Autodesk beefed up their functionality with a new acquisition.
According to TechCrunch, Autodesk acquired Toronto-based Upchain, the producer of a sophisticated PLM cloud system.
PLM refers to “Product Lifecycle Management”, and it is quite important for product development. While readers may know Autodesk for their powerful 3D modeling tools, there’s actually a lot more involved when building a complex product.
A product travels through a well-known lifecycle, from conception, through prototyping, to manufacturing, and this can involve many different parties, including designers, suppliers, testers and others. A successful product development launch will require considerable coordination of everyone’s activities throughout the product development sequence.
This activity is very challenging for a company to handle without a tool to do so. While single-person projects really don’t need this level of coordination, anything relatively complex and involving multiple parties certainly does.
Autodesk defines PLM as:
“Product lifecycle management provides enterprise-wide collaboration for all involved in the product lifecycle—from engineering and supply chain to quality and manufacturing. With everyone working from a central source, you can bring better products to market faster.”
Six-year-old Upchain provides a cloud-based system that does PLM for their subscribers. It offers a wide array of features, including CAD plugins for “every major platform”, integration with office software, APIs, part tracking change requests, and much more.
Their goal is to ensure clients are able to swiftly develop new products with as little administrative bumps as possible.
Currently they offer a variety of subscription plans ranging from single participants (US$30/month) to custom enterprise-wide plans.
Autodesk Upchain Acquisition
Now it appears that Autodesk has acquired Upchain. This is a bit curious, as Autodesk already had some PLM tools of their own.
Upchain focuses on small and mid-sized businesses, so it may be that Autodesk is intending on strengthening their offer in those markets. Autodesk’s current PLM tools seem to be quite a bit more expensive than those from Upchain, so this acquisition could be a way for Autodesk to gain many smaller clients. And of course, those small clients may eventually grow into larger clients.
Another possibility is that Autodesk is simply taking out a competitor. Upchain’s clients would also grow, and perhaps Autodesk feared Upchain could slurp up some of their own PLM clients in the future.
There is some evidence for this, as TechCrunch reports that Autodesk has acquired no fewer than 15 different companies over the past four years. That’s an acquisition every quarter!
Prior to that time Autodesk began shifting their own tools to a cloud-based service. When acquiring other tools it’s far easier to deploy them to clients if you’re using a cloud system instead of individually-installed standalone software, so there’s perhaps a connection here. In any case, Upchain’s existing cloud system would likely easily fit into Autodesk’s growing cloud-based ecosystem.