In a new independent research survey by Tech-Clarity, more than 300 companies that design and manufacture products were asked about their best practices and their most important business challenges.

The industry survey report, “Accelerating Product Development With The Cloud,” revealed that 58 percent of respondents cited product development speed as their number one driver of profitability. What’s getting in the way of that speed? Companies say that their engineers and designers are spending only 47 percent of their time directly on product innovation and development. More than half their time is being spent waiting for data, waiting for colleagues or partners to finish designs, and going on scavenger hunts to find the data they need to do their jobs effectively.

Not a shock, but survey participants also say they are wasting time in non-productive meetings.

That last item is a company culture issue that I candidly can’t help you with. I do, however, have two suggestions for attacking your other sources of time-wasting frustration. Spending some time learning about modern data management and learning how to program your own custom CAD features for design automation are two huge ways that Onshape users can experience noticeable results.

Let’s tackle them one at a time,

Modern Data Management

Managing design teams remotely and collaboratively requires a different data management philosophy. Modern data management, inspired by Agile methodology and GitHub-style version control, is now something that engineers can take advantage of.

If your design team is using a file server and a VPN to access your design data, making changes can be fraught with peril. What if you overwrite somebody else's data, or even your own? There is no true version history of a file system. Compounding that fact is that design engineers iterate several times to come up with a minimal viable product (MVP) to propose for release. Where are all these iterations? Probably in the engineer’s mind, or scattered across their desktop, lost in time.

Many engineers are now using Git-style tools for logical version control and iterations. In the image below, note how a designer (or a team of designers) can work on the DEV timeline of a product, branch onto different iterations of “FEATURES” and then merge these ideas back into the “DEV” timeline – and finally for MVP on the “REL” timeline.

Database-driven release management and version control is something that is extremely beneficial to understand. For starters, visit the Onshape Learning Center to watch an in-depth video explaining how to manage design teams collaboratively with GitHub-style branching and merging.

Also, take a look at this Onshape Document for an example of a design project using this strategy.

When you're using a graphical version control history that shows the iterations and allows for design team input to be tracked separately then merged, the best possible design can be agreed upon and released to production.

Programming Custom CAD Features for Design Automation

CREATING INDUSTRY-SPECIFIC CAD FEATURES – Using Onshape’s open-source programming language, “FeatureScript,” the Taymer engineering team created a custom feature to automatically generate 3D models of hot foil printer inserts used to label miles and miles of power cable. To learn more, click here. (Screenshot courtesy of Taymer)

How about automation? There’s no better time than now to streamline your company’s design practices. Many engineering firms use macros and scripts to help design repetitive items in a way that reduces design time and increases product quality. Learning how to create code or edit code will drastically increase the value of your CAD data and increase your personal marketability.

Onshape has built in a SaaS cloud-based IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for the construction of custom code to drive new Onshape features. Our own software development team codes in FeatureScript, an open-source programming language for building and working with 3D parametric models.

This programming language was built into Onshape from the ground up, providing the foundation of Part Studio modeling, including robust geometric references, powerful parametric tools, and a type system with types built for math in three dimensions. There’s no need to spin up your own instances of C++ or VBA, just sign into Onshape and start coding.

If you are new to building code, no worries. Onshape has built-in learning tools to get you started. You can even take existing FeatureScript code and modify it to suit your own needs. To learn more about this, visit the Onshape Learning Center’s online course catalog and check out your options. Your ROI will only grow over time as you learn how to extend your design team’s capabilities.

Whether you decide to dive into the modern data management or the FeatureScript courses first, every hour you are not frantically searching for data, waiting endlessly for a colleague or partner, or doing repetitive tasks, is another hour that you can be designing products!

As the new Tech-Clarity product development survey confirms, everyone’s end goal is to get the best product made in the shortest amount of time.