Cloud-based design tools are becoming increasingly popular so engineering teams can securely design, anywhere and anytime. With the shift to remote, a new era of digital, agile and collaborative design will soon be the norm. Below are some tips on how you can survive the transition and thrive in the future as a flexible and forward looking design team.
We understand that accessing design data can be challenging even without remote-working conditions. CAD licenses are expensive and limiting, and it can be difficult to access data and 3D models.
Cloud Software Tools
Cloud software tools are gaining momentum, but still might be unfamiliar to your company. Using software tools in the cloud provides on-demand availability of the software, available to users over the internet. In most cases, these solutions are more secure than any on-premises implementation (when done right!).
There are many benefits of using cloud tools versus desktop-based tools, but the main bonus is the ability to access the software from anywhere, on any device, at any time.
There are a number of cloud-based repositories available for storing files such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and more. But if you want to work with a purpose built solution for design teams, CoLab is the simplest and most effective solution.
CoLab is a one-stop shop cloud software tool that gives you the ability to upload and share CAD models, identify and track issues to close out, and complete design reviews of 3D models. With enterprise-security, CoLab allows you to access CAD without an expensive licence and communicate with your team on your design, streamlining remote design work.
Given most teams today still use desktop CAD tools, the need for remote access to your networks is still a must. Establishing a highly reliable VPN setup for your team is critical. Below are a list of some of the top VPNs to consider.
Given most teams today still use desktop CAD tools, the need for remote access to your networks is still a must. Establishing a highly reliable VPN setup for your team is critical. Below is a list of some of the top traditional VPN companies to consider.
- Palo Alto
But, there are VPN alternatives that are exploding that don’t require the traditional on-premise setups or data centers. The other benefit is there is no speed, performance or connectivity challenges. One option of an enterprise alternative for VPN is Cloudflare Access.
"Building a fence around your internal applications no longer works for your global team. Cloudflare Access replaces corporate VPN clients by putting Cloudflare’s global edge network in front of your internal applications.”
Drawing and Documentation Reviews
Almost every company does drawing reviews in one of two ways:
1. Print paper, redline, scan, email, repeat.
2. Offline Desktop PDF tool, comment, email, repeat.
Both of these processes are manual, painful, generate dozens of duplicates and are error prone - especially now with the lack of in-person coordination. We started CoLab
three years ago after experiencing this first hand. We want engineering teams to have purpose built tools to do their job, just like software teams do today. Over the last month we've been helping teams transition to remote - one of the key aspects has been creating a digital, collaborative and distributed drawing review process for them.We can set you up in under an hour and we will create the first review for you so you can test it out before committing to any change.
3D Model Reviews
Similar to drawing reviews, the standard process for 3D model reviews are the equivalent of screen sharing or emailing code. Right now there are three main options:
- Send someone the CAD file and create a duplicate - they need a CAD tool to view it and then return feedback in some other messy medium.
- Share screens with someone so they can see the model - then you spend the whole call rotating the model and recording inaccurate notes.
- The worst of all - screenshots and powerpoint decks. Not only are they limited in info, but they have no reference to the version or authoritative source of truth - meaning your team is going to make mistakes and waste time.
Many engineering teams don’t see this as a problem today, but this will become clear during the ascent of agile and remote work. If you don’t believe this is a problem now, we challenge you to ask an Agile Software Developer how they would feel about replacing their Pull-Request Review process with emailing code files back and forth and writing feedback in powerpoint decks or email bodies :)
Fortunately, CoLab also solves this problem too.
CoLab eliminates the need for desktop CAD viewers, powerpoint decks, screenshots, emails/FTP and the suite of disconnected tools you use to manually stitch together design reviews.
Sync your file with CoLab, securely share a guided 3D review with your team (or supply chain) complete with sections, measurements, and even 3D markups, so they can review and make decisions with all of the context. Best part? All of the feedback is logged in the review, in real-time so get trackable feedback, with complete histories in an instant.
Cloud-Based Issue Tracking
Spreadsheets, emails and lists in notebooks just aren’t going to cut it anymore. Your team needs to have the latest information at all times, in a place they like to work so the process doesn’t break down. This means the tool needs to be purpose built for the end user and not a home grown solution or “add-on” to a complex PLM or ERP solution.
It is important to consider how your team works daily in this debate. For example, CoLab is an issue tracking system. We are often asked “can CoLab be extended to our software team?”. The answer is yes, but we would never recommend you do so. For the same reason we would never recommend you use a software issue tracking tool for mechanical / manufacturing issues - they are not built for it and break your users daily workflow.
Jira is an example of a purpose-build issue tracking system for software teams. It is directly integrated with your design requirements, code base and pull request process - Atlassian even offers most of the complimentary products.
We created CoLab to become “the Jira for manufacturing teams”
so that engineering teams have the context of their CAD/design along with evaluation tools all in the same platform. CoLab integrates with CAD/PLM and offers a built-in review and issue tracking process that can be leveraged from concept to production. So for teams building electronics or hardware/software solutions, we actually recommend the respective parts of your team use the tool purpose-built for them - then integrate the two tools. Agile Design and Manufacturing “Sprints”
Traditional waterfall approaches to project management are becoming less relevant with every day that passes as more companies are aiming to become agile. In the engineering world, it is often referred to as a “V-Model” where iteration and communication with other groups is highly encouraged.
Over the last decade, the software industry has mastered what it means to be truly “agile”. For most of the manufacturing world, agile is still a WIP. However, for teams that want to become agile and reap the benefits of significantly faster throughput and tighter cross-discipline collaboration, we’ve added a few links below to get you started.
Redefine Digital Signoff Processes
The first step in solving this problem is finding internal alignment that “digital signatures are OK”. The rest is easy because there are a number of excellent tools on the market that make this simple and secure.
Build out your digital signoff process, identify who has the authority to initiate digital signoffs and outline any exceptions where a wet signature is required for some external reason.
Digital Signoff Tools
Document approvals and signatures don’t have to wait just because you’re working remote. Digital signatures have been around for a while, but in the last 2-3 years they are becoming much more widely adopted with the improved tracking and security associated with the industry leading solutions.
While there are many options out there, DocuSign is well-adopted and one of the leading electronic signature platforms. For lightweight solutions and smaller teams, a solution like DocHub may work as well! Whatever platform you choose, rest assured that you can still move forward on your document approvals!