At Premier Custom-Built, a high-end cabinet manufacturer in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, “outsourcing” is not part of their vocabulary.
Although woodworking is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about cabinets, Premier also has its own metal shop and in-house departments working with glass, leather, and stone. The company also designs and builds its own custom machinery for woodworking when equipment doesn’t exist for some of their unique processes.
Catering to the demands of the luxury home market, no two cabinets are alike. Everything is created from scratch. Lancaster County is world famous for its craftsmanship, and furniture, of course, has existed for centuries before manufacturers relied on computer software. Nonetheless, says Premier CEO Sheldon Horst, even companies making old-school products can’t afford to ignore the latest technologies.
“Data management is a key part of what we’re focusing on to improve our company,” Horst says. “We have people creating designs throughout the company and storing the design information in various file structures and servers. And it's possible to find different versions of the same file on our server. And it's also possible to find different paper copies of those drawings on the shop floor.”
“The benefit of Onshape is that there are no copies,” he adds. “We have a single source of truth for any given product or any given job. When everyone in the company is looking at the same exact version of the design, we significantly reduce the risk of manufacturing errors.”
With cloud-based Onshape’s real-time data management, multiple team members can work in the CAD model at the same time, seeing each other’s changes as they happen. Project Manager Josh Bitner says this approach has made collaboration with his co-workers much easier across the company’s four buildings.
“The real-time interface is a very efficient way of explaining your situation to someone rather than printing out a piece of paper, going to their desk, showing them what you want to do and then going back to your desk and fixing it,” Bitner says.
Like Premier’s luxury cabinets, Onshape’s SaaS product development platform was also created from scratch. Onshape’s development team started with data management at the core, then added advanced CAD tools – unlike many file-based systems that treat data management as an afterthought.
Here’s a quick glimpse at a couple of other forward-thinking companies that have recently redefined their approach to data management.
Actronika – Haptic Technology Integration
Based in Paris, France, Actronika is an R&D company that develops patented haptic processing units (HPUs) that connect to actuators and tiny vibrotactile motors inside other companies’ products to create “endless possibilities of high definition sensations.” The touch-sensitive technology is used to improve automotive safety features, make mobile phones more tactile, and to enhance video games.
Rafal Pijewski, co-founder and CTO of Actronika, says he appreciates Onshape’s comprehensive Edit History that automatically records who made what changes and when, allowing his team to return to any prior state of the design at any time.
“After we hired a few new people, we realized we needed to start managing our design files in a more efficient way,” he recalls. “With our old system, we had issues with keeping our designs in one place, copying files in a different folder and winding up with multiple versions of the same thing,” he recalls. “It was extremely unproductive and we were losing time when someone would accidentally work on the wrong version. Onshape automatically takes care of all this.”
IonQ - R&D for Quantum Computing
Based in College Park, Maryland, IonQ is the pioneer developer of the world’s most powerful quantum computer. Quantum computers harness the unusual physics of very small particles – quantum mechanics – to solve problems that are beyond the capability of conventional devices. To achieve this potential, they must isolate and manipulate quantum systems to create quantum versions of computer bits, called “qubits.” Engineers around the world have been racing to build computers that can control more qubits, for longer calculations, and with fewer errors.
“A quantum computer is an enormously complex device with thousands of individual parts,” says Jonathan Mizrahi, a senior physicist at IonQ. “So it's of vital importance that this massive assembly have up-to-date parts, and we know what's final and what we’re still editing. I like that Onshape’s version control is automated. Everybody sees what everybody else is doing immediately.”
“Onshape gives us confidence that we always have the newest version and that everything is going to fit together as expected,” he says.
Mizrahi adds that Onshape’s real-time data management is a vast improvement over using a file-based Product Data Management (PDM) system, which he previously relied on to keep track of thousands of parts when IonQ began as an academic research project.
“This is a big collaborative process. There are electronic components, optical components, vacuum chamber components, pieces we get from vendors and parts we’re making ourselves. All of these things need to interface and work together,” he says. “The most frustrating thing about using PDM is that any given part has an owner – and until that owner checks the file back in and releases ownership, nobody else can edit that file.”
“The whole check-out/check-in process of PDM really slowed us down,” Mizrahi says. “Of course, with Onshape we no longer have to deal with that.”
Your Guide to Data Management and PDM
According to “The State of Product Development & Hardware Design 2019,” an independent industry survey of 850 product design and manufacturing professionals, more than 8 out of 10 respondents acknowledge that they have a version control problem. There is confusion over which version of a design is really the latest version, a scenario that leads to costly manufacturing errors.
The industry survey also revealed that more than 7 out of 10 product development professionals using file-based PDM/PLM systems “wish there were a better way” to prevent version control problems.
Is there a better way? Glad you asked.
Onshape’s latest eBook,“The Engineering Leader’s Guide to Data Management & PDM,” will help you evaluate your current processes and help you compare and contrast alternative solutions. Download your free copy here.