Has there ever been a word more widely used and so often misunderstood as “Collaboration?” 

All too frequently the term “improved collaboration” echoes from the executive suite as an aspirational goal. Absent the right technology to support it, “collaboration” can come across to employees as little more than a cliché – another square on a corporate “Buzzword Bingo” card.  

Bingo card For engineering teams, “collaboration” is too important to be dismissed as a corporate buzzword.

However, effective collaboration isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s a requirement for accelerating product innovation and beating the competition.

Enter cloud-native engineering collaboration software, designed to revolutionize how teams work together from concept to production. By leveraging the power of the cloud, these modern solutions, like PTC’s Onshape, are transforming product development processes, enabling engineers to collaborate seamlessly, iterate rapidly, and bring innovative products to market faster than ever before.

Before highlighting the collaborative power of cloud-native engineering software, let’s explore lackluster communication processes that come with file-based systems.

Where File-Based CAD Software Fails Collaboration

Let's be honest – file-based CAD tools were never designed for true collaboration. Their inherent limitations create numerous bottlenecks and inefficiencies that drain productivity and hamper innovation. Here are just a few examples:

1. Communication Delays

Users of file-based CAD endure substantial communication delays when emailing design files back and forth or uploading and downloading files from storage sites like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, etc. It is critical that designers and manufacturers are on the same page from prototype to production to prevent misunderstanding, rework, and friction, but it’s almost impossible when sending file, after file, after file...

2. Locked Data Accessibility 

In file-based CAD, design data is stored in proprietary formats that only a few people can view and edit. This introduces issues, such as slow file check-in/check-out and limited access to design data between customers and external third parties of the project. When working with engineers, extended design teams, or non-CAD stakeholders, a never-ending cycle of workarounds is introduced to get work done quickly. But these workarounds can cause manufacturing delays or even lead to scrapped parts – and wasted time and money.

3. Stability and Reliability Issues

Collaboration can be hampered by a variety of time-wasting issues, the worst of which are CAD data loss, crashes, or corruption. Some engineers claim crashing happens multiple times per day, while others report crashing only a few times per week. Regardless of the frequency, it only takes one untimely crash to spoil your day. Recreating lost work is not only inconvenient but can result in significant product development delays and missed market opportunities.

4. Administrative Headaches

In the past, design and production teams were far more likely to operate under one roof. It was common practice to provide a work computer with all the essential software/hardware capabilities needed to run a CAD program. However, when working with external vendors, suppliers, and manufacturers, accessing design files presented a major obstacle for teams who were unfamiliar with the particular technical specs required to run that version of CAD. The inability to read or open each other's design data caused aggravating delays for all parties concerned. 

It's clear that traditional file-based CAD is holding engineering teams back, stifling collaboration, and slowing time-to-market. The solution? Engineering collaboration software built for the cloud era.

Collaborative Engineering Software: Onshape

Cloud-based engineering collaboration software, like Onshape, is designed from the ground up to address the shortcomings of file-based CAD software and enable seamless teamwork throughout product development. Here’s how:

1. Anytime, Anywhere Access with Cloud CAD

Onshape on a tablet, smartphone, and laptop.

As designers and engineers work remotely, cloud-native solutions enable them to stay connected and productive from any web-connected device, including mobile devices (iOS and Android). In addition, whenever one team member makes a design change, everyone else on the team can instantly see it. This alleviates the inevitable follow-up and confusion that occurs over serial email communication. 

2. Simultaneous Collaboration in Cloud CAD

Simultaneous Collaboration

Simultaneous collaboration also delivers significant efficiency benefits. The feature eliminates the sometimes lengthy delays and misunderstandings that can arise while using file-based CAD. With simultaneous access, viewing, and editing, designers and engineers can work in parallel and consider more alternative perspectives. Now users can ask and answer questions, share feedback, and resolve issues in real time. The result? Improved creativity and designs.

