The cloud has affected every aspect of your personal life. Think about it. You've got to pick up your wife at the airport. What do you do? You check FlightView on your phone. Need to check your finances? Go online to your banking statement. Want to keep tabs on your child’s school work? Their academic schedule and progress reports are online, too.
Much of your professional life is also in the cloud: your paycheck, automatic deductions, health care, 401K, etc. Ditto for your upcoming meetings and your co-workers’ schedules. But yet, if you go to your engineering workstation, you have to make sure you have the latest service pack of your Windows update. That’s a desktop-installed update that interrupts your workflow. If you want to share a design with a team member or outside partner, you either have to email the file or use a service like Dropbox (which can possibly change all the links and break the assembly). That interrupts your workflow.
As any traditional CAD user knows, it can be an absolute nightmare just to say, "I want you to look at this." In the constant back-and-forth exchange of file copies, you always have to worry, "Do I have the latest version?” You have “John-Final.doc” and your colleagues have “John-Final-a.doc” and “John-Latest.doc.” Who is really working on the latest version? How can you be sure? Is there a chance you might be making edits on an earlier version and didn’t see a colleague’s changes?
Version control is a dizzying and maddening problem. When you’re looking at your tax information in the cloud, you’re thankfully never wondering, “Oh, is that the latest W-2 statement?" It is the W-2 statement. There are no multiple versions. So the idea that product designers spend their entire personal and professional lives in the cloud, except when working with their most important occupational tool – CAD – is illogical. How can it be that the engineering world is light years behind the rest of the business world?
Skeptics of cloud-based CAD often cite concerns about protecting their intellectual property. They might say, "Oh, I can't imagine putting our IP in the cloud." But they already are. They're doing it with Dropbox, they're emailing it around. They've actually got far more copies of their IP floating around their Inbox and Outbox (and their partners’ and vendors’ Inboxes and Outboxes) than they would with one master cloud version where they can heavily focus their security efforts.
The engineering and manufacturing world needs a radical perspective shift. Companies need to compete in a world that's asking workers to move faster and do more with less – less time, less money, less resources and less control – but with more pressure to get it done faster and get more revenue. To pull that off, we need to change our processes and our tools.
Agile businesses have moved to cloud-based tools because they’re more convenient, more efficient and much faster. It makes no sense to leave their engineering department stuck in the mud. Companies which realize this sooner will have a tremendous advantage over their competitors. Those who inexplicably choose to stay stuck in the mud will be swallowed up by it.