The cloud has revolutionized the way businesses operate, and the industrial sector is no exception. A cloud-based platform can help manufacturers and other industrial organizations improve communication and collaboration while driving down costs. In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits of an industrial cloud platform and discuss some key considerations when choosing a provider.
Autodesk Cloud Platform Play
The Hustle blog published the article that caught my attention – Autodesk’s platform play, explained. Check this out as it presents a very interesting perspective on what is happening with Autodesk. The platform was the long-time magic goal for most software vendors. Turning into a platform means to achieve the place where everyone needs to develop other applications and solutions. There are many good examples of platforms – Microsoft Windows, Android. For the CAD world, AutoCAD was one of the very early and successful platforms used by many application developers. Moving to the cloud world, Salesforce.com is clearly the platform. AWS, GCP, Azure are great examples of computing platforms with a rich set of features and capabilities.
So, what is the Autodesk cloud development platform? The article quotes the conversation with Autodesk CEO – Andrew Anagnost and his explanation about what is Forge and how Autodesk turns it in the platform.
…company’s big bet on Forge, its cloud development platform. Forge is powered by APIs, which are best described as software intermediaries that allow 2 applications to talk to each other. Autodesk has long offered its own applications to customers, but with Forge, it’s taking a page out of Amazon’s AWS playbook, allowing 3rd parties to build apps on top of Autodesk products. The biggest implication, according to Anagnost, is that companies will be able to build verticalized applications that serve more specific needs than Autodesk’s core products.
Another article published by Protocol, speaks about Autodesk play for the cloud. Check this out – Autodesk is dragging the industrial world into the cloud — and showing it the future.
“It takes a long time to get good at doing the cloud, and we’ve been doing it a long time,” CEO Andrew Anagnost told Protocol. “Our competitors are just waking up to this and are trying to acquire companies to get more cloud-y, but we have a significant head start.”
Autodesk executive VP Scott Reese brings another interesting perspective – it is all about the data. Here is the passage from Protocol’s article
“It understands everyone’s data, not just ours. It treats data as a first-class citizen,” said Autodesk executive VP Scott Reese. “We’ve made investments for probably two decades to help [customers] work better with those data types.”
Here are few examples I captured from earlier AU meetings about Forge platform usage.
Moicon uses the Forge platform to build digital twin solutions for customers, collecting and organizing their valuable facility data and combining it with sensor data in a visual, intuitive, and automated manner. Their easy-to-use, predictive software systems for end customers reduce costs, labor, and unplanned downtime.
The founders of Resolve had a vision: use virtual reality (VR) technology and BIM (Building Information Modeling) to enable immersive design and construction coordination meetings. The idea was to let project teams “gather” in 3D design models to spot issues and collaborate to enhance designs before—or even during—construction. Where others were using VR for client presentations, Resolve created collaborative 3D environments.
Autodesk was indeed the first large CAD/PLM player that stepped into cloud development back in 2011. Check my decade-old blog about Autodesk cloud PLM introduction. Started with cloud PLM development, Autodesk moved forward with some other tools and technologies, exploring the platform play, introducing cloud CAD and later Forge platform. Ten years later, Autodesk has probably one of the most mature online platforms and tons of experience in the development of cloud applications and services.
Industrial Cloud Platform Play – Who Can Do it?
The article made me think about the future of industrial platforms and what role these future platforms will pay existing CAD/PLM vendors. Will future industrial platforms be built on top of existing CAD technologies? Are there other companies that might be interested and capable of following the AWS playbook?
I can see three groups of the companies behind the platform play. One of them is obviously CAD/PLM software vendors. They are coming from multiple industries and spaces, but the ambition of these software vendors is to switch into cloud platform play and get all industrial companies on these platforms. While these companies are all own the most mature design and engineering software available in the world, their competitiveness can play a bad game with them. Cloud platforms built on CAD technologies might have a hard time co-existing with each other and won’t be open and neutral enough to provide the services to industrial companies as a platform play.
The second group of companies that can make an industrial platform play is ERP vendors. If anything I can say about these vendors is that they are managing most of the finances for the industrial world. Money is a good foundation -after all, companies need to manage their finance and ERP is manufacturing resource planning is a great foundation. However, all ERP companies are desperately need engineering and other related product development technologies. CAD, PLM, Digital Twin, Digital Thread. Without these technologies, it will be very hard for ERP vendors to build a real platform foundation.
The last, third group of companies that can make an industrial platform play are industrial companies themselves. Think about Siemens, Rockwell, GE, and other industrial companies. These companies are doing very bold movements to acquire software technologies and making their own development. Combined with their special skills in manufacturing, equipment, and capabilities to connect them together, this group of companies is capable to develop and build platforms.
PLM Development and Cloud Platform Play
What is the intersection between cloud platform development and PLM development on the other side? The adoption of cloud PLM is growing and according to the research of analytical company CIMdata, more than 2/3 of manufacturing companies are looking how to replace the legacy software (including PLM) with a modern cloud alternative. Such a growing trend might have a very interesting outcome – data play. This means data will be flowing freely to cloud services providers and eventually become the most important element of the service. Like it happened many times in the past, utility services with high adoption levels will be playing the role of data aggregators and sources of product data intelligence. Once it will happen cloud PLM companies will become data service companies and will be selling data and intelligence similar to how some other companies in the digital eco-system are using data intelligence for their modern business models. Supply chain, sourcing, vendor selection, design choices – this is only a shortlist of targets that can be used by these new intelligent services.
How Long To Switch?
The question what will take the industry to switch with the majority of legacy applications to modern cloud PLM services and connected applications? I wish I will know the answer. But I can give you an analogy that you can apply to think about how this transformation will look like. Think about the driving process of digitalization that happened to us for the last 30 years. Back in the 1990s, we’ve been using paper map books to drive our cars and to find our way to destinations. Not anymore… These days we use a digital experience integrating maps, mobile devices, augmented reality with cameras to show us the right way. The switch didn’t happen overnight. The industry took a few decades to bring electronic maps, connect them to traffic, develop new devices to be mounted in the cars, connect driving applications such as Google Maps and Waze to other sources of information. Everyone who remembers how he drove the car back in the 1990s can tell you the story. The same will happen to industrial cloud platforms and PLM applications. Companies will take the time and cloud PLM service providers and application developers will be slowly but surely building their data competence. Until it will become obvious that the data managed by these platforms have an incredible value and can be used as a major platform intelligence generator, turning existing PLM business models upside down and providing huge value to all customers.
What is my conclusion?
PLM systems and product lifecycle management will become a main source of intelligence and will provide cloud solutions using cloud computing and supporting digital transformation in many companies. A typical legacy PLM system was focusing mostly on data control. It was mostly about product data management and used on-premise or in the private cloud. New cloud infrastructure will change the way the product development process will happen. Modern industrial platforms will have the power of data and intelligence to provide first a business value around product development and product lifecycle, providing decision support, connecting companies with their supply chain partners, component, and other suppliers, building products using these services. It is a very interesting transformation that I’m sure will become visible and accelerate in the next 5-10 years. 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.