It’s no secret that Autodesk has staked its bet on the cloud as a key differentiator for its PLM 360 offering. Now the company is touting a partnership with ERP cloud provider NetSuite Inc., making closed-loop integration with ERP another ace in its quest to build out a winning PLM hand.
The pair is promising to build seamless integration between Autodesk’s PLM 360 cloud PLM platform and NetSuite’s cloud-based business management suite, including the NetSuite Manufacturing Edition. The result, officials from both companies say, will be an end-to-end cloud-based solution that supports the full spectrum of activities related to designing and manufacturing products — from ideation, through manufacturing, service, and multi-channel sales. The companies are working with Autodesk’s PLM Connect cloud-based tool to create the integration between the platforms, says Brian Roepke, Autodesk’s director of PLM.
Timing for the partnership makes sense, officials say, because manufacturers are in need of a system that can deliver end-to-end visibility while also being easy to configure and deploy in the face of continuous time-to-market and costing pressures. “Manufacturers have increasing challenges and pressures around product development and managing their supply chain,” says Richard Blatcher, Autodesk’s senior industry manager, at a press conference announcing the extended partnership. “Gone are the days when traditional, build-to-stock manufacturing is the way forward — today, it’s the way of the past. Autodesk PLM 360 and NetSuite together deliver a platform that’s rapidly configurable and can support continuous product innovation.”
The idea is to build bi-directional integration between the systems for seamless data flow in support of a wide array of workflows. Two examples that Autodesk cited include:
1. Approved vendor lists and vendors audits. Creating a tight, closed-loop cycle between ERP and PLM aids in the vendor approval and procurement process by making sure everyone in the cycle — from engineers specifying components and parts to warehouse personnel maintaining optimal levels of inventory of those parts — are kept on the same page. With such closed-loop integration, if a vendor is marked as inactive in the PLM system after an audit because they fail to meet quality standards, their status is automatically reflected in other relevant workflows like purchasing or inventory management, ensuring that employees in those other departments no longer order or maintain those parts.
2. Intelligent change management. The bi-directional integration takes change management to another level ensuring all the information from the PLM system is fed into NetSuite and properly documented, propagated, and managed in both PLM and downstream manufacturing. This would ensure that an ECO affecting a bill of materials is also reflected in the manufacturing bill of materials, so that a work order for assembly routing processes is properly updated, for example.
PLM-to-ERP integration continues to be a sticky point for companies orchestrating widespread adoption of PLM. While Autodesk is not reselling NetSuite or creating an ERP/PLM service bundle as part of this partnership, the alliance does take challenging integration issues off the table for customers interested in both NetSuite and Autodesk’s offerings, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses, notes Tom Gill, an independent PLM consultant. It also open up both companies for expansion into new customers constituencies — in Autodesk’s case, NetSuite’s universe of non-PLM users. In fact, Blatcher said that 70% of Autodesk PLM 360 customers had no prior PLM implementation prior to using the cloud-based offering.
In addition to the NetSuite partnership, Autodesk also touted other areas of expansion around PLM 360. The company has broadened its relationship with other cloud service providers, including Jitterbit, which delivers integration software, and Octopart, a cloud service specializing in material compliance. It has also gone live with the PLM 360 App Store, which serves as a template library of different business processes that users can leverage in their PLM environment. The apps are available to Autodesk PLM 360 customers free of charge.
“In the traditional software model, companies have to buy new modules every time that want to expand their ecosystem,” Roepke says. “With PLM 360, we want to keep it simple and let them expand their system without buying more modules.”
For more on Autodesk PLM 360 App store, check out this video.