I’ve been catching up on conferences and virtual events earlier today. One of them was a virtual Autodesk University 2021. The event that usually was happening live and gathering ~10 thousand people, for the second year was a complete online event. The event is completely free and you can check all materials and presentations here.
The number of materials, videos, and presentations is huge. My focus on mostly on the keynote and includes general keynote and manufacturing keynotes with presenters from CEO Andrew Anagnost and the leadership team focusing on the development of cloud platform Forge, Fusion 360, and Product and Process Management (this is a place where PLM is belonging to now at Autodesk).
I captured a few slides you can see below. The general message of Autodesk was not different this year. Autodesk is making steady progress in the development of the cloud Forge platform and applications connected to the platform.
There are three important messages I was taking from Autodesk keynotes and specifically from the manufacturing keynote – (1) Forge platform; (2) Data in the center; (3) connected applications.
Autodesk Forge Platform
The Forge platform continues to be a central focus that connects every piece of activities, data, and workflows together. It was mentioned in a variety of forms and graphic explanations, yet it still means the same – a central data platform to manage data, glean intelligence and connect processes. Check nice visuals from Autodesk.
Data in the center
Autodesk is not saying that the role of applications is decreasing, but clearly puts a focus and a spotlight on the data. The data can be disconnected from the applications it created, moved between tools, mixed, and merged. The strategy is powerful but leaves many questions about how a consistent data set can be maintained. The answer is Forge, but the mechanics are not clear (yet).
Connected and Integrated Applications
The main message about applications at AU was that apps are connected by the data. A few interesting examples of integrated applications focused on mechanical and electronic design, documentation tools, simulations, and manufacturing. New Fusion360 platforms and connected extensions play a big role in this strategy
What about Autodesk PDM / PLM?
Autodesk owns and operates 3 generations of PDM and PLM systems (Autodesk Vault, Autodesk Fusion 360 Manage, and newly acquired Upchain). The message at AU 2021 was mostly about Upchain, although the screenshots presented Autodesk Fusion360 managed the release process. The goal of Upchain acquisition was to allow the Fusion 360 platform to work with multiple data coming from different applications Solidworks, Alitium, Creo, and many others.
What is my conclusion?
Autodesk continues the strategy cloud and platform development, while Autodesk Forge is a central piece of the strategy with a single data model and applications connected and synchronized across this single platform. It would be interesting to see how Autodesk customers that use a diverse set of tools will be moving to a single platform of everything connected together. It will probably take longer and meantime Autodesk will be shipping multiple applications and suites slowly transformed into a connected ecosystem. The future of Autodesk PLM lays behind Fusion / Forge data and the integration of multiple PDM/PLM platforms in a single piece. It is a hard task. The next few years will demonstrate how fast Autodesk can move to converge all existing PDM and PLM applications in a single piece. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.