Transitioning from an incumbent CAD is not for the faint of heart, but not evaluating the options can leave you on the back foot as the world evolves.
As a mechanical engineer by training, I have worked with designers and manufacturers of consumer products, construction equipment, and medical devices using a variety of CAD platforms, including Unigraphics and SOLIDWORKS.
So I’m well-versed with the frustrations that come from using computer-aided design (CAD) software. I’m also aware of the hurdles teams must jump to even begin making the choice to transition to a new CAD system.
Before working at Onshape in a customer strategy and enablement role, I was a senior product development engineer at Kichler Lighting. The Ohio-based company is a global leader in fashion-forward and energy-efficient residential lighting solutions. While there, I had the privilege to move the primary CAD system from SOLIDWORKS and AutoCAD to Onshape.
There were many reasons behind the switch. From consistent errors, hiccups with communicating important information, and plenty of technical issues. These issues weren’t just at Kichler but exist at many organizations that rely on CAD to get work done.
I’d like to share my experiences dealing with the issues that came with legacy CAD and how adopting a cloud-native CAD platform alleviated these paint points.
Problems With Legacy CAD From the Get-Go
Let’s start in the beginning: When I was an engineering student working with my co-op, I was exposed to many opportunities including the chance to learn CAD.
I refined my skills to a point where I was tasked with designing parts and assemblies that would be mass-produced. What a thrill for a young engineer, let alone any engineer!
However, I learned a particularly painful lesson when I saved an assembly over a senior engineers' hard work and locked them out from being able to save their work. They were not happy with me; I didn't make that mistake again.
But the problem never went away. The same mistake was committed over and over again by young engineers who joined our team that didn't know they should check with EVERYONE before saving the top-level layout.
Shortly after, a product data management (PDM) system was installed that kept the department more organized. However, now the check-in and check-out process caused new problems as engineers would check-out assemblies and parts for days, preventing others from working on any of those designs. These workflows caused some serious rework more than once.
With these issues in mind, it became clear that the cloud-native elements of Onshape offer unprecedented competitive advantages. Onshape does away with complicated file-based PDM systems as well as versioning errors.
Onshape’s unique cloud database architecture completely eliminates files, removing one of the most frustrating issues associated with CAD and PDM. No work is ever lost, overwritten, or modified without permission. Entire teams can edit the same design at the same time with real-time updates – there is no need to check-in, check-out, or lock, removing all bottlenecks from the design process. Every design change is captured and recorded with unlimited undo/redo and a complete audit trail of who made what changes and when.
Similar to other cloud tools available today, Onshape operates with a single source of truth. While engineers and designers are creating the best designs possible, they will not be impeded by frustrating overwrite issues or confusion from checking in and out.
Additionally, engineers, designers, and drafters can keep working and they can collaborate and communicate in real-time!
No More Lost Data
Ready to hear about another legacy CAD mishap?
I recall a missed disaster when a former employer's on-premise, file-based CAD was due for a system update. It was a small company where the engineers were responsible for performing upgrades ourselves.
Our team upgraded each PC individually with stacks of discs, then finally updated the server to wrap it up. Unfortunately, we managed to screw it up and put ourselves at risk for lost data as well as causing a few days of downtime.
It was uncomfortable to explain and reassure our management that we didn't lose data while there was downtime. Unfortunately, our explanation was not enough reassurance: Our new workflow required one of us to back up the server daily onto tape and take it offsite.