As product development leaders look ahead to the future, which skills and capabilities do they view as most urgent for improving right now?

As part of the research behind “The State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2020” industry report, we asked nearly 1,000 executives, project managers, engineers and designers to be introspective about their work: “In your own words, what aspects of your company’s product development process most need improvement?”

The most frequent answers to this open-ended question are represented in the Word Cloud below:


Not surprisingly, words related to process (communication, collaboration, management) are just as prominent as terms related to technology (CAD, PDM, PLM). Taking a step back, let’s eavesdrop on some of the original comments that were distilled into the Word Cloud:

You might consider these to be our industry’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2021 – or more accurately, the product development world’s perennial resolutions. Like the desire to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, save more money and manage our time better, our collective engineering goals start to sound the same year after year.

If we boil down the above speech bubbles to one common theme, it’s clear that design teams just want the freedom to work together uninterrupted

Immediate access to the right data at the right time seems intuitive to many, but surprisingly it is a need that has yet to be addressed by legacy, desktop-installed CAD solutions.

Engineers want to work together without the aggravation of searching for the latest version of a design or having to wait forever to access it. They just want to work together without worrying about computer crashes or corrupted files, and without pausing for hours or days so their IT department can install software upgrades. Lastly, they want to be able to immediately work with anyone they choose, anytime and anywhere.

The fact that 8 out of 10 engineers and designers have trouble finding the correct version of their product designs – and also have problems accessing their data – is inexcusable. Imagine how the same standards would play out with other important jobs:

Accuracy is not optional with any of the above professions, and it’s certainly not optional in product design. Why then, with the business-critical (and sometimes even “life or death”) specifications inherent to product development, should the engineering and manufacturing world tolerate the current situation?

A cloud-based CAD and data management platform takes the guesswork out of teamwork. Data is instantly updated so every team member sees design changes as they happen. Every team member, anywhere in the world, is also on the same software version – the latest one.

How Onshape Can Help You Stick to Your Resolutions

Let’s explore how PTC’s Onshape platform, the only cloud-native product development system that combines robust CAD tools with built-in data management and real-time business analytics, can improve your daily design processes and boost your team’s productivity and innovation.

Here’s how the SaaS platform addresses some of the biggest product development challenges identified in the “State of Product Development” survey: 

  • Reducing Time Spent on Non-Design Related Tasks Engineers are never wasting time looking for the latest version of a design because there is only one place to look – their Onshape Document, which they can access the moment they sign in. Because Onshape is a SaaS platform, there are no downloads, installs, license codes or upgrades to worry about – engineers can spend more time being engineers. (Companies should not be devoting their best CAD talent to time-draining administrative tasks.) Simultaneous editing means that teams can say goodbye to productivity-killing serial workflows. 

  • Data Management Chaos: Yes, There is a “Better Way” Onshape’s built-in Release Management and advanced workflows eliminate the hassles of external add-on PDM/PLM systems. With this easy-to-use and intuitive system, there is no checking in or checking out files from a vault, forcing engineers to wait for colleagues to finish their work before they can start theirs. Teams can explore alternative branches of designs and later merge the best elements together. A comprehensive edit history tracks who made which change and when, allowing teams to instantly revert back to any prior state of the design – think of it as “unlimited undo/redo.”

  • Bridging the Communication Gap Between Executives and Rank-and-File Engineers – With executives often focused on big-picture planning and strategic initiatives, and engineers busy with daily hands-on tasks, it’s easy to see how perceptions about the status of a project are not always aligned.  Onshape’s real-time business analytics offer an up-to-the-minute snapshot of who’s working on what and when – and help identify potential bottlenecks before they become problems. Having anytime access to the latest version of a design – or alternative experimental branches under consideration – means that progress doesn’t need to wait for formal scheduled design reviews. Everyone can stay on the same page all the time.

  • Improving Early-Stage Communication and Collaboration – In product development, it's widely accepted that improved collaboration and communication results in more innovative products. Onshape’s secure Sharing feature gives external partners immediate view-only, commenting or editing access to your designs – without the burden of installing any special viewing software. And once a project is over, access permissions to your designs can be instantly revoked (better protecting your company’s IP). Design teams can get earlier feedback from their customers, who may normally have no access to CAD. Live chat and commenting enable more frequent real-time design reviews.

  • Empowering Companies to Support Productive Remote Work – Team members can instantly access their CAD system and CAD data on any computer, tablet or phone – eliminating the barrier of needing a high-performance workstation to do engineering work. Onshape’s SaaS delivery means that teams no longer require IT support for maintenance and upgrades and can keep working uninterrupted from anywhere. Having full CAD for Mobile capability is not only beneficial for working at home, but also for frontline service engineers who may need to access designs on the factory floor at client sites.


Even the best Software-as-a-Service CAD and data management platform unfortunately cannot help you lose weight, exercise more or make you more attractive. However, it CAN significantly help save your team time and money. Interested in learning more? Contact us for a free Onshape Professional trial and experience the benefits of cloud-native product development today!

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