Product development is a team sport. Whether you’re the first hardware engineer hired at a brand new startup or an industrial designer working for a multinational corporation, nobody designs products alone.

As recently explored in The New Collaboration: A Guide to Transforming Product Design, using a cloud-based CAD and data management platform helps companies of all sizes streamline their communication, boost innovation and improve their overall design processes. However, these productivity and efficiency gains become progressively more impactful as products become more complex and as teams get larger and distributed across multiple locations.

At Onshape Live ‘21, our first virtual user conference, engineering leaders from three enterprise companies joined David Katzman, PTC’s VP Customer Experience and Strategy for Onshape, to discuss how they recently transformed their approach to product development.

The panel discussion included participation from:

  • Chris Meade, Senior Director of Design Engineering and Digital Systems Strategy at Garrett Motion.

  • Mehul Gala, Senior Product Development Engineer at Kichler Lighting; and

  • Lino Verna, Lead Engineer at Beta Technologies.

Let’s recap a few highlights from the Onshape Live conversation about why each company was motivated to switch to a Software-as-a-Service product development platform to improve their global design and manufacturing processes.

“Changing Technologies is Really About Human Change”

Headquarted in Rolle, Switzerland, Garrett Motion is the market leader in turbocharger technologies in every region of the world and across all vehicle classes and engine types. Garrett’s worldwide presence includes five R&D centers, 11 close-to-customer engineering facilities and 13 manufacturing sites.

“As designers and engineers, the way that we work in the next 10 years is going to change faster than it has in the last 30,” said Chris Meade, Garrett’s Senior Director of Design Engineering. “So I'd advise you to be agile, be flexible. Look for breakthrough new tools and new methodology and implement them into your work. Always be learning. It's going to come faster than we think.”

Before switching to cloud-based Onshape, 95 percent of Garrett’s global engineering team had been working in on-premise CATIA. Meade acknowledged that getting experienced engineers to give up a platform they had already invested years in is not an easy task.

“You have to recognize from the beginning that it's not fundamentally about a tool change. It's really about human change management. Getting the people engaged. Getting them to understand what are the benefits, where is the future for us, how does it transform the way that we work? Learning how to go from CAD system A to CAD system B is easy, but bringing the people with you, especially when your organization is spread out all over the place with different viewpoints and different ways of working, that's really the heart of it,” he said. 

“Onshape changed the way we work by going from a functional team of 200 dedicated design engineers to more than 700 people who are using (our product models) across the engineering community, the manufacturing community, and with our suppliers. All working around that same single source of truth is something we never could have accomplished with our legacy systems.” 

“Onshape Gave Us a Single Source of Truth”

Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Kichler Lighting is a global leader in fashion-forward and energy-efficient residential lighting solutions. The company’s products include indoor and outdoor decorative lighting, interior lighting systems, landscape lighting, and ceiling fans. 

For Kichler, the need to address data management issues between its distributed design and manufacturing teams was one of the primary reasons for switching to cloud-based Onshape.

“Our legacy systems were all file-based, of course, and on top of that, they were 2D systems. So we were sending drawings back and forth with our suppliers and our manufacturing partners all over the world. It was just a cumbersome process that didn't allow for very rich collaboration,” Mehul Gala, Senior Product Development Engineer, told the Onshape Live panel. 

“On top of that, we would lose our revision control to some degree. We would end up at factories sometimes where we, the engineers, were on revision C, but our team in China would be on revision D and then our suppliers would be on revision E somehow. That caused a lot of confusion,” he said. “So (with Onshape) there was a lot of opportunity just around that single source of truth to get all the key players involved on the same page.”

Gala also noted that Onshape makes it much easier to share product models with important internal company stakeholders who normally would not have access to CAD.

“We've been more deliberate about pulling in people earlier than we have in the past – and I think that's a function of the ability to enable non-CAD users to see designs and give feedback earlier in the process. So we have folks like our customer care team looking at products and giving feedback. And then not only that, they're helping customers that have issues with the product as well. They're able to retrieve information like they never have before.” 

“Onshape Can Grow With Us Indefinitely”

Based in South Burlington, Vermont, Beta Technologies specializes in the design and development of electric aircraft, including advanced flight control and electric propulsion systems, with a focus on clean aviation technology. Its ALIA-250c aircraft takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter and then transitions to long-range flight like a plane.

Beta Technologies was an early adopter of Onshape – starting in 2017 about a year after its commercial release – when the company only had four employees. Today, Beta has 200 employees.

“Having used the vast majority of the other CAD tools on the market, the thing about Onshape that really appealed to me was that it was well thought out. It was a new architecture that clearly came out of an opportunity to start from scratch,” said Lino Verna, lead engineer at Beta Technologies. 

“It was apparent that everything had been thought through – as in what makes the most sense. Whereas in many legacy CAD tools, the thought is, ‘We want to freshen it up, but how do we freshen it up without breaking the underlying architecture?’”

“It blew my mind when Onshape’s sheet metal features came out,” Verna said. “It was so intuitive and so easy to make sheet metal parts because it was as though someone thought, ‘How can I make a sheet metal part in the easiest way?’ as opposed to ‘How do I make it work in the old system I had?’” 

With engineers spread out throughout the U.S. east coast, he added that Onshape’s built-in data management and real-time collaboration tools are a natural fit for how he and his Beta Technologies team actually work.

“And I just got two excellent glimpses into the future of much larger corporations with much larger groups of people using it who have also found Onshape to be the right answer,” Verna said, referring to Garrett Motion and Kichler Lighting. “So the fact that I just got a view that it can grow with us indefinitely is really exciting.”

Watch the Onshape Enterprise Panel Discussion

Interested in learning more about how enterprise companies use cloud-based CAD and data management to accelerate product development? 

In the “Aboard the Onshape Enterprise” panel discussion, the engineering leaders from Garrett Motion, Kichler Lighting and Beta Technologies shared insight on:

  • How their companies evaluated cloud SaaS-based Onshape compared to on-premise legacy CAD systems – and the factors behind their decisions to switch.

  • Onshape’s learning curve for experienced engineers and how it differs from old file-based approaches.

  • Best practices for migrating legacy data from their previous CAD systems to Onshape.

  • Using Onshape’s real-time business analytics to make better decisions about product development.

  • How giving non-CAD users in the company early access to product models improves and accelerates the design process.

  • How Onshape integrates into other critical business systems and processes, such as ERP and PLM systems.

To watch the full “Aboard the Onshape Enterprise” event at Onshape Live, click here.


(Visit the Onshape Live ‘21 site to also see other on-demand recorded sessions you may have missed, including a sneak R&D preview of upcoming new Onshape features and functionality, tips and tricks for CAD modeling, recommendations for expanding your engineering toolbox, advice on how to migrate from SOLIDWORKS to Onshape, and keynote presentations from PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann, and Onshape founder and PTC EVP Jon Hirschtick.)