The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a major shift in the way that engineers are collaborating with their teammates today. Many industries have seen a transition from the traditional approach of in-person collaboration to more remote teamwork with cloud-native software platforms. As a result, the evolution of remote work platforms has presented corporations with many positive outcomes, while also introducing additional challenges for companies to consider. Recent survey results suggest that both employees and executives are concerned about the shift to remote work that the pandemic has accelerated: 

  • 92% of executives said the pandemic has forced their company to consider alternative methods of carrying out corporate initiatives. 

  • 93% of executives indicated that they are concerned about the overall impact of remote work, while 83% of employees shared this same concern. 

  • 54% of executives said they are concerned about delays of product or service delivery.

  • 51% of executives said they are worried about the impacts of remote collaboration as a whole. 

Although the vast majority of employees and executives say they are concerned about remote collaboration, the shift to remote work has many notable benefits that can be carried out by cloud-native platforms. Onshape recently hosted a webinar addressing the impact of remote collaboration in the engineering industry. The webinar, “How Elite Engineering Teams are Solving Today’s Collaboration Problems,” explored how manufacturing companies are leveraging cloud productivity tools for asynchronous collaboration, which has become an important priority for engineers across the globe. 

What is Asynchronous Collaboration?

Onshape’s panel discussion, “How Elite Engineering Teams are Solving Today’s Collaboration Problems,” included an industry journalist, a CAD executive and a designer of consumer products.

Asynchronous collaboration describes the workflow when multiple members of a given team can work independently on different projects and documents on their own time. Lucas Lappe, the Head of Product at Doris Dev, notes that Google Sheets and Google Slides have enabled project managers and program managers “to stay on task and not have version control problems along the way, and it saves the history so if there are problems you can always jump back – and that's enabled people to work asynchronously.”  

He adds that these cloud tools also allow colleagues to more readily identify mistakes and easily find out when and where those mistakes were made. Additionally, cloud-based platforms (such as Google Docs) have enabled multiple teams to collaborate no matter where employees are located. Working in a shared online workspace avoids the need to constantly email co-workers with comments and edits across different time zones. Navigating through long email chains can be confusing and time-consuming, especially when discussing multiple versions of a design.

According to Kenneth Wong, Senior Editor at Digital Engineering, asynchronous collaboration is essential, and can even be considered more valuable to product development teams than traditional methods of working together in-person in real time. 

“You post an idea. You post a question, and then you leave it, and you let the people think about it for weeks, maybe months, and then as people start getting ideas and those aha moments, they'll come in, and they'll contribute sketches, and they'll contribute solutions to this problem that you post,” he says, referring to popular technology forums and message boards. “That happens over a long period of time. So, asynchronous collaboration, my guess, is more important than synchronous collaboration in terms of promoting innovation in this culture.”  

Why Cloud-Based CAD is Better for Asynchronous Collaboration

Cloud-based product development platforms, such as Onshape, provide a number of benefits for companies that are looking to better accommodate asynchronous workflows. One important factor is that cloud-based software is usually device agnostic, so companies looking to onboard Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms do not have to worry about purchasing high-performance hardware to support their design tools. Engineers can work on any computer (Mac, PC, Chromebook), iPad, tablet or phone (iOS or Android). 

Additionally, deploying a SaaS platform can deliver more affordable upfront costs for startups and mid-sized companies. With the SaaS business model, companies pay a monthly subscription fee instead of having to buy the software outright.

Doris Dev engineer Lucas Lappe says he regards asynchronous training to be another major benefit of cloud-based CAD systems. “A big part of using a new CAD software is training team members on it, and (for a mentor) to be able to see a person's file structure or a feature tree and work with them along the way to improve it. This has been really helpful to someone who is new to CAD,” he says.

In the words of Digital Engineering editor Kenneth Wong, “Collaboration is not a choice, it is something that everybody has to do now.”

With the product design and manufacturing world’s recent shift to more remote collaboration, cloud-based CAD platforms are increasingly becoming a business essential. For more information on how your product development team can take full advantage of asynchronous cloud-based collaboration, watch the full webinar below:

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