Autodesk's PLM 360 solution proves a hit

Having been announced at Autodesk University in December 2011 and launched as a product in February 2012, Autodesk's PLM 360 cloud-based PLM platform has, depending on your viewpoint, either recently passed or is about to pass its first birthday. And, according to the company, the first year has more than vindicated the product.

More than 350 companies worldwide are now using and evaluating PLM 360, which translates as more than 8000 users who have created 40,000 workspaces and are managing around 2m items. A survey undertaken in November asked early adopters why they selected Autodesk PLM 360, what are they using it for and how were they benefitting from a cloud-based PLM solution? The survey revealed that two-thirds of respondents selected PLM 360 for its immediate access to data it offered and 64% cited improved flexibility and responsiveness using the cloud. Perhaps more telling in terms of its target market, though, were the facts that 28% had no PLM system prior to using PLM 360, only 11% had used a competitive product prior to using PLM 360 and 61% were using Microsoft Office to meet their PLM needs. The obvious conclusion, then, is that PLM 360 is filling a gap for companies for whom the cost of traditional PLM solutions had always been a barrier, something Richard Blatcher, Autodesk's Senior Industry Marketing Manager PLM, makes clear, saying: "We like to democratise technology and make it available to everyone. We've done it for 2D design, 3D design, simulation and now PLM. That has been one of the key attractions to the small-to-medium businesses." This "sweet spot" among SMEs has not come about by chance, of course. Autodesk's decision to join the PLM market late gave it time to identify the gaps in the market. As Blatcher puts it: "It was no accident. Carl [Bass, Autodesk's president and CEO] made it very clear that we would only get involved in the PLM marketplace when the time was right. He's been quoted for many years on the theme that the only people to really benefit from traditional PLM were the PLM vendors. So the availability and accessibility of cloud computing was really the tipping point that allowed us to enter the market with the next-generation product." One of the early adopters of PLM 360 is Irish company Suretank, which manufactures Cargo Carrying Units (CCUs) for the offshore oil industry. Suretank's engineering manager David Keeley was tasked with implementing a PDM system when he joined the company, but has chosen instead to implement PLM 360, which he describes as "the single most impressive software application I've seen since I first started using CAD". Having had experience of PLM systems prior to joining Suretank, Keeley believes that many traditional PLM systems are difficult to use and force companies to adapt to them rather than being adaptable to the company. He says: "I realised that we were having to make significant compromises in order to fit into the application. That made sense at management level but at the front line of engineering, it makes your life more difficult. You start to think 'this thing has supposedly been put in to make my life easier and it's doing the opposite'." Where PLM 360 scores, Keeley believes, is in its simplicity and flexibility. "You can be up and running with this in a day. We've only needed one day's consultancy from Autodesk in implementing PLM 360… what Suretank needed was an application that was going to solve our immediate information management problems that could be scaled and changed in the future to adapt to the requirements of the business. When we started looking at PLM 360, it became immediately obvious that it was the best solution."