Schnitger Corporation

Autodesk links PLM and ERP, buys Tinkercad

Roopinder;s photo of Carl BassPLM 360 + NetSuite = Control for SMBs?

Last week, Autodesk and NetSuite announced that they had entered into a strategic partnership to link Autodesk PLM 360 and NetSuite ERP, with the aim of offering PLM and ERP to small and medium-sized companies that might have neither. PLM is all about product –design, manufacturing, quality– while ERP helps run the company –financials, HR, inventory, suppliers, customers. By creating bi-directional links, data from either environment is used to advantage in both. Imagine designing a widget in Inventor, for example. Its design is controlled in PLM 360, with an eventual release to manufacturing. But nothing is ever static, so a change order is opened that requires action from both design and manufacturing. Connecting PLM and ERP ensures that both parts of the enterprise are fully informed and can collaborate on factors such as cost, quality, speed and demand forecasting. Wider visibility should yield a better result, from both a product perspective and that of the broader enterprise.

I think this partnership is fascinating. Can’t speak yet to its actual utility, but I like the idea. Autodesk says that 70% of the companies starting a PLM 360 implementation didn’t have a PLM before, and I’d bet that many of them didn’t have an ERP either. By implementing both as software-as-a-service, targeted at solving specific business problems, Autodesk and NetSuite offer a low total cost of ownership, easy entry and, through this partnership, a relatively painless integration. It’s another way Autodesk differentiates itself: It could have partnered with SAP, whose cloud-based ERP offering seems to be selling very well, but that would have sent the wrong signal. SAP has, after all, been (rightly or wrongly) blamed for many a failed ERP implementation because it was just so darned big and complicated. Autodesk wants to be seen as nimble, targeted, big-value-for-not-big-bucks; SAP might have had more initial clout, but would have been the wrong partner.

What do you think? Do you have any experience with NetSuite?

Autodesk acquires Tinkercad

Proving just how many things Autodesk can do at once, this weekend the company announced that it is acquiring Tinkercad, a low-cost, browser-based 3D design app that had been around for a couple of years. Then, in March, Tinkercad announced that it would shut its doors and that its developers would instead focus on their new Airstone Labs venture to turn “batch simulation into a real-time environment where the user can interactively test different product designs” on an “integrated software and hardware service, built from the ground up to utilize massive high performance supercomputers with hundreds of thousands of CPU cores”. The Tinkercad developers were moving on, leaving dedicated users behind.

With this acquisition, Autodesk intends to merge some of the Tinkercad technology and user experience into the Autodesk 123D products and will keep the Tinkercad service available as part of its consumer portfolio. Exact details TBD; the acquisition should close in about a month. Wired magazine reports that the Tinkercad developers will not be joining Autodesk.


On a related note, Autodesk’s CEO Carl Bass spent Saturday at Maker Faire in San Francisco. Roopinder Tara wrote this about Mr. Bass’ session on CAD for Kids (that’s Mr. Bass, in the picture above):

How often does a CEO of a billion dollar company give up a Saturday to guide kids? Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, is doing just that. Before a standing room only crowd at Maker Faire, he delivers a heartfelt plea for one and all, the young and their parents, to use his company’s software, to help make things, some thing, anything — whatever their heart might desire, it seems. To help them, he’ll make his software, some of it sold to professionals for thousands of dollars, available for free –or really cheap. … 

The tools he has offered are substantial and generous. What is he hoping to gain? To me, it seem nothing less than a resurgence of creativity and productivity, starting with the young, but applied on a scale that Autodesk address, this could be BIG! Give me your kids, I’ll give them the means…starting with software, but with 3D printing, a lot more. Let’s see that they can make. Why can’t they make anything they want? Including making America great again.

Image courtesy of CAD Insider.

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