Breaking All The Rules of CAD and PDM

Engineers know that product design has unwritten rules. Often posing as best practices or onboarding guidance for new employees, many companies have rules in place to get the most out of their CAD and PDM technology stack.

Ask yourself: Are these rules just manifestations of technology limitations? Do these rules still help today, and do they apply to me?

Here’s an example:

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Rule: Work Locally

To improve file open times for large assemblies, it takes longer to open and save files over a network. Even if you maintain data on a centralized server, it is more efficient to copy the files locally, make your changes, and copy the files back.

The traditional rules of file-based CAD (like “Work Locally”) have been disrupted by the emergence of cloud-native CAD – a revolutionary new approach to designing and managing data. This revolution has broken down the technical wall that has kept CAD teams reliant on outdated, on-premise software, and is providing seamless collaboration without costly license fees or excessive IT overhead.

Cloud-native CAD offers engineers, designers, and manufacturers a more agile way to create products through enhanced functionality, such as built-in product data management (PDM), real-time collaboration tools, and hands-off IT administration. All of these benefits have broken down the traditional barriers of CAD design and collaboration, granting users the freedom to explore more alternative ideas and take creative risks.

Let’s Explore How to Break the Rules of CAD and PDM with Cloud Technologies…

Rule: Wait Your Turn for Access

One of the many challenges of file-based CAD collaboration is that it cannot accommodate distributed and multi-user access – so individuals have to “wait for their turn.” File-based PDM systems rely on slow file check-in/check-out processes that make concurrent access impossible. When a user makes changes to a design file, those changes cannot be seen by the team until the file is checked back into the system. This laborious process forces prolonged serial workflows instead of teams working efficiently in parallel.

Cloud-native CAD provides concurrent editing, meaning anyone with a web-connected device can access, view, and work on designs together - no more waiting. Whenever one member of the team makes a design change, everyone else on the team can instantly see it. Cloud-native CAD provides teams with a single source of truth, eliminating any confusion or doubt over which version of a design is really the latest version. As a result, engineers and designers can focus on what truly matters – delivering high-quality products to market faster and more efficiently.

Rule: Manually Keep Track of Your Data

With file-based CAD systems, 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.

To avoid serious version control problems, which could result in costly manufacturing errors and delays, it’s usually imperative to purchase an expensive, add-on Product Data Management (PDM) solution. Even with add-on PDM systems, there are rules to follow to use these tools correctly and to scale their use across the company.

Cloud-native CAD programs typically already include a built-in Product Data Management (PDM) system. Cloud-native PDM enables CAD users to easily keep track of all the iterations of their files. Automatic version control safeguards their CAD files from being altered without their knowledge, and prevents users from inadvertently replacing important data.

Users can design and collaborate on the same documents freely without the fear of their work being overwritten. With cloud-native CAD and PDM, you can be confident that you’re always working with the most accurate, up-to-date design – while lightening your process with fewer rules.

Rule: Get a Dedicated CAD Admin

As a rule, CAD and PDM software can break your budget if teams don’t account for the IT expenditure. File-based CAD systems require considerable IT infrastructure, management and administration. Just to keep engineers working, teams need to deal with software licenses, downloads, installs, updates, hardware/software procurement and configuration, system backups, and the setup of user access. In addition, installed file-based CAD systems are very compute-intensive and often require expensive high-end workstations. Software upgrades need to be done on every computer, often creating undesired downtime.

Cloud-native CAD requires zero IT overhead and administration, such as software installation, licenses, copying and backing up files, server maintenance, and other time-consuming tasks. Your work doesn’t need to be saved every few minutes because every keystroke and mouse click is automatically backed up redundantly. Because cloud-native CAD runs in your web browser, with computations done on a remote server versus on a local machine, you can design products on any computer, tablet or phone – or even on an inexpensive Chromebook. Software updates are regularly deployed in the cloud and require zero downtime or interruptions to your work. You no longer need a dedicated CAD administrator, nor do you need to waste your best engineer’s time on non-project-critical IT tasks.

When Breaking the Rules is the Right Thing to Do

Cloud-native product development software accelerates design workflows, makes CAD collaboration effortless, and eliminates the IT management hassles that waste precious design time. Forward-thinking companies are moving beyond restrictive rules and heavy processes to take their CAD and PDM to the cloud!