This morning, at roughly around 8 AM Pacific Time, Autodesk’s website for its new PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) solution, Autodesk PLM 360, went live. It’s not a website that tells you how to get the software. The website is the software. Autodesk is delivering its PLM product as cloud-hosted software, in the SaaS (software as a service) tradition.
Coming to the market nearly a decade behind, Autodesk is undeniably a Johnny-come-lately. But its offering has one serious advantage over those from rival software makers. For the first three users, Autodesk PLM 360 is completely free. You may add additional users at $25 to $75 per user per month, through annual subscription agreements. This is PLM at Walmart pricing, something few others would or could attempt.
Introducing the product in a webcast, Brenda Discher, Autodesk’s VP of marketing, emphasized that Autodesk PLM 360 is “insanely configurable.” She added, “We think our pricing underscores our belief that customers and companies of all sizes should have access to PLM.”
The configuration doesn’t require programming knowledge. “The only technical skill you need is to use a browser,” quipped Buzz Kross, senior VP of Manufacturing, Autodesk. Autodesk PLM 360’s interface allows you to map out business processes using drag-and-drop schematics and customize the type of reports you wish to view.
Subscriptions are offered at two levels: Participant ($25 per month) and Professional ($75 per month). Participants have only limited workflow access and communication functions. Professional subscription gives you full access.
App-Driven Environment, Accessible from Mobile Devices
Autodesk PLM 360 is delivered as a series of apps. At launch time, customers can access about 140 apps to accomplish different tasks, according to Autodesk. Initial lineup includes apps for:
- program and project management;
- requirements management;
- task management;
- change order;
- design review;
- bill of materials;
- supplier evaluation;
- deviation management;
- equipment calibration;
- complaint/incident reports;
- customer management;
- marketing asset management;
- and more.
As all SaaS, Autodesk PLM 360 is expected to be always on. According to Autodesk, “The Cloud means the system is always running and users are able to log in anywhere they have access to the Internet. Information is stored in the Cloud with data security, backup, and recovery protection services included in the purchase price.”
Autodesk PLM 360 is accessible from “anywhere, from any device,” according to Steve Bodnar, VP of PLM and PDM (Product Data Management), Autodesk. (Currently Apple app store offers a slew of Autodesk apps, but no app specific to Autodesk PLM 360 is listed yet.)
Autodesk Vault vs. Autodesk PLM 360
Autodesk continues to offer Autodesk Vault as the ideal PDM solution, to be installed and maintained on-premise at client sites, behind firewalls. By contrast, Autodesk PLM 360 is aimed at small, medium, and large enterprises looking for a PLM system with low overhead and low cost. Data housed in Vault can be linked to fields in Autodesk PLM 360 apps, but the two are not dependent on each other.
“Customers do not need Vault to work with PLM 360,” clarified Bodnar. “More than half of our beta customers do not use Vault.” According to Kross, some of the beta testers are small firms with employee numbers in single digits.
What Autodesk PLM 360 Does to the PLM Market
Cloud-hosted PLM is also available from several vendors, including Arena Solutions, Oracle, and PTC. But the variety and comprehensiveness of apps available through Autodesk makes Autodesk PLM 360 a serious contender in the SaaS PLM segment. Other PLM vendors like Dassault Systemes and Siemens PLM Software offer some cloud-hosted data-management functions and mobile apps, but their reliance on the Cloud is only partial. Autodesk’s PLM solution requires full commitment to the Cloud, which comes with benefits as well as risks. (My personal view: The benefits of Cloud outweigh the risks.)
With robust financial muscles, Autodesk can afford to offer free subscriptions of Autodesk PLM 360 up to three users, which poses significant threat to smaller PLM vendors offering similar web-hosted functions for a cost. With its robust cloud-hosted DWG display technology AutoCAD WS in the background, Autodesk PLM 360 offers browser-based viewing and markup that few others can rival.
Once, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass mocked PLM as “a solution in search of a problem.” But in the last three years, the company begin to reconsider its position on PLM, according to Kross. Today, Autodesk officially unleashed a PLM solution that could become a problem for many of its competitors.