Taking a design concept from an idea to actual production has long required the input and expertise of a diverse array of individuals across an organization. From designers and engineers, to supply and manufacturing, to Quality Assurance, the vast majority of products would never see the light of day without the power of collaboration and teamwork.

However, genuine teamwork can be elusive. Entire libraries could be filled with books written by sports coaches and business gurus that promise the secret ingredient for high-performing teams. These business books share a few universal themes in common. One important concept is the power of leveraging the skills of the collective group to achieve far more than any one individual can accomplish on their own. As a popular saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Today, many businesses have discovered that as they strive for improved collaboration they are encumbered by existing technology. In many cases, years of integration of disparate systems across departments in their organization has resulted in data and information “silos” that isolate teams and prevent effective collaboration. 

The widespread adoption of the Agile product development methodology in recent years highlights this need. In order to improve collaboration, many firms have implemented Agile practices such as the daily team “stand-up” meeting (now virtual) to enable team members to quickly and efficiently share information, identify barriers to progress, and accelerate the completion of goals. 

In the time of COVID-19, cloud communication and productivity software have increasingly moved to the forefront of these efforts to break down information silos. These organizations are adopting cloud-based communication tools such as Google Docs, Salesforce CRM, Slack, Microsoft Teams and Zoom, to improve communication between individual team members and across departments. These tools are credited with accelerating the flow of information, and eliminating the need for more formal meetings to share time-sensitive updates. 

Given the rapid adoption of these time-saving and productivity increasing tools, it is surprising that one of the last business professions to benefit from Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) productivity tools has been hardware engineers. The irony is that the product development industry, long users of antiquated CAD file collaboration and Product Data Management/Product Lifecycle Management (PDM/PLM) software, has been a relative latecomer to the cloud.

How a Robotics Manufacturer Improved Companywide CAD Access and Collaboration

The Avidbots product development team chose PTC’s Onshape cloud SaaS platform to streamline communication between its core engineers and other key stakeholders throughout the organization.

Based in Canada, Avidbots is the developer of Neo, the world’s leading fully autonomous floor-scrubbing robot for large commercial spaces – such as airports, shopping malls, hospitals and healthcare facilities, factories, schools and warehouses. 

According to Avidbots senior mechanical engineer Ian Gardiner, the challenge of sharing updated product design data across their internal departments (purchasing, manufacturing, service and customer support) and with external partners has historically been more challenging than the mechanical engineering tasks themselves.

“Our design team is working on improvements every day. We know what we want to build. Our challenge has been communicating rapid iterations across the organization.” he says. “And not just in our local facility, but across a set of teams that are distributed worldwide because we also work with partners.” 

The robotics company found that the most effective way to improve CAD file collaboration was to move away from files, period.

The Avidbots product development team switched to PTC’s Onshape cloud-based product development platform in early 2020 after being frustrated by how their file-based on-premise CAD system was slowing down communication.

“Email and spreadsheets were our typical way of sharing information, but with these older CAD systems, a lot of your data gets buried within the system. You have to purchase extra licenses and/or add-ons to make CAD available to people,” he recalls. “So we would export PDF drawings and put them into folders that people could access. But these are disconnected from  the real models that are being developed day by day. Half our team’s time used to be spent constantly reproducing and updating changes.”

Onshape’s real-time data management provides one single source of truth for product designs across the organization. Whenever one member of the team makes a change, everyone else can instantly see it. A comprehensive Edit History tracks who made what change and when, allowing teams to return to any prior state of the design process if desired. In addition, Onshape’s Sharing feature allows design teams to instantly share CAD models with other departments or outside partners with just a web link.

“With Onshape, our collaboration process is much more fluid and allows everyone more direct access to the CAD models,” says Gardiner. “It frees us up to focus on our highest value tasks.”

Get Your Copy of “The New Collaboration” eBook

Interested in learning more about how forward-thinking companies have benefited from switching to a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) CAD platform? 

In this eBook, you’ll be introduced to a brand new class of real-time CAD collaboration and sharing tools, engineering productivity features made possible only by a cloud database architecture.

Cloud-based CAD and data management are no longer a nice-to-have technology, but a must-have technology. Download your copy of “The New Collaboration: A Guide to Transforming Product Design” today and find out why!