In the race to bring the next innovative product to market, business owners realize they must optimize processes in order to focus scarce resources on where they will deliver the most impact.

Many are looking at the time, money and expense that legacy file-based computer-aided design (CAD) software and add-on product data management (PDM) software incur and realizing there has to be a better way. Today, these leaders are turning away from old file-based CAD software and embracing the efficiency and cost-savings of cloud-based software like Onshape.

While many current file-based CAD users signed their initial software contract years ago, for many it seems like only yesterday. This isn’t due to fond memories of the day, but rather the recurring reminder of ongoing expenses to keep these systems running. These costs may include repairs of hardware – workstations and servers, or a bill for routine IT maintenance, or simply the annual cost for a software upgrade.

The bottom line is that these ongoing costs are a drain on finances and productivity for their firms. Many are now looking at these multiple costs and understanding the true cost of their file-based CAD software is far higher than they initially thought when signing their first contract.

Hardware: Workstations and Servers

For individuals buying file-based CAD software to run their business, one of the first major expenses (after some nuisance licensing fees and unexpected “one-time” charges) is the heavy, often unexpected upfront capital investment they need to make to buy hardware to run their software. This includes buying dedicated workstations for each designer or engineer who is a regular CAD user and also paying for expensive servers to make everything work.

Rather than the speed and efficiency of the information age that many thought they were investing in when they purchased “software,” new buyers of file-based CAD are instead finding they must invest their capital and time in workstations and servers with expensive GPUs and CPUs. And, unfortunately, consistent with the principles outlined by Gordon Moore in Moore’s Law, this hardware investment is well on its way to becoming obsolete from day one as faster chipsets come along.

In addition to the direct cost of these workstations, many owners are realizing that tethering their workforce to these office-centric relics is increasingly out of step with the preferences and work-style of the latest generation of design and engineering talent. Younger workers who often have their choice of which employer they wish to work for, are loath to be tied down to a workstation for 40 hours a week, and instead are seeking the freedom and flexibility of working from home, which cloud-based software allows.

IT Maintenance

For many purchasers of file-based CAD, the true “buyer’s remorse” often comes not during the initial investment, but after they realize that the costs of file-based CAD simply never end. Rather than purchasing “software” and being done, these firms now find themselves making regular and sometimes unanticipated investments in IT maintenance and unexpected repairs.

This maintenance cost can take the form of paying a third party to repair or maintain a downed server or workstation. It may also take the form of reallocating scarce internal personnel to help sort out a crashed workstation or server. Sometimes it is the best engineer on the team who has a knack for troubleshooting hairy problems who gets the call.

But the bottom line is that the cost for repurposing engineering talent for hours, or tens of hours a year, is high. It pulls limited resources away from the main goal of any firm – designing and launching great new products.

In fact, when it comes to wasting time on maintenance, the survey results in The State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2021 report found that almost 3 in 4 users cite technology maintenance as a critical area where time is wasted.

report outcome

Hidden Cost: PDM is Not Included

When companies purchase file-based CAD, and make large investments in licensing software, buying hardware and maintaining it, they may feel they are finished.

Not so fast. If firms are successful in their endeavors and seek to add more engineers to keep up with growth they will quickly find that file-based CAD is missing a critical component. They learn that PDM is not included.

In order to manage the proliferation of design files among and between multiple designers and engineers, firms come to realize they must now purchase additional software: add-on PDM in order to manage and efficiently share design files.

This added expense is sometimes the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” for users. It is at this stage that many firms come to realize that despite the sunk costs and investment of time and money into file-based CAD, they are far better off taking a new, more modern approach to technology.

The Advantages Cloud-Based CAD

For many former victims of the hidden costs of file-based CAD, the realization that cloud-native CAD solutions, like the Onshape product development platform, carry no such array of added costs is a welcome discovery. Today, virtually every modern organization that is growing rapidly uses the cloud in almost every aspect of its business.

Chief among these reasons? There are no expensive upfront investments in dedicated hardware (workstations and servers) required. In addition, there are no hidden ongoing costs for maintenance and software upgrades. And, there is no distraction for engineering team members who must deal with routine crashes and wasted downtime. Instead of the litany of hidden costs and fees, cloud-native solutions, like the Onshape platform, actually require only a single annual subscription cost.

No Hardware Costs and More Productivity

An additional benefit of not having to invest capital in on-premise hardware is the fact that younger workers don’t wish to be office-based all the time. At a time when designers and engineers want the freedom to work remotely without being tethered to an office workstation, Onshape enables users to get access and stay productive from anywhere.

Onshape lets users focus on their vocation: designing and creating innovative products. With Onshape they are empowered to do this from any web-connected device: PC, Mac, Chromebook, iOS or Android device. It is increasingly clear that firms that provide more flexibility for employee talent will be more successful in recruiting and retaining the best talent that will help the firm grow.

Onshape allows firms to improve collaboration between distributed offices and teams. The nature of the Onshape platform is that all users can simultaneously access the same design documents at the same time. Now, instead of sending serial emails and conducting productivity-killing conference calls to ensure mutual understanding, individuals and teams can work with the speed of the cloud. Onshape ensures that all stakeholders are up-to-speed and that version control hassles and data crashes are eliminated. As a result, teams can collaborate and communicate faster and more efficiently.

No Additional Cost for PDM

For file-based users who have been penalized for growth – discovering that they need to pay for expensive, add-on PDM software – one of the pleasant surprises of Onshape is that PDM is included at the outset. The comprehensive, integrated Onshape platform includes CAD, PDM and analytics. There are no additional pieces or components to buy at a later date.

SaaS: No Updates Required

Fewer costs are more annoying than the time and money that file-based CAD users spend on regular software updates. But unlike the wasted time and money that users must invest in these software installation activities, Onshape offers a welcome alternative. Because Onshape is delivered as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, all updates and changes are performed seamlessly over the wire and behind the scenes, with no additional cost to the user.

Today, as businesses look to ensure that they are staying focused on their core mission of designing and developing great products, the direct and hidden costs of file-based CAD are increasingly a luxury that these firms can no longer afford.

In order to keep their designers and engineers productive, and focused on delighting their customers, leaders are realizing that they must shift from the costs of expensive on-premise, file-based CAD, to the power and performance – and simplified single annual user subscription cost – of cloud-native Onshape.

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