Today, an increasing number of companies are seeking to improve their business agility. These firms are seeking to address the new reality of digital-first customers, emerging competitive threats, and the unpredictability of Black Swan events like COVID-19. And as they look for ways to improve their processes and ensure business resiliency, they are coming to realize that their existing software and technology systems are sorely lacking.

Firms that design and develop new products are now recognizing the shortcomings of their legacy, file-based CAD systems. These systems, while innovative when adopted decades ago, are increasingly anachronistic and contribute to unnecessary friction and delays in the product development process. Designed before the advent of the internet, these file-based CAD systems also are costly – requiring both upfront investment in expensive workstations and on-premise servers, as well as ongoing maintenance including software upgrades and patches.

Additionally, as firms weigh new challenges including the prevalence of remote work for many employees and an increase in supply and manufacturing constraints, forward-thinking businesses are coming to the conclusion that they must move toward more innovative digital and cloud technology.

A recent report from McKinsey & Co. highlights the importance of business agility and the performance benefits it delivers. The survey of over 2,100 global executives found that highly successful agile transformations “typically delivered around 30 percent gains in efficiency, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and operational performance; made the organization five to ten times faster; and turbocharged innovation.”

Traditional File-Based CAD vs. Cloud-Native CAD

Unfortunately, when it comes to product development today, many firms are still using the same outdated, file-based CAD design tools that often silo critical data, inhibit collaboration and slow down time to market. 

In many ways the challenges of file-based CAD are not surprising. The very nature of these systems – requiring designers and engineers to work on a localized version of a design file – makes sharing designs with others incredibly cumbersome. Users seeking to create a work-around to these inherent limitations find that they must make serial copies of design files to send to colleagues and stakeholders. The result is often chaotic with serial emails documenting feedback, and outdated copies resulting in version control mistakes.  

Additionally, for those firms seeking to address the problem of version control with expensive add-on PDM software, they soon discover they have created an entirely new, but equally vexing new problem.  Designers and engineers using PDM systems are now saddled with additional administrative tasks of “checking in” and “checking out” files.  Because PDM limits access to one user at a time inevitably some users must wait – idle and unproductive – for a colleague to complete their work on a design document and then check it back in.

At a time when businesses are seeking to become more responsive to their workforces and customers, these practices are increasingly out of step. Today’s product development teams are seeking more collaboration and more access to design documents. The State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2021, commissioned by Onshape, revealed that 63% of surveyed users believe that collaboration among team members, including while working remotely, is now more of a priority than before COVID-19. A similarly high number of respondents, 58%, also indicated that access to design documents regardless of location was more important than ever.

Source: The State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2021

Creating an Agile Design Process

In contrast to the challenges facing users of traditional file-based CAD, the cloud-native Onshape product development platform gives designers and engineers unparalleled access to data and the freedom to create. Working from any internet-connected device, including iPhone and tablets, designers and engineers can quickly and conveniently access their design documents regardless of location. Collaboration is improved as design teams can simultaneously access and edit the same design document at the same time. Because it is a cloud-native “single source of truth” there are never any version control issues. Every user has access to the latest document at all times – with no wasted time or blocking.  

By breaking down data silos and empowering workers, Onshape’s cloud-native platform improves business agility and helps firms accelerate time to market and avoid costly mistakes.  

For instance, designers and engineers working on interdependent components can now share assumptions early in the design process, ensuring that all elements come together as planned at the end of the project. Onshape helps teams align early and avoid misunderstandings before they become major problems. 

Agile processes enabled by the cloud are also redefining how product teams accelerate internal design review processes. With file-based CAD, access to designs by other groups was often limited due to the expense of specialized file-based CAD workstations and software, making sharing designs exceedingly difficult. 

In contrast, cloud-native solutions like Onshape make it easy for users to simply send anyone a web-based link that they can use to quickly pull up the design to review. Designers and engineers can now save countless hours by avoiding serial emails and tedious follow up with extended stakeholders. With the cloud, users can quickly and easily obtain input from critical stakeholders across departments including operations, manufacturing or sales.

Improving responsiveness to digital-first customers and preparing for “What’s Next” is increasingly critical for leading businesses. Today, more and more companies are turning to digital and cloud-native solutions like the Onshape product development platform to accelerate time to market, improve customer satisfaction and drive continuous innovation. Onshape is helping businesses reimagine product development processes to empower their remote workforce, reduce tedious administrative tasks and become more competitive.

Get Your Copy of “The State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2021”

Interested in learning more about potential areas of improvement for your product development team? This 2021 industry survey also offers insights on the following topics:

  • Workplace Flexibility – Companies that view themselves as “highly productive” are better at supporting “work from anywhere.” While 74% of high-productivity companies say they are good or excellent at giving employees flexibility for when and where they work, only 41% of average or low-productivity companies give themselves similar marks.

  • Reducing Wasted Time – 85% of teams say they sometimes can’t access the correct version of their design data; while 83% say they sometimes can’t even find it in a timely manner. Another 71% of teams say they have lost work due to CAD system crashes and data corruption.

  • Pandemic Impact – As a result of the product development lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, 63% of engineering professionals say remote collaboration tools are now more of a company priority. Another 58% of respondents say they now have a greater need for seamless access to design documents from any location. 

  • Data Management Challenges – Half of on-premise PDM/PLM users say that their software gets in the way of team collaboration and slows down the overall product design process. While 45% say PDM has only replaced one problem (version control) with another problem (delays).

  • The Capabilities Gap – Companies self-rated their actual performance vs. their desired goals across specific areas of the design and manufacturing process. The two biggest priorities for improvement this year are “minimizing time spent on non-design related activities” and increasing “early communication, visibility and clarity in the design process.”

  • The Generation Gap – Across multiple categories, millennial and Gen Z engineers give their employers lower scores for offering workplace flexibility and for enabling real-time access to information than their later-career colleagues. This perception gap is important for executives to consider as they think about their future recruiting efforts.

Download your free copy of The State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2021 today and discover the best opportunities for improving business agility.