Design Centric SaaS PLMs

Design Centric SaaS PLMs

Earlier last week, I attended the PTC Onshape Product Development Cloud Forum. Check out my article here () if you missed it. I found very interesting the trajectory Onshape is taking after the PTC acquisition last year. Design-centric PLM- this is a phrase I’ve head in that meeting resonating with the ability of Onshape to provide a combination of CAD and design-lifecycle data management tool (the equivalent of old-fashion PDM, but re-invented with the cloud vision).

It made me think about Onshape and design-centric SaaS tools. Is Onsahpe unique in its value proposition? What other tools on the market available for similar roles? And what is the limitation of these tools as well design-centric approach?

1- Onshape

Let’s start from Onshape. It provides a unique MCAD design environment in the browser, combined with data management services to control versions and release management.  Onshape environment user experience is document-oriented and very much similar to cloud file systems such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and others. You can store different files and manage its version. However, the main functions are targeted to mechanical design, version and release management.

2- Autodesk Fusion Team

Autodesk was one of the first major CAD vendors that stepped in the direction of cloud development back in 2011. Autodesk Fusion 360 is not browser-based, but Autodesk Forge and Autodesk Fusion Team as SaaS tools and focusing on the management of design data, capable to store multiple files, provide visualization, manage projects and control collaborative access to the data.

Check the following recent webinar providing detailed review of what Autodesk Fusion Team is capable to do.

3- Dassault Systemes 3DEPXERIENCE

Last month, I visited 3DEXPERIENCE WORLD in Nashville where I was learning about what Dassault Systemes is doing with 3DEXPERIENCE, 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS, and other cloud tools. Comparing to both Onshape and Autodesk Fusion Team, 3DEXPERIENCE looks much bigger and sophisticated by providing many roles. However, in the nutshell, the foundation can be concluded as a design environment, collaboration and data management tools. What is very interesting in 3DEXPERIENCE is that because it is connected to other tools available in a broad set of roles of 3DEXPERIENE and all Dassault System brands, 3DEXPERIENCE functions looks much broader than Autodesk Fusion Team and Onshape. It is not clear what tools are available in a SaaS environment and what tools are only available in premise 3DEXPERIENCE.

4- Siemens Digital Industry Software (fka Siemens PLM)

From the top CAD vendors, Siemens is the most conservative in everything that related to the cloud. Both Solid Edge and NX are available for hosting, but Siemens is not providing any SaaS design tool for the moment. Siemens Solid Edge Portal ( seems to be the only cloud SaaS tools. Siemens is making it available for everyone, which means technically only an exploration phase.

What is beyond design SaaS PLM (or CAD)?

This is an interesting question to ask. For many years, PLM (or cPDM according to CIMdata) was positioned as a tool beyond the traditional lifecycle and file revision management. The number of non-CAD specific PLM is not very large, but demand is growing as the complexity of modern products combined from mechanical, electronic, software and system components. I will speak about these tools in my separate article about item-centric PLMs.

What is my conclusion?

SaaS tools are maturing. The next decade will be the time when SaaS tools will start gradually replacing on premise and desktop tools. It won’t happen overnight, but the trend is clear. While most of these tools are today provided by the same CAD vendors I can see an opportunity to grow SaaS tools outside of design/CAD space. Check my article – PLM 2030 the point of no return for fax machines ( – PLM 2030 is a giant online environment connecting people, companies, and services together in a big network. Design-centric SaaS tools are just the beginning of future SaaS PLM.

Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups, and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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