I’ll let you in on a secret: The things that keep designers and engineers and manufacturers up at night have not changed all that dramatically over the past 10 years. People have always strived to improve product quality, improve collaboration, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and so on. What has changed over the past 10 years is the emergence of the cloud as a viable technology that can facilitate a new way of working and help designers accomplish these goals more effectively.
The technology is here, it’s real, and it works. Companies across various disciplines are working with design tools in the cloud to analyze multiple designs, perform powerful simulations, and better manage their data and business processes. As a result, they’re positioning themselves for ongoing success in the marketplace.
Before looking more closely at this new way of working, it’s helpful to explore how we got here. What happened over the past 10 or so years to usher in this new cloud era? Several factors have encouraged designers and manufacturers to begin working in the cloud. The first is simply increased access to infinite computing at an affordable price. Most other costs for manufacturers have gone up over the past decade, such as fuel or materials, but the cost of computing has gone down. Therefore, by removing the barriers of cost and access, adoption has gone up.
Another factor driving the shift toward the cloud is the proliferation of mobile devices and the desire for “anytime, anywhere” access. A desktop requires you to literally be at your desk to work. With the cloud, you work from just about anywhere.
For designers, having access to the right information -- namely, the correct version of a drawing or model -- while they’re in these different locations is imperative. More often than not, designers wind up emailing files back and forth, trying to ensure that everyone is working on the most up-to-date iteration, a process that opens up considerable room for error.
This margin for error shrinks significantly when a cloud-based collaboration tool centralizes data and provides secure and easy access to the relevant information. You could have dozens of engineers on a conference call collaborating in real time on the same model, marking it up, sharing feedback and iterating — all of which is
essential for building better products.
Better collaboration equals better products
I’ll let you in on another secret: The majority of products that are designed and manufactured and sold on the market for years on end are not necessarily the best design, or the best solution. Oftentimes, they’re the first design that worked -- and then off to market they went.
With the cloud’s infinite compute power and its ability to facilitate collaboration, companies can digitally test hundreds if not thousands of different iterations of an idea. This lets them tackle questions like, how can we improve the quality of this design, or how can we make it easier and more cost-effective to manufacture?
These questions are especially important to ask early in the design stage, since the majority of a product’s cost is locked in during these initial stages. Iterating early and often can unlock those costs and provide a winning design in terms of cost, quality, manufacturability, and other factors.
Openness is key
It’s a proven fact that people need to use lots of different tools from different vendors to get their work done. If you look out in the real world, it’s almost impossible to find anything that’s been designed, engineered, and manufactured with tools from just one company. This is where cloud-based tools, which can be vendor agnostic by nature, have an important role to play.