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CAD in the cloud and improved collaboration

Can CAD in the cloud help us collaborate? If the recent months have taught us anything, I think it has to be that we can’t survive without communicating with others in our personal lives and our businesses. Many companies have found themselves in a situation where employees are working remotely. Working from home has become the new norm, but they still have critical deadlines to meet to deliver projects, either ones that started before the current situation or new ones that are a response to the situation.

Of course, a key question then becomes “how can I make sure my employees have access to the tools they need?” Also, for many that has led to the follow-up question, “do I need those tools to be cloud-based?” I thought it would be worth putting some thoughts down about this and look at some of the things you may want to consider.

Some people may want you to think this is a real simple question with a simple answer of “yes,” but I think it is worth stepping back and asking yourself, “what am I trying to achieve? “

Most companies already have a CAD tool in place that designers are trained in and companies have best practices laid out. So, I’d say the first consideration is knowing the existing tools that allow you to work from home. Being able to “borrow” or “take home” licences from your exiting tools keeps your users working, using the approaches as they have been, creating a better option than going to a cloud-based software. Of course, the big question then is, “what about my data?” That is where I think cloud-based solutions help, thus being able to control who can see what, sharing information and collaborating and communicating, which goes back to my opening comment – communication is key. I think cloud-based solutions can help us stay in touch and work together to get the best solutions and the best products.

So, what about using my existing products streamed over the cloud? Of course, this approach has its merits. I don’t have to worry about local installs of software and licenses, and users have access from any device. However, there are also other considerations – some are easy to fix yet costly, like graphics power on the servers. Then others may be more challenging like network bandwidth, if you live in an area with high latency. The key element is data. Having an individual user up and running is great, but projects tend to involve multiple people, and you have to communicate and collaborate to get the most benefit from leveraging the cloud.

Also, there are dedicated cloud-based CAD products to consider as an approach. However, I think it’s essential to ask yourself how this helps your business, collaboration and sharing data with existing tools? Let’s be clear, any form of translation of data costs money, even if the translator being used is free or part of the software. The minute you move from one system to another you are losing something – it may be feature history, parametric data, annotation or drafting data – you will lose something. You must spend time making sure that the current data representation matches the original, and every time there is a design change you repeat the same loop. Now there may be standalone projects where a new system could slide in alongside your systems, so it’s not a bad choice, but one that you need to make with the end goal in sight. Moreover, the most important thing is how you fit this with your existing processes and use that data to encourage collaborating and communicating.

Let’s go back to where I started – can CAD in the cloud help you collaborate? I think the answer is “possibly,” but more importantly thinking about how you are using your data and how you are going to bring your teams together. Moreover, what mechanism you can use to share and control product data? The answer is cloud based tools designed to support collaboration, communication and importantly interact with your existing desktop solutions – it’s not an either/or answer, it’s both.

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