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Autodesk and Upchain: streamlining PLM and engineering collaboration in the cloud

It’s been a little more than a year since Autodesk acquired Upchain, the cloud-native product data management (PDM) and product lifecycle management (PLM) technology company. I’ve been reflecting on how well Upchain and Autodesk’s design and manufacturing offerings fit together for customers, what the teams have accomplished, and what we have learned since the acquisition. I’m fortunate to speak regularly with manufacturers about the industry, their needs, and where things are headed. And I’m pleased to report that the idea of a fast, flexible product manufacturing system resonates. That is what Fusion 360 is all about. Leveraging the Upchain technology will simply help us deliver it even faster.

In the few years since we started deeply investing in our data solutions, we’ve watched as the industry has shifted from seeing the cloud as an option to consider for storing project files to realizing cloud is the future and proprietary files are speedbumps. The power of the cloud–which makes project data accessible to a vast number of business functions and applications–is a requirement of modern business. This was our shared vision when Autodesk acquired Upchain, and we’re even more bullish today that we’re on the right track. We’re seamlessly integrating Fusion 360 and Upchain, unifying our PDM and PLM technologies with our enterprise-grade 3D CAD experience. These efforts provide our customers a significant differentiating advantage already, and it’s only going to get better.

Manufacturers spend roughly 20% of their technical time on non-productive data management tasks, a lot of which is wasted simply searching for files, reports Tech-Clarity (pdf). Harvard Business Review found 69% of manufacturers that use cloud tech list data accessibility as one of its most helpful benefits. And though instant access to data that the cloud provides is important, that’s really just the beginning of what it offers.

At Autodesk, we’re relentlessly pursuing every opportunity to make the lives of product designers, manufacturers, suppliers, stakeholders, and customers more efficient and collaborative. These people use a wide variety of tools to do their varied jobs well. But today’s mixed-up paradigm of massive project files, productivity applications and disconnected data stored in different places is problematic. It leads to inefficient collaboration, poor version control, and lots of avoidable disconnects. Reclaiming time that’s lost to non-productive tasks like switching tools, using unfamiliar applications, and the re-work required when project fine points are lost to poorly integrated workflows are simple examples of the challenges the cloud addresses. An integrated data management solution that bridges gaps between the tools people use goes a long way toward solving this. But most design and manufacturing companies don’t have something like this today.

A man develops a generatively-designed frame.

Upchain helps Fusion users digitize manufacturing.

This is where Upchain comes in. Upchain’s cloud-native, instant-on data management technology integrates the various mechanical and electrical CAD tools with non-CAD productivity tools used by other members of the team. It stores all data related to product development in the cloud, manages collaboration across users–including versioning, engineering change processes and reviews, and history tracking–and makes sure the right data gets to the right people at the right time.

We’re building automation that understands and parses what’s contained in project data to keep everyone informed and up to date. Our tools will deliver relevant information to people when they need it, in a format that makes sense to them and doesn’t need tidying up to be useful. This automation yields much greater value from project data and frees people from doing repetitive, mundane tasks, so they can focus on creativity and innovation.

Cloud-native Upchain meets cloud-native Fusion 360

A person works on a machining tool.

An engineer using Fusion turns a design into reality.

Since inception, our vision of Fusion 360 has been a cloud-native design and manufacturing platform that uses a single, always-up-to-date, cloud data model to store all the details of a project. This model ensures everyone involved is plugged into and pulling from the current version of the project, and always has access to what’s appropriate for their role. Upchain was founded on a very similar cloud-centric vision and has proven to be a perfect complement to Fusion. It meets customers where they are today and quickly brings CAD and productivity tools together.

Since the acquisition, the teams have been busy uniting Upchain tools and technology with the rest of our design and manufacturing portfolio, as well as simplifying the offerings. We are excited about where we are headed and can’t wait to share more with you in the coming months.

Autodesk has an established history of digitally transforming industries for the better. We were the first to digitize architectural drawings, then we did so for prototypes in product design and manufacturing. Now we’re digitizing manufacturing, end to end, and to do so we need to be able to work with data from anywhere.

The acquisition and integration of Upchain is a big step toward this and will continue to play a critical role in the future of Fusion.

You can learn more about Upchain here.