Even if you are the most talented driver in the world, your skills are useless in a rush-hour traffic jam. Similarly, the most talented product development teams in the world can’t use their skills when there is a major bottleneck shutting work down. 

As explored in this “Preventing Product Design Bottlenecks” infographic, traditional file-based CAD platforms are built on 30-year-old technology and inherently slow down engineering and manufacturing teams. Let’s examine one of the biggest workflow blockers: having a confusing CAD data management process.

The Problem: Which Version is the Latest Version?

With legacy file-based systems, CAD data is usually edited by multiple people in multiple places. Particularly with large assemblies, there are lots of files to keep track of. You save a version, make some changes and rename the file. Copies are emailed to colleagues and get copied everywhere. There’s never really a way to know if you truly have the latest version.

Some design teams rely on naming conventions like Part1-v1, Part1-v2, etc. and then settle on a “final” name when they’re done. Something like “Assembly4-Final.” Until a last minute change needs to be made and then what do you call it? The “Assembly4-Final-Really-Final”?

Complicating matters further, changing the names of files as their contents change can cause big problems in an assembly because file names are used as references. Nobody likes broken assemblies. Nobody.

Even if you use a complex and expensive PDM system – requiring engineers to check-in and check-out files like they are in a library or bank vault – all you can see is the latest data that is in the vault. There’s absolutely no way to know if someone else has a copy outside of it. Maybe they’ve followed procedure with the PDM system and put a lock on the file. Or maybe they haven’t.

If they have checked out the file, you have to wonder if they’ve changed it since they checked out. If they have changed it, that’s the latest version. Is the PDM system up to date? Nobody knows because the PDM vault doesn’t update in real time. It only updates when people go through the trouble of updating it.

Manufacturing the wrong version of a design is an expensive proposition. Knowing which version of your work is the final one shouldn’t be a guessing game.

The Solution: Cloud-Native CAD’s Single Source of Truth

With cloud-native CAD, it’s easy to find the latest version because there’s only one place to look for it. Because CAD data in Onshape is never copied as files, but is instead stored in one central database in the cloud, it updates in real time as your team members edit.

There’s also no need for any PDM system servers, installs, licenses or backups because Onshape includes built-in version control. For cloud-native CAD users, the “Where’s the Latest Version?” problem is no longer a problem.

How One Company Resolved its CAD Version Control Problem

FHE’s product development team chose cloud-native Onshape for its built-in version control, always keeping its globally distributed engineers and partners up to date on the latest design changes.

Based in Colorado, FHE designs and manufactures pressure control equipment that makes hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations more efficient and safer for oil and gas workers. FHE has offices across the United States, in Kuwait and Abu Dhabi. 

In 2018, FHE senior mechanical designer Matthew Kibler wanted to find a better CAD data management solution for his growing team to replace their file-based Product Data Management (PDM) system. As head of the engineering team, he was frustrated by the inherent restrictions of PDM that block multiple people from simultaneously accessing and working on the same design file.

“I travel a lot, and trying to check in and check out files from a remote vault is time-prohibitive when you're trying to be very efficient,” he says. “And so when I evaluated Onshape as a replacement to SOLIDWORKS, I tested how effective it was while I was working in different locations. And when I use Onshape from Canada or Florida or California or my office in Colorado, it just works seamlessly. As a team leader, the fact that anyone on my team can work on their designs anytime without check-ins or check-outs fundamentally changed the game for us.”

Onshape’s built-in data management and real-time CAD collaboration tools ensure that every stakeholder around the world is always looking at the latest version of design. Whenever one team member makes a design change, everyone else on the team instantly sees it or receives a notification. A comprehensive Edit History tracks who made what change and when, allowing teams to revert to any prior stage of the design if desired.

Kibler says that the confidence that every core engineering team member and manufacturing partner is always looking at the latest design version in Onshape translates to tremendous savings on the shop floor. 

“Making sure our vendors have the most up-to-date drawings provides immediate savings,” he says. “Anytime we get a manufacturing mistake, it could cost several thousand dollars. Making sure the vendors are on the latest revisions puts the onus on them and not on the purchase agent. I don’t even know how to begin to put an exact dollar amount on it, but the clarity that Onshape gives us in our communications with vendors is invaluable.” 

Learn How to Overcome Other Product Development Blockers

Tired of having your product development process interrupted due to outdated file-based tools?

The “Preventing Product Design Bottlenecks” eBook also covers how to address the following problems that happen frequently with file-based CAD:

Get your free copy today and explore why moving to cloud-native CAD will help foster more product innovation and accelerate your time to market.