File-based CAD is riddled with inherent technical limitations that not only cause collaborative friction, but result in slow time-to-market.

Collaborative friction refers to the difficulties that arise when people work together on a project or task. It can be caused by numerous factors such as lack of communication, inefficient workflows, siloed data, etc. 

According to the State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2022-2023 report, here are the four biggest ways that engineering and manufacturing professionals are wasting valuable time during the workday: 

  1. Status updates and team meetings that could have been chats or emails

  2. Locating, accessing and communicating the correct CAD information

  3. Time lost to CAD software stability, reliability, versioning or performance

  4. Administration of CAD software, integrations, hardware and licensing 

Time Wasted in Collaboration

On average, users of file-based CAD endure substantial communication delays when emailing design files back-and-forth or uploading and downloading files from storage sites like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, etc. It is critical that both designers and manufacturers are on the same page from prototype-to-production to prevent misunderstanding, rework, and friction. The good news is that cloud computing may help bridge this gap and eliminate the need for frequent fire drills.

Onshape and Arena, two cloud-native product development solutions, allow information to flow freely between design and manufacturing. Freely view the entire product lifecycle from beginning to end in real-time. With Onshape, users are given a more holistic approach to product design allowing stakeholders and external suppliers to provide input throughout the design process. All of this is done without the normal fees, administration, and bureaucracy associated with CAD, PDM, and PLM integration.

the typical workflow

Data Accessibility in the Engineering Design Process

In file-based CAD, design data is stored in proprietary formats that only a few people can view and edit. This introduces issues, such as slow file check-in/check-out and limited access to design data between customers and external third parties of the project. When working with engineers, extended design teams, or non-CAD stakeholders, a never-ending cycle of workarounds is introduced to get work done quickly. But these workarounds can cause manufacturing delays or even lead to scrapped parts – and wasted time and money.

Multiple design file copies often lead engineers and extended design teams to accidentally work on the wrong version, which results in costly manufacturing mistakes. To address this issue, Onshape’s cloud-native CAD and built-in PDM rely on a single source of design truth. While working together on the same design document, users can see their colleagues’ ideas play out in real-time and more freely explore alternative design ideas. To a greater extent, Onshape’s Branching and Merging feature allows teams to experiment with different “branches” of a core design with the ability to later merge the greatest aspects of two or more design ideas. 

CAD Stability & Reliability

Collaboration can be hampered by a variety of time-wasting issues, the worst of which are CAD data loss, crashes, or corruption. Some engineers claim crashing happens multiple times per day, while others report crashing only a few times per week. Regardless of the frequency, it only takes one untimely crash to spoil your day. Recreating lost work is not only inconvenient but can result in significant product development delays and missed market opportunities.

Conversely, Onshape’s cloud-native CAD platform is designed to be resilient, self-healing, and fault-tolerant. Issues that would have previously resulted in total software failure can now be isolated without significant shutdowns. At first glance, one may think having a save button would be a quick fix to preventing CAD data loss; however, Onshape rejects such outdated notions. There is no save button in Onshape! Every design update is saved in perpetuity. As a result, you can always go back to any previous version of your design. Users will never have to remember to save or check a file again. Welcome to the future of CAD. 

Administration of CAD

In the past, design and production teams were far more likely to operate under one roof. It was common practice to provide a work computer with all the essential software/hardware capabilities needed to run a CAD program. However, when working with external vendors, suppliers, and manufacturers, accessing design files presented a major obstacle for teams who were unfamiliar with the particular technical specs required to run that version of CAD. The inability to read or open each other's design data caused aggravating delays for all parties concerned. 

Modern design and manufacturing teams differ dramatically from the past. With Onshape, a browser-based CAD platform, users can streamline design workflows and eliminate the bottlenecks caused by geographically dispersed teams, hardware/software incompatibility issues, and the headache of managing various licensing codes. Worry not about pulling out your hair from long CAD setup times, Onshape has cut CAD administration time from days to just a few minutes. Simply pay for your whole team in a single Onshape Professional or Enterprise subscription. Just check the “Company” option on your Onshape billing screen. You simply pay monthly or annually for the number of users you have – no license fees or codes ever!

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