Autodesk: From PDM to MLP?

by Oleg on March 28, 2011 · 772 comments

Last week Autodesk made a series of significant announcements related to their 2012 product lines. Autodesk is shifting to suites. Monica Schnitger wrote about this on her Schnitgercorp blog. I found it interesting, especial in the context of moving beyond just CAD. CAD was in my view, the fundamental of Autodesk business for many years. Here is the quote from Monica’s blog:

“Much more than CAD”
Mr. Kross told investors that Autodesk’s areas of opportunity all lie outside the typical CAD realm. These are currently small revenue contributors but are showing good growth: Inventor Publisher for assembly and operations; Factory Design, a “more affordable” digital factory design solution; Simulation and enterprise PDM. This last is a bit of a surprise, given Autodesk’s historical anti-PLM stance, but note the “D” — it’s not an “L”. Mr. Kross said that Autodesk Vault “targets engineers. Our focus is making sure our customers can manage, control and release their data. PLM extends outside engineering into the enterprise; we’re focused on the engineer. Our customers are asking us to integrate with established PLM systems that reach out into the enterprise. We’re focused on vaulting within the engineering domain.” Manage, Control and Release Data

I have to agree with Mr. Kross. Data is absolutely key. To have a control on this data can be very important for every Autodesk customer. Therefore, I can see signs of increased interest to this topic from Autodesk. At the time, PLM companies were focused on a total top-down model of product life-cycle, Autodesk was very modest in the way they planned to manage data. For the last 3-5 years, Autodesk Vault product became the main instrument in Autodesk data management products. And it seems to be successful based on the Carl Bass statements. Ralf Grabowski wrote about it on his WorldCAD Access blog last month. Here is the source of the following quote:

…when we disclose the numbers [at a future date], I think everyone will be quite surprised by the amount of data and the number of users who are managing the life cycle of products through Vault and the associated products.

Autodesk: PLM vs. MLP?

The question many people in PLM world are discussing related to what Autodesk will do with the magic words “PLM”. Last year, analytical company CIMData, primarily focusing on PLM industry research published a very interesting research paper discussion future Autodesk PLM transition. Autodesk’s ultimate position, in my view, is not to follow PLM-rules set up by high-profile PLM companies like Siemens PLM, Dassault and PTC. However, the importance of vertical integration for their customers can grow and introduce new challenges in implementation of Autodesk product suites. To Manage the Lifecycle of Products based on Vault is one of the possible options. In the following video Autodesk Manufacturing Evangelist Rob Cohee introduces the Autodesk Digital Prototyping Portfolio for 2012, including the Autodesk Product Design Suite.

There are some facts I noticed when I was listened to this video. Vault is ultimately about how to make “data management sexy”. Vault is not only about data, but about processes too. Vault provides some “project oriented” workflows that can be very helpful in Engineering to Order scenarios.

What is my conclusion? I think the game around enterprise data becomes more important than before. Data is a key asset in a manufacturing company and Autodesk customers can put their demands very high. These demands are moving Autodesk Vault and other data management products towards additional functionality. Process oriented workflow is one of the most remarkable I noticed in Autodesk Vault 2012. To increase functionality and keep the low level of complexity for Autodesk product will be the next challenge for Autodesk engineers and product managers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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