PLM-less AutoCAD Users And PLM Strategies?

A short note on WorldCAD Access by Ralf Grabowski got my attention few days ago. In a very competitive world of PLM, Ralf’s statement “PTC will bring PLM to… AutoCAD users” sounds very provoking.

I had chance to hear multiple discussions related to this topic. The most noted, in my view, is CIMData analytical work earlier this year – CIMData Entitles Autodesk’s Evolution as a PLM supplier.

I will try to clean up this space and discuss what is potential relationships between AutoCAD and PLM.

Organization, AutoCAD Users and PLM
AutoCAD is everywhere. I remember, somebody told me- you can find AutoCAD in every manufacturing organization in the world. Because of such wide adoption, every organization decided to create some of their products related information in AutoCAD. It can be data provided by suppliers, tools design and many others. For a company that doing all in 2D, AutoCAD can be still used as a design tool. In most of the cases, this status quo is absolutely not related with the potential interest of this company in Product Lifecycle Management implementation.

ProductPoint and PLM
Windchill ProductPoint implements an interesting strategy of bundling Microsoft’s SharePoint as a tool to manage CAD data, but not only. Because of wide SharePoint adoption, ProductPoint has a potential to find a path to user’s desktops in a much easier way. From the standpoint of PLM portfolio ProductPoint is just following CAD/PLM practice to get CAD data under control and enable collaboration.

PLM vision and CAD
CAD is playing a significant role in the mindshare of the top three PLM vendors. This vision primary came from CAD direction. The first objective for this type of the implementation is to get CAD data to be managed by PLM system. In my view, this strategy is different from more business oriented strategy in PLM proposed by non-CAD PLM vendors including ERP-PLM apps. There is nothing wrong with this strategy. However, it can steer PLM implementation goals from business direction and to focus on CAD data only.

What is my conclusion? Users are more interested in a practical outcome and less in marketing strategies.There are no dedicated “AutoCAD users” in an organization. Depending on the organization, people may use AutoCAD for multiple purposes, but in a manufacturing organization AutoCAD is just another tool to accomplish a task. AutoCAD data is only part of the overall product data. I think, users can appreciate the fact CAD files comes from multiple provides can be managed by a single system. So, nothing wrong with the ability of ProductPoint to manage AutoCAD files. Will it bring PLM to AutoCAD users? My guess is not. The PLM implementation is not about how to manage CAD files. However, this is an important step in the future ability to implement PLM strategy in the company.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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  • Windchill has integrated directly inside of AutoCAD for at least eight years, maybe longer. XREFs, Checkin, Checkout, etc… were all supported then too. The Sharepoint integration is a great idea and will no doubt allow PTC to pick up customers that they otherwise would not have but PTC brought PLM to AutoCAD users more than eight years ago.

  • I share your belief that PLM is not about managing CAD files but I think that ship has sailed. I was working in PLM from the late 80’s (it wasn’t called PLM then) and many of the original vendors had no PLM heritage (I was with Sherpa who led the market in the early 90’s). But the CAD vendors with their big budgets and customer mindshare eventually dominated the market. Of the original “pure-plays”, Agile had most success and was eventually acquired by Oracle.

  • Jeff, My point is not about integration of AutoCAD and Windchill. I think all PDM/PLM providers have this integration these days. My take is that talking about “PLM for AutoCAD users” is pointless. PLM Is for the organization and not for the particular tool… Just my thoughts. Best, Oleg

  • Doug, Thanks for your comment! I agree, in the beginning, lots of PLM-like implementation wasn’t really dependent on CAD. I think, they were about engineering, BOM, change and configuration management. However, CAD vendors came to this space with very valuable proposals how to make CAD more connected to this space. These days, I clearly can separate CAD-PLM vendors and pure-play PLM vendors. ERP-based PLMs are in the second group, of course. Best, Oleg

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