What a year this has been! The challenges we've all faced at this point don't even need to be stated - they've been talked about nonstop for months. Large, medium, and small business have all felt the impacts of COVID-19 and the havoc it's caused in the workplace environment. Entire offices shut down and teams moved offsite. Orders and projects moved out, or cancelled entirely. Trying to learn how to manage teams entirely remotely. No ability to travel.
For many companies, not only have they been dealing with lost revenue, but also having to embrace working remotely as a matter of necessity. Needless to say, this has brought about many challenges for those not accustomed to it.
Managing a remote team can be difficult. To start, there has to be a certain level of trust - you can no longer simply swing by someone's desk to check in on them or have a discussion. There can also be a certain level of boredom or even depression that arises from the lack of in-person collaboration. These are all things that must be considered and dealt with in order to continue being successful.
But for all the challenges working remotely presents, the advantages are far greater. For one, teams and business that are flexible enough to allow remote work haven't seen so much as a blip in productivity since this all started. The systems and processes were already in place to allow for management from anywhere in the globe - and things kept right on keepin' on like a well-oiled machine. And that's not even considering the financial advantages. Remote-based teams require far less physical resources (building and building maintenance, workspaces to maintain, breakrooms to stock, etc). Even large companies that already had a remote work policy in place have been able weather this storm far better than anyone thought possible. The simple fact of the matter is, if you have a good team whom you trust - work location is irrelevant. The technology exists today to have all the full benefits of being in an office aside from direct, in-person discussion. And even still, as we continue to embrace the "Zoom culture," meeting someone in-person, virtually, will continue to become more and more normal.
Just yesterday I had a lengthy business discussion with a client via videoconferencing some 3,000 miles away. We shared a coffee and it felt as if he were sitting in the same room as me, directly across the table. This is possible from anywhere in the world - and the technology is now more reliable than it has ever been.
However, that is of course only one part of the equation. Having a phone call or videoconference is one thing, but getting down to the nuts and bolts of staying productive and generating tangible output is another. Accomplishing design and engineering work as part of a remote, distributed team has traditionally been a challenge. Connectivity issues, project management challenges - even the fundamental aspect of keeping people happy and connected as a team have all historically caused opposition to the concept of remote work for many businesses and industries.
That has all changed in recent years, and many companies are now forced to get on board - or get left behind. The fact of the matter is, as a result of the pandemic, remote work has been proven to be a viable option over the past few months. For many companies, it simply meant an expansion of their already-in-place work from home policies. For others, it meant an immediate adaptation to remote work, and for the most part business continued forward as usual after a short acclimation period. Bottom line, the tools are already in place and refined, businesses are flexible enough, and employees are skilled enough nowadays to work remotely and remain just as productive as if they were in the office.
So, is now the time to fully embrace a remote design team? The resounding answer is YES! Here at Trailride, we've been working in this manner globally for a number of years. The benefits for our business are huge - we aren't limited by geography and can instead seek to serve customers across the U.S. and the globe. The same can be said for your business - you can pursue talent and contracts regardless of location. The tools are in place now to make it a breeze.
Hopefully your business found itself in a good position at the start of the pandemic to shift to 100% remote work. If not, now is the time to look at those tools and seriously consider it. The business environment isn't likely to go back to "normal" anytime soon, if ever. As we look to the future here at Trailride, we see our niche of providing remote design services as essential going forward. We hope your business can prosper as well. If you have any questions about the concept of remote teams, please get in contact with us - we've got plenty of experience and would love to share our insights.
Everything is “in the cloud” nowadays. The phrase gets thrown around so much you’d think it were just another buzzword without much substance behind it. However, cloud-based tools are here to stay, and they keep getting better. Moreover, as we continue to become more and more connected, the gap between continents and time zones shrinks to a level that affords us the opportunity to work with clients across the globe.
You’ve probably been using things like Google Drive and Docs, Dropbox, and a host of other productivity tools for years. But what is the benefit when it comes to cloud CAD? Does it even work? Is it reliable? Can you really get design work done from anywhