It can’t be said enough: CAD software is fundamental to the product development process. It’s used for ideation, prototyping, manufacturing, sales and marketing.

Before CAD software, designers and engineers would spend hours drawing at the drafting table. Product developers wouldn’t be able to bring a product to market without CAD – unless keeping up with the competition isn’t a top worry. 

But in 2024, competition is the worry – that’s not new. What is new, however, is how CAD software and its developers are improving functions to speed up product development processes, mitigate mistakes, create a better user experience, and offer better integrations.

The State of Product Development & Hardware Design 2023-2024 report, commissioned by Onshape and conducted by independent third-party research firm Isurus, found three core trends:

  • CAD vendors – to keep up with the times – are leveraging cloud technology;

  • Users are dissatisfied with elements of desktop CAD software;

  • Integration with technology across product development is becoming paramount.

These sentiments are echoed in Deloitte’s 2024 Manufacturing Industry Outlook, an in-depth look at where U.S. manufacturing is headed and the reasons why.

Transformative Influence of Cloud Technology 

Cloud technologies are rapidly transforming product development processes. One key benefit is that they address collaboration challenges in manufacturing by providing better tools for communication and sharing vital information. 

Software vendors are responding to the increasing adoption of cloud by placing greater emphasis on providing and improving cloud products, further driving the cloud transformation.

The Benefits of Cloud in Product Development

According to Deloitte, companies are adopting advanced technologies that boost efficiency, productivity, product quality, and cost reduction. In fact, a Deloitte survey states that 83% of manufacturers believe tech solutions will transform product development within 5 years. 

Findings from The State of Product Development report corroborate Deloitte’s research, revealing the growing use of cloud-native and hybrid-cloud CAD software and data management platforms across the industry.

The report found that the top three challenges – reducing time waste, improving design team communication, and adapting to more flexible work expectations – are the key motivators for the widespread adoption of cloud solutions. 

The Cloud is Now

The report also foresees a compelling trajectory for 2024, predicting that an increasing number of product development companies will inevitably shift to cloud platforms as software vendors increase such offerings.

Nearly a quarter of The State of Product Development respondents expect to change CAD systems in the next 5 years. CAD vendors – the companies behind Onshape, SOLIDWORKS, Fusion 360, and more – are increasingly focused on cloud offerings over desktop or on-premises software. However, cloud offerings differ among CAD vendors – some are cloud-native, while others utilize cloud-hybrid models.

But what remains true, according to Onshape’s report, is that product developers must tap into the power of the cloud or fall behind the times.

Dissatisfaction at Work

In The State of Product Development report, more than half of the 1,400 respondents consider their company’s communication and operational efficiency to be “very poor” or  “average,” while also rating teamwork and morale as “good” or “excellent.” 

The dissatisfaction among workers can be attributed to issues such as lost time resulting from design tool issues and data bottlenecks, according to The State of Product Development report. 

This dissatisfaction further complicates leadership’s ongoing efforts to secure and retain skilled labor in product development – a concern emphasized by Deloitte. Additionally, a survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) reveals that nearly 75% of manufacturing executives have identified the recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce as their primary business challenge.

In an effort to improve labor woes, employers are offering greater work flexibility – be it scheduling or location – along with higher hourly wages, a Deloitte analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data found. 

Cloud-Native CAD and the User Experience

How are employers offering greater work flexibility? 

Just take a look at the rise of cloud-native CAD products, which signifies a paradigm shift in how professionals want to approach their work. Product developers express significantly higher satisfaction than their hybrid-cloud or desktop counterparts when utilizing cloud-native CAD tools, The State of Product Development report found.

The impressive Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures customers' desire to recommend software, garnered by Onshape underscores a growing preference within the industry. As companies seek both efficiency and workforce satisfaction, the cloud-native CAD wave becomes an undeniable force shaping the future of product design.

Product Development Tools Working Together

The move toward the “smart factory” is in full swing among manufacturers globally, according to Deloitte. A smart factory incorporates cutting-edge technologies like AI, 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, and cloud computing throughout product development. This integration aims to offer real-time insights, end-to-end visibility, and scalable solutions.

Just as the trend toward smart factories brings together software and tools to boost levels of transparency, CAD is also becoming better connected.

Improving the CAD and PDM Connection

CAD is integrating more with adjacent software, like PDM (product data management) software. Typically, PDM and CAD systems are separate entities with limited connectivity.

The product development landscape transforms with the rise of cloud-native PDM architectures. This innovative solution automatically stores data in secure cloud databases without requiring manual "Save" actions. This streamlines data management and significantly reduces errors – a powerful advantage.

Respondents are more satisfied with cloud-native PDM solutions over other options, according to The State of Product Development report. 

Onshape: The Only Cloud-Native CAD Solution

As we look ahead, the industry's reliance on cloud platforms is evident. This evolution underscores the imperative need for technology integration and connectivity, as highlighted by recent surveys.

For a comprehensive understanding of the industry landscape and the pivotal role of cloud-native CAD, we encourage readers to delve into the complete The State of Product Development report. It provides in-depth insights into user sentiments and the transformative influence of cloud technologies in shaping the future of product development. 

Stay informed, stay innovative, and embrace the power of the cloud with The State of Product Development & Hardware Design 2023-2024 report and Onshape's leading cloud solutions.

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