Think back to your high school and try to remember the best athlete in two different sports or the smartest kid in two different subjects. Maybe it was you?

Talented, motivated and successful people usually thrive in multiple areas. A football star might also be a standout in track & field. By definition, the valedictorian must excel in math, science and literature.

And if you have 10 people in your company who do CAD, usually the person who is the best designer is often the best CAD IT person as well. This is not to insult all the other important employees on your team, but every company has its own LeBron James.

Do you really want your best engineer spending time on IT instead of designing products? For years, you haven’t had any other choice.

If you’ve been using traditional desktop-installed CAD, your company is devoting way too much time and resources on IT. Consider that:

  • You have to download software. 
  • You have to install it on everyone’s machine, one at a time.
  • You have to get and manage license codes.
  • You have to validate that those codes work.
  • If anything goes wrong, you have to deal with debugging the license mechanism with your vendor or Value Added Reseller (VAR).
  • If your installation gets corrupted, then you have to do it all over again!

If you have a PDM system or multiple sites, this IT overhead is multiplied.

Here’s a quick recap of why the pains of traditional CAD are simply intolerable:




If you are at a larger company and have a significant number of CAD users, you have to make sure whatever you do is in sync. You have to freeze everyone whenever you upgrade with a service pack or to a new release. And if it is a new release, you have to update the data somehow. This puts you out of sync with your suppliers – who can’t read your files.

Exhausted yet? Hope not, because there’s even more on your IT To-Do list.

The IT Hassles of Using a PDM System

With more than a handful of CAD users, you most likely use a PDM system to prevent people from overwriting each other’s work.

With PDM, you have to have servers and you must have clients attached to those servers. If you have multiple locations, you have to have servers for each site – and your data needs to be synchronized between servers. Different PDM systems have different ways to do that, but it requires CAD administration onsite.

This doesn’t even take into consideration all the wasted time that occurs when co-workers forget to check in a file back into the vault. As crazy as it seems, one of our clients told us a story of a CAD professional blocking a co-worker’s car in the parking lot just so he could access a file!

Everybody knows that with traditional file-based CAD, only one person can have write access to a file at a time. As the number of users increase, companies buy PDM to enforce that. But design does not have to be serial. Parallel work is more efficient than serial work. You won’t find anyone who likes using PDM – and this is the fundamental reason why. Nobody likes working in an inefficient way.

As my colleague Ilya Mirman writes in “Why Your CFO Wants You to Move to Cloud CAD,” the cost of this extra aggravation isn’t cheap. The average PDM investment starts at $20,000 to $30,000 and up. But the real cost isn’t those list prices. The most critical cost is lost time and making your best people be CAD IT managers instead of engineers.

Onshape: Professional 3D CAD With Zero IT

When you move to full-cloud CAD, you reclaim all those wasted hours outlined above. Based in a web browser, Onshape is the first professional 3D CAD system that is truly zero IT.

With Onshape, there are:

  • No downloads
  • No installations
  • No license codes
  • Your data and your suppliers’ data are always up to date on the latest software
  • No restrictions on where you work
  • No artificial restrictions on what design you can work on and when

Your CAD system is not tied down to one machine where the software was installed. Onshape lets you access your designs from any computer, tablet or phone anytime you wish. With built-in version control, there is no longer any need to have a PDM system. With no files or copies, your CAD data exists in only one place in the cloud. There’s no problem finding the latest version because there is only one place to look.

With desktop-installed CAD, if your IT department wants to upgrade everyone’s machine, there are a bunch of time-draining tasks involved. The software needs to be copied over, which means everything needs to be re-installed. And all the connections need to be set up again. Most IT tasks that happen across the company tend to be a big disruptor of CAD continuity.

Conversely, Onshape doesn’t care which machine you log in from – new, old and everything in between. Your CAD is now device agnostic. You can seamlessly move from your desk to the computer on the shop floor or laptop at home with no interruptions.

Larger companies usually have separate IT people for overall organization-wide issues. Either these generalists choose to learn the CAD specifics or they don’t. More often than not, they don’t, leaving your best engineer holding the bag.

But things don’t have to be that way. Give Onshape a try and watch your best CAD people focus on designing things instead of worrying about keeping everyone functional. You’ll never want to switch back!