When developing innovative new products, many unexpected events can occur.  Initial product hypotheses might not play out, and an intricate design that looks great on paper ultimately may not be able to be manufactured.  Against this backdrop of uncertainties,  product leaders are seeking to reduce variables and known obstacles to improve and optimize their processes.  One area coming under increasing scrutiny is the delays and unpredictable design access problems created by add-on Product Data Management (PDM) software.   

Many firms have adopted external PDM systems to address a critical shortcoming of file-based CAD: the challenge of version control.  Whenever users of file-based CAD seek to share a design file, they must send a copy of that file to their colleague or outside partner. The result is often multiple copies of a single design file floating around with key stakeholders. With so many copies and edited versions of the same design, it is difficult for the owner to prevent version control errors and mistakes. 

As a result, many firms turned to PDM solutions that solve the problem in a very rudimentary way – by simply limiting file access to one user at a time.  As a sort of digital lock box, these systems do prevent colleagues from overwriting each other’s work. However, the very nature of this process produces its own administrative hassles and project delays. 

PDM systems are cumbersome to access, requiring users to check in and check out files like a library book. If a colleague checks out a file, no one else can work on it until he or she checks it back into the system. This forced serial workflow results in additional downtime for those waiting on files to be returned. 

Certainly, an engineer could switch to another project while he or she is waiting, but the bottom line is that the overall pace of progress is slowed down. The most logical approach to accelerate any project is a parallel workflow where multiple people can be working on the same design at the same time.

Furthermore, add-on PDM software also creates organizational blind spots. Managers and product team leaders have zero visibility into the progress of design files while they are checked out of the system.

According to The State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2020, an independent industry survey commissioned by Onshape, the engineering world’s frustration with product data management technology is loud and clear. The survey of nearly 1,000 worldwide product development professionals found that more than 50% of file-based PDM/PLM users believe the systems are slowing down their overall design process. 

In addition to quantifiable delays and missed deadlines, add-on PDM/PLM systems exact an intangible but equally significant toll on worker productivity and morale. Instead of working productively, designers and engineers must sit idle, senselessly waiting for a design file to become available. Engineers stuck waiting for design access are spending less time being engineers. 

Cloud-Based Product Development Tools Deliver the Right Engineering Data at the Right Time

In contrast to the challenges created by external PDM software, cloud-based product development solutions enable immediate anytime access to design documents without the cumbersome administrative steps. Engineering and manufacturing teams can access the right data at the right time.

Everyone across an organization has 24/7 visibility into a project’s status and latest design improvements, reducing the likelihood of last-minute surprises and bottlenecks. Team leaders can support individuals with insights and best practices as they are applicable – and better allocate resources with a clear understanding of what work has already been accomplished and what issues are likely to arise in the future.

Using cloud-based CAD with integrated data management means that executives and managers never need to guess about the status of their projects again. In the Onshape cloud product development platform, for example, real-time business analytics show managers how many hours were spent by each team member so future work can be planned accordingly.

Enabling the conditions for real continuous improvement, cloud-based CAD with integrated data management helps companies achieve faster times to market, improved product quality, and better control over product development lifecycles and critical deadlines.

Get Your Copy of the “Beyond Data Management” 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 Onshape’s eBook, “Beyond Data Management, How Engineering Leaders are Turning Data into Insights,” we explore how leading firms are rethinking data management in order to empower employees, streamline processes and ensure accelerated time to market.  

In this eBook, you’ll learn how on-premise CAD systems are slowing product development down – and how switching to a cloud-based platform can eliminate these time-killers. You will explore the following critical issues:

  • Access to Design Data – File-based CAD users are locked to individual computers and licenses. Cloud-native CAD enables access on any computer, tablet or phone. 

  • Version Control Errors – Multiple design file copies often lead to engineers accidentally working on the wrong version, which can result in costly manufacturing mistakes. Cloud-native CAD relies on one master 3D model as the single source of truth. 

  • PDM/PLM Administrative Headaches – The check-in and check-out process of file-based Product Data Management systems creates slow serial workflows. Cloud-native data management enables simultaneous collaboration.

  • Lack of Analytics/Visibility – Because file-based CAD users store their work on individual hardware, managers have no visibility into a project until formal design reviews. Cloud-native CAD enables 24/7 access to designs by critical stakeholders.

With the increasing need for remote collaboration tools for distributed teams, cloud-based CAD and data management are no longer a nice-to-have technology, but a business necessity.

Download your copy of “Beyond Data Management: How Engineering Leaders are Turning Data into Insights” today and get a headstart on your company’s digital transformation!