In the landscape of PLM solutions, Autodesk’s PLM360 seemed like the rebel. Since its inception, PLM360 has focused on providing capabilities to enable and manage processes, not product data. But in mid September, Autodesk expanded the capabilities of the system to cover one of the most basic sets of PLM functionality: data management. However, they didn’t do it in the traditional way. In this post, we’ll look at the capabilities now provided by PLM360 as well as my commentary and analysis on what it means. Let’s get going.

New Capabilities Provided by PLM360

Unlike PLM, there’s a lot of consensus around the definition of PDM. It breaks down into CAD data management, document management and information management that can extend from the engineering organization all the way out to the enterprise. Those basics are covered, for the most part, in this new release of PLM360. However, being a PLM-in-the-Cloud system means there are different opportunities to address market needs as compared to On-Premise PLM systems. And, thankfully, the folks at Autodesk thought through that fairly carefully.

One such area is the participation of non-technical users across the supply chain. These folks don’t have or want access to CAD applications. They might want to see and maybe interrogate 3D models without much hassle. Autodesk obliged them.

Essentially, this means that when a user comes across some 3D model as they are browsing through PLM360, they’ll have the option to ‘see’ that design in the browser through an embedded viewer. As I understand it, no special app need be installed. The viewer is simple and easy to use.

When you start thinking about managing data in the cloud, especially CAD files created on the desktop, what is your first concern? If you’ve been around PDM systems for any amount of time, you’re answer should be network bandwidth. Even on local networks, it can take quite some time to check a large design into a PDM system. I could only imagine using the same protocols across the internet would be worse. But, again, the folks at Autodesk thought through this issue. They created a new means of figuring out what does and does not need to be transferred.

Truth be told, I think this concept exists to some degree in many PDM systems today. However, in such a technical field and with such algorithms held closely as intellectual property, it is difficult to understand just how differentiated it is. However, the Autodesk folks shared some of their own benchmarks as seen in the tweet above.

So, are you excited about PDM yet? No? Well, I can’t blame you. Back in mid 2013, I wrote a post titled PDM: Boon or Plague? that pretty much summarized what I saw as general sentiment. Everyone knew they needed it. Yet, it was so laboriously painful. The good news here is that Autodesk acknowledged this reality and turned to some existing paradigms to ease that pain. Specifically, the data management capabilities of PLM360 provide synching with a folder on your local computer, much like Dropbox and GrabCAD Workbench.

So, basically, users of Desktop CAD applications can just continue to manage your files just like you were, on the local file system.

If, however, you are one of the progressives using Fusion360, then you are covered too. PLM360 will manage that design data as well.

Commentary and Analysis

So, what’s my take on this?

As I wrote earlier this year in a guest post over on the PTC Creo blog, PDM is a Personal Productivity Tool. By saying that, I mean that there are certainly advantages and benefits to the organization. However, the biggest advantages and benefits are reaped by individuals by tracking the what, when and how of their design iterations. I’m glad to see that aspects of Autodesk’s offerings integrated within PLM360. I am interested, however, to see how the folder-based aspect of data management plays out in that regard. How do users revert to an earlier version? I’m sure there is an answer.

On another note, findings from the 800+ respondents of the 2013 3D Collaboration and Interoperability study show that 70% of organizations today share design data over email. That is terrifyingly unsecure for key intellectual property. The data management capabilities of PLM360, because it is in the cloud, offers a very viable self-empowered alternative. Working late at night or on the weekends, users no longer need to vainly track down an IT manager to setup an FTP site for a supplier to download their design. They simply do it on their own. It is secure. It is simple. It requires no handholding.

Overall, this is a promising development for PLM360. And interestingly enough, even though these data management capabilities weren’t released initially, PLM360 may well be the first traditional fully functioning PLM solution in the cloud.


  • Autodesk’s PLM360 now provides data management capabilities for CAD files and documents.
  • It also offers a browser-embedded viewer of such CAD data to enable non-technical users.
  • It utilizes a ‘transfer avoidance’ algorithm that recognizes and reuses commonality between files, this avoiding data transfer as much as possible.
  • Furthermore, it provides a Dropbox-like interaction where CAD users simply manage their files on the desktop and, without their interaction, the data shows up in PLM360.

OK folks. That’s my take. Curious to hear yours.

Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.