Open source Aras releases commercial PLM solution for SolidWorks

“Aras Enterprise PLM for SolidWorks Enterprise PDM” fills a hole in the SolidWorks marketplace as big as its name is long.

By Randall S. Newton

Aras, a PLM software vendor best known for its open source product, today launched a commercial product for SolidWorks users. The full name is a mouthful: Aras Enterprise PLM for SolidWorks Enterprise PDM. Our assessment: Aras just plugged a huge hole in the SolidWorks marketplace, one as big as the product name is long.

Aras Enterprise PLM for SolidWorks Enterprise PDM is a new commercial product from the previously open source PLM vendor. (Source: Aras Corporation)

Search the SolidWorks site for partner solutions that extend SolidWorks product data management (PDM) into product lifecycle management (PLM) and you get a couple of data migration products. Search Google on “SolidWorks PLM” and you get a ton of hits that are all talk about SolidWorks and PLM, but no real product. There is a total lack of integrated true PLM solutions for SolidWorks. Dassault Systèmes, the parent company of SolidWorks, makes a nice living selling heavy-duty PLM products and services to some of the world’s largest manufacturers. In the last two or three years it has talked about the need for PLM in the SolidWorks marketplace, but has yet to deliver a solution.

Aras says its new SolidWorks add-on extends the philosophy behind their flagship product Aras Innovator, which is to ship a product that is ready to work ‘out of the box,’ without custom installation. Indeed, it has “customers” who have standardized on Aras Innovator yet never spent a dime with Aras. The crucial difference with Aras EPLM for SolidWorks is that it is a commercial product, not open source. Aras EPLM for SolidWorks is sold on an annual subscription of $995 per floating user.

SolidWorks PDM Enterprise required

This new PLM system for SolidWorks users is an add-on to SolidWorks Enterprise PDM. The idea behind the program, says Aras CEO Peter Schroer, is that “SolidWorks Enterprise PDM is by far the best CAD file manager” for SolidWorks. “So, we’ve taken our open source PLM solutions, included new out-of-the-box functionality that connects directly to EPDM, and packaged it all up to create a totally new commercial offering that’s optimized for companies that run SolidWorks.”

Aras thinks there are plenty of SolidWorks users ready to move beyond CAD file management and into product lifecycle management, but were turned off by the high cost, long lead times, and extensive custom deployment required by the enterprise market leaders. Their announcement quotes Kevin Friske, the database administrator at MiTek Corporation, an electronics manufacturer and SolidWorks user. “Our engineers have been screaming for something like this. We have a deep product structure on some of our product lines and this will significantly increase productivity and quality. Aras EPLM for SolidWorks Enterprise PDM makes a lot of sense. We also like the fact that everything with Aras is on Microsoft SQL Server, and since its 100% browser-based, it is easy to use for people at multiple sites.”

A BOM comparision in new Aras EPLM for SolidWorks Enterprise PDM. (Source: Aras)

As shipped, Aras EPLM includes modules including New Product Development and Introduction (NPDI), Complex Configuration Management, Enterprise Change Management, Outsourced Manufacturing, and Quality Compliance. The goal is to extend the reach of SolidWorks Enterprise PDM to drive PLM processes throughout a company and its supply chain, while maintaining current SolidWorks design practices.

Aras EPLM for SolidWorks Enterprise PDM is being sold by a network of US resellers including Fisher-Unitech and Razorleaf Corporation. More information at

Comment: The data market for CAD users

CAD use has become so pervasive in manufacturing that most users recognize the need for some sort of file management system. Windows Explorer just doesn’t cut it. Only the mechanical CAD vendors who target sole entrepreneurs or hobbyists are not either selling or working like mad to develop a PDM product to accompany their existing CAD. A similar awareness curve exists for PLM, but it is a smaller percentage of CAD/PDM users who have so far awakened to the need for thinking beyond file management and into product management. The market will grow. Even Autodesk, long known for its hostility to the notion of PLM, now says its customers are demanding real PLM solutions, not just file management.

Product development complexity is not limited to large manufacturers. All manufacturing is hurling toward becoming custom manufacturing, and with such notions of mass customization comes a bewildering matrix of shifting product data requirements. Tack on such external notions as government requirements and ‘green’ issues, and the complexity keeps mounting.

A few years ago Aras threw out the sales staff and put its new Windows SOA PLM solution into open source. It has since gained enough traction in the marketplace to keep a growing team of Russian programmers hard at work, making money by selling services and training. It would not be surprising if Aras decided to consider its open source days as a phase that worked to get it noticed and to prove itself as a legitimate PLM solution, and concentrate from here forward on commercial solutions. Autodesk Vault users would line up at the door to get a pure PLM solution if it promised what Aras is promising SolidWorks users.