3. Branching and Merging

Branching and Merging

Onshape’s Branching and Merging feature allows teams to more efficiently explore alternative design ideas by independently pursuing experimental “branches” of a core design, with the ability to later merge the best elements from two or more ideas together. The feature encourages creative risks by allowing users to return to the original main design at any time – or any previous stage of an experimental branch with the click of a mouse. With this capability, teams can easily work on different parts of a design, explore new design ideas, or carry out engineering change orders at the same time, without affecting each other's work.

4. Follow Mode 

follow mode

Onshape’s Follow Mode feature enables multiple users at various locations to easily follow along in real-time for live design reviews, demonstrations, and training sessions. Follow Mode lets participants see geometry selections, view rotations, and model changes as they happen, making it easy for users to follow along and add suggestions using Onshape's built-in live commenting tools.  

5. Edit History  

Edit History

As any designer can tell you, the creative process is seldom linear. The journey to a great design often requires experimentation, iteration, and multiple starts and stops. With unlimited “undo” and “redo,” users can easily move forward or backward to any stage in the editing process. The feature enhances team collaboration by letting members work together and make edits and revisions without fear or concern of losing earlier work. With clear visibility into all design changes, users can review, modify, and undo edits as needed. The Edit History’s audit trail is unalterable and is never erased, offering a reassuring always-available documentation of the life of a design project.

6. Live Comments 

Live Comments in Onshape

Onshape’s Live Comments feature allows users to share feedback in real time in a shared Document. Teammates can share comments with specific individuals or the entire team. Users can view each other's comments, leave replies, and receive email notifications when a new comment is made. Because users (with appropriate permissions) can make comments and mentions anywhere in the design document, colleagues no longer need to wait for serial clarifications via email or instant messaging to address stakeholder input. Live Comments adds an overall “chat-like” feel to the feedback process, improving efficiency and eliminating ambiguity. 

7. Accelerating Review and Approvals

Whether a design needs to be reviewed by operations, manufacturing, sales or executive team members, cloud-native platforms like Onshape simplify the sharing of CAD models by just sending a web link. Opening up CAD-viewing access to everyone enables a faster and more efficient review and approval process. Extended team members can review designs and provide edits, comments, or approvals from any web-connected device.

Enhancing Collaboration Across the Product Development 

The listed benefits of engineering collaboration software – like Onshape – extend far beyond the core design team. It transforms how organizations collaborate with internal stakeholders, external partners, and vendors. For example...

Collaborating with the Core Product Design Team

Cloud-native CAD eliminates the barriers to seamless teamwork, enabling designers and engineers to access, share, and simultaneously collaborate on projects from anywhere in real-time. Version control issues and the inability to share designs with those without dedicated CAD workstations are problems of the past.

Collaborating with Extended Internal Teams

No more ad-hoc sharing of 2D designs or emailing back and forth. Cloud solutions enable effortless sharing of precise 3D models with stakeholders across departments, including supply chain, manufacturing, and operations – all with a simple web link, eliminating confusion and costly miscommunications.

Collaborating with External Partners and Vendors

In an era of global mobility restrictions, the ability to collaborate remotely with vendors and manufacturing partners is crucial. Cloud-native engineering collaboration software allows secure sharing of the latest designs via permission-based web links, ensuring everyone is working from the same single source of truth, reducing travel costs and improving operational efficiency.

Onshape: The Ultimate Engineering Project Collaboration Software

By connecting everyone from engineering to manufacturing through a centralized cloud workspace, Onshape eliminates the inefficiencies of disconnected desktop tools and siloed data. Teams gain the real-time collaboration capabilities required to deliver innovative products to market faster than ever before.

With a suite of powerful features designed to streamline collaboration, Onshape is the ultimate engineering collaboration software, empowering teams to accelerate product innovation, reduce time-to-market, and stay ahead of the competition in today's rapidly evolving marketplace.

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