3D CAD service provider Onshape announced their latest product, Onshape Enterprise.
Onshape, started by the same folks who brought you Solidworks, emerged a couple of years ago with the brilliant idea of providing 3D CAD capabilities through a web browser. This avoided the sometimes expensive dilemma of buying pricey PCs with fancy video cards to accommodate standalone 3D CAD systems.
It also provided Onshape with a decided advantage over their standalone competitors: online updating of the service could be done instantly, at any time. Where their competitors would have to wait in some cases for many years for their customers to finally upgrade to the current release, Onshape simply presses a button and ALL users are now on the new release.
They’ve made great use of this facility, upgrading their capabilities almost weekly with new features appearing constantly.
But most of those upgrades were of the incremental variety. The new Onshape Enterprise is a bit different. It’s certainly the same Onshape CAD design tool we’ve come to know, but adds a number of interesting new capabilities for management.
Today’s design and manufacturing operations are highly complex, involving multiple locations, multiple companies and suppliers, highly complex parts, all with the goal of producing the best designs in the least amount of time.
Making arbitrary balls of designers distantly located from each other and segregated into different divisions and companies makes this exceedingly difficult.
Onshape Enterprise provides tools for handling these situations. They list the key problems being addressed by the new service:
- Control – Unmanaged (and multiplying) CAD file copies put many companies’ IP at serious risk.
- Agility – The average engineer spends less than half his or her time on actual design work, with the balance eaten up by administrative and software issues.
- Access – Provisioning new CAD seats and PDM vaults requires tremendous IT overhead, which prevents new team members from contributing right away.
- Visibility – While nearly every other industry has been reshaped by real-time data and analytics, engineering and manufacturing have been left behind.
You might be confused as to what the benefit provided might be, as there really is no improvement in the CAD tooling in Onshape Enterprise.
Consider the situation where you are in charge of a major design project. It involves seven teams of designers, each located in different sub-contractor companies, each themselves distributed across multiple time zones, and each using different, standalone tools.
To get something done in that environment, 3D CAD files are freely sent all over the design space, thus loosing track of the intellectual property. Managing the work is challenging, because each participant must connect in manually to update progress.
Onshape Enterprise solves these issues and more by leveraging their centralized model. Since they deliver by web browser (or app), all data is stored in a single server complex and thus they are able to properly control access and changes.
Onshape Enterprise allows definition of explicit roles, each of which can have specifically defined access to files that matches actual needs. Such access can be revoked when needed, or at project completion.
The activity of all participants is also recorded centrally, providing a way for project managers to properly observe progress. There’s even ways to detect whether progress is below expectations so action can be taken to mitigate problems before they become impactful.
While 3D CAD designers may see more or less the same design screens with Onshape Enterprise, it’s the project managers that will really benefit. They’ll be able to more efficiently manage complex, distributed projects that produce more important and larger group designs.
Onshape now offers Onshape Enterprise, and it’s priced at a minimum of USD$20,000 per year for a “light user configuration”. It seems they’re pricing this based on the organization subscribing, so you’ll have to contact them directly for further details.