Onshape Cloud Product Development – How To Step Beyond Design Centric PLM?

Onshape Cloud Product Development – How To Step Beyond Design Centric PLM?

Earlier today, I attended Onshape’s PTC-Onshape Product Development In The Cloud Forum in Seaport Boston district. It has been several months since PTC acquired Onshape and I thought it would be a good time to check out what is on the Onshape agenda these days and what is the next step we can expect from PTC-Onshape.

The meeting was kicked by John McEleney, co-founder of Onshape. The world is changing and the cloud is part of the change in engineering and manufacturing said, John McEleney.

The main message of John was pretty simple. We are at the platform shift to the cloud. Similar to how AutoCAD, PTC, Solidworks introduced major platform shifts in the past, Onshape does it with cloud product development by introducing the SaaS platform.

At the same time, engineers and manufacturing professionals are behind all other industries in the adoption of SaaS platforms.

Product development is more than just product design. Best-in-class companies are now focusing on teams more than individuals and improving their end-to-end product development processes beyond just their CAD system. Ironically, many product designers, engineers and manufacturing professionals are late adopters of SaaS platforms. The good news is that it’s never too late to start benefiting from its competitive advantages.

Onshape provides a rich environment for design, collaboration, and engineering release. The top Onshape Enterprise subscription gives the company an environment to connect mechanical designers and to provide a platform to share design information as well as to manage the engineering release process. All together it covers mechanical design activity.

The key question is how to step beyond CAD system approach. I’ve heard Onshape is using the term “Design centric PLM” to describe what Onshape does today. This makes sense as most of the existing “PLM” systems are focusing on CAD data management (CAD + traditional PDM systems). Onshape is a great replacement as it provides a PDM system embedded into a browser-based CAD system. However, in my view, this is only a beginning and more is needed to support modern product development.

Onshape is actively integrating the SaaS platform with other PTC products. As such, PTC Vuforia was presented as a tool to manage production and maintenance work instructions. I can see how more technologies from PTC can be integrated with the Onshape cloud platform.

What is my conclusion?

Cloud is the future and the Onsahpe platform is setting the stage as a foundation for cloud-based design. The key role of such a platform is to transform an existing disconnected product development process using new SaaS tools. This design-centric PLM system approach is a good start, but it is not enough for a modern product development, which is multi-disciplinary and system-oriented. In my view, a comprehensive item-centric multi-disciplinary product lifecycle modeling is the next step to make companies shift to the cloud. It will take product development beyond design data management by enabling a multi-disciplinary Bill of Materials, manufacturing planning, contract manufacturing, maintenance and connect product development and downstream processes. Another challenge is related to the motivation of manufacturing companies to change. I can see that many manufacturing companies are struggling with the change of moving from the desktop design system to the cloud design systems. How to help to accelerate the change?  How to create a sense of urgency?  The challenge is to come with the tools, value proposition and business model to motivate companies to this change. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups, and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.

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  • I think that Onshape is in a good position to start and have an educated discussion about product development collaboration. Tools for individuals engender individual work. They have built an experience-base about how collaboration is occurring in their current SaaS environment. They now need to take the time to step back from tool development to really think about how the collaboration processes could be improved to support a new paradigm.

  • beyondplm

    @smprezbo:disqus I agree. The collaboration process is important to figure out. Although, technology can play a key role in this process. Because some of the tech Onshape developed changed as they figured out some specific. Eg. working in a single document vs multiple docs. It has a huge impact on collaboration process. There are others as well. So, process disconnected from technological capabilities can be hard to implement. Especially in SaaS environment. I think Onshape has a lot to discover, especially related to downstream processes.