One of the biggest myths in the product development world is that version control problems only happen when large teams are collaborating on a complex design project. Certainly, the risk of engineers accidentally overwriting each other’s work or inadvertently editing an older version of a CAD model does become more likely once multiple colleagues are involved. But working alone is no guarantee that data management problems will leave you alone.
“With version control, we used to have problems even with one engineer because human error always comes into play,” says Vaibhav Boricha, Director of VIKASO, an England-based robotics and industrial automation startup.
“The biggest pitfall is not being able to go back to previous versions quickly. And secondly, there’s the problem of somehow forgetting what you did in which version. We (used to) have no ability to record notes for individual versions. We would name a file V3, but what was V3 about? What changed from V2 to V3?”
VIKASO integrates collaborative robots (“cobots”) into manufacturers’ existing production lines to automate repetitive tasks. Their customers include companies of all sizes, ranging from fellow startups to iconic global brands such as Rolls-Royce, BMW and MINI.
Eliminating the Hassles of Manual Data Management
Onshape, a cloud-native product design platform, provides CAD and built-in PDM for roughly the same cost as competitors charge for CAD alone.
In 2020, when VIKASO needed to expand its design team from one mechanical engineer to four, Boricha began exploring alternative CAD and data management platforms to find a better solution to their version control issues. He notes that his team’s previous approach of manually keeping track of the latest design versions through a file-naming convention – naming files V1, V2, V3, etc. – was a system prone to mistakes.
One of the biggest reasons VIKASO decided to switch from their old file-based CAD platform to cloud-native Onshape was its automatic version control. Onshape’s built-in Product Data Management (PDM) system, included in the cost of a yearly subscription, doesn’t require engineers to check in and check out designs from a vault. Multiple users can simultaneously edit the same document, seeing each other’s updates in real time with no risk of overwriting each other’s work.
Onshape’s comprehensive Edit History also records which engineer made which design change and when, allowing the team to instantly revert to any prior iteration with a mouse click.
“Transparency is very important to us,” Boricha says. “Onshape’s Comments feature lets us easily record why we’ve done what we’ve done – so we can still work at a rapid pace while taking on some really risky, innovative and disruptive projects.”
Cloud-Native CAD Saves Money on Hardware Costs
Back when VIKASO quadrupled its engineering team, adopting cloud-native Onshape resulted in an immediate 50 percent savings in hardware costs. Because Onshape runs on any computer or mobile device (iOS or Android), it was no longer necessary to purchase dedicated high-performance workstations solely to run CAD.
Given the company’s budget limitations as a startup, Boricha was seeking a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product design platform offering an annual subscription versus having to purchase expensive on-premise CAD licenses upfront.
“We just didn’t have an incredible amount of money laying around to buy more perpetual licenses. We first found Onshape when we were looking for a subscription model, and all the other added value – not having to manage servers or maintenance, securing and backing up our data – was the cherry on the cake,” he recalls. “A SaaS model gives us breathing room. The whole idea of buying perpetual licenses is not something we’d want to pursue at this stage of the company.”
“Even in the future, I would never choose a perpetual license because it does not give us any flexibility,” Boricha adds. “If there is a better technology that comes out two years from now, then what do we do? We’d be stuck with those licenses that we invested $20,000 to $50,000 in. Beyond the subscription model, Onshape is saving us money in other ways – such as in the time we save sharing information with our clients and just in the whole development process.”
To learn more about how VIKASO relies on cloud-native CAD and PDM to improve its agile methodologies, watch the video below: