here for Desktop Engineering Senior Editor Kenneth Wong’s overview and highly informative first look.

Check out this video to hear Luis Cuestas and the team at MariCorp U.S. talk about their Autodesk PLM 360 implementation.

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Beth Stackpole's avatar
Beth Stackpole

Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to [email protected].

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