PLM is the current annoying buzzword. Explaining the acronym doesn't help much: product lifecycle management.
CAD vendors see PLM software as a way to bring growth, more profits, and maybe even more customers. Autodesk does too, but has been slow in mounting rooftops to shout its PLM strategy, in contrast with some of their competitors. Not that PLM isn't perculating through the thought processes of Autodeskers. You can see it in the documention for AutoCAD 2005, with the use of the word "lifecycle."
(We journalists weary of the Current Important Concept. Terms that churned our stomachs in the past included "object-oriented" and "collaboration." )
Cynicism aside, I was impressed with Andrew Agnost, who called today to describe Autodesk's PLM strategy for small-to-medium manufacturing firms. <-- Note: they're not attempting to go after large firms.
For many of these firms, I can see PLM being an eye-roller: no budget, no time. What it is? What would we have to buy? How disruptive will it be? If our competitors and clients don't require it, why do we need it? CRM. MRP. PDM. Yikes!!!
Mr Agnost says Autodesk has figured out how to break the large PLM-implementation problem into manageable chunks that solve three problems that "leak productivity" -- I like that term.
1. Tracking work-in-progress data.
2. Release to manufacturing, change order propagation.
3. Collaboration with other manufacturers and customers.
Some of the solutions are free; others cost $$$.
Solution to problem 1: Vault. Solves the work-in-progress problem by storing design data centrally. New API allows it to work with other PDM (product data management) systems; also, to add other apps. Included free with all of Autodesk's mechanically-oriented software.Runs on Microsoft's SQL database engine. Good for up to ten people accessing it; for more than 10, need to upgrade the Microsoft db engine.
Solution to problem 2: Product Stream. Solves the release, ECO problems. New product from Autodesk, developed in-house, that runs on top of Vault (using that new API). First version handles non-CAD data. Release 2 in September handles release-to-manufacturing data. Release 3 next spring handles ECOs (engineering change orders). Not free. So new it doesn't even have its own Web page yet. Two versions: creator (costs more) and reviewer (costs less).
Solution to problem 3: DWF. Solves the collaboration problem. DWF Composer will be integrated into Product Stream. Streamline already handles DWF. Parts of DWF are free; others cost $$$.