If your CAD designers want to work in an agile way, look no further than built-in Product Data Management (PDM) software.

Yes, that’s right. A built-in PDM system is essential to any business that wants to leverage agile workflows, quick feedback loops, and easy accessibility.

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What is PDM Software for CAD?

It's an enterprise-level system that helps companies manage their computer-aided design (CAD) data across different departments. It allows teams to keep relevant information in one central location and is accessible to engineers and designers building the product. 

But there are shortcomings with traditional CAD and PDM software.

What’s the Difference Between Traditional and Built-In PDM?

Let’s dive into a quick history of PDM software. 

The invention of CAD software signaled the first digital transformation in the world of engineering. CAD software gave designers the power to make digital versions of drawings in the form of computer files, organized into folders – much like what would be done in real life.

But teams could only have one person open one design file to work on one at a time.

Not much changed during the age of cloud storage since all of the CAD systems were still based on the old ways of file management. Still, only one person could work on a file at a time, creating a serial approach to work.

Meanwhile, PDM software built into a cloud-native CAD platform eliminates the need to check-in and check-out files. 

Command Tooling Systems

Chuck Berg, Director of Engineering and Technology at Command Tooling Systems, said during an Onshape webinar that his team would refer to their old PDM system as the “black hole.” 

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“A big part of that PDM management was managing the workflows,” Berg said. “Basically, PDM management from that experience was always prodding people along to get certain steps done in a workflow.”

Command Tooling Sytems is a tool holder manufacturer for CNC mills and lathes based in Ramsey, Minnesota. 

“Those added steps and different types of revision schemes kept adding overhead weight, basically,” Berg said, especially because the team had a variety of different workflows for special orders, for standard product inventory, and more.

With all of these workflows to keep up with, Berg said he would spend almost half his workweek managing the PDM software. This friction point was one of many reasons Berg and his team looked for an alternative PDM software.

The PDM Case to Switching to a New CAD

“Switching a CAD system in a product or manufacturing company is a huge endeavor,” Berg said. “You have to have a good reason to do it.”

The relatively small team at Command Tooling relied on a file-based CAD system along with the recommended PDM software. The “really good reason” to switch to a cloud-native platform wasn’t for built-in PDM, but to use the software they needed on existing devices.

“We were not too excited about having to do or being forced into new OSs, new graphics cards,” Berg explained. “Those hardware requirements were getting more and more aggressive, very expensive machinery.”

Along with hardware requirements, it was a struggle to keep up with changing licenses.

“It's the constant evolution of home use licenses and network access licenses. And the scheme changes almost every year,” Berg added, underlining his frustration with previous file-based CAD software. 

At this point, Berg had been tinkering with Onshape personally and wanted to take it to the professional level. 

“The performance of the Onshape environment on a basic machine and a decent internet connection was very, very optimal for us,” Berg explained. Then that’s when the magic from Onshape’s built-in PDM happened. 

Built-In PDM Allows Concurrent Engineering

“You really can't do truly concurrent engineering, in my opinion, in most systems,” Berg said. But, “You can in Onshape.”

After transitioning to cloud-native CAD with built-in PDM, the team at Command Tooling could work together on the same model at the same time on any device, adding additional benefits to the team workflow.

“When you're in Onshape,” Berg explained, “Because it's truly a collaborative environment, it becomes the communication tool.”

The cloud-native architecture behind Onshape makes PDM of yesteryear seem outdated. Why use a separate PDM system that needs constant updating when you can tap into a CAD platform with better capabilities?

Learn more about built-in PDM and other ways Onshape has made workflows at leading companies more streamlined. 

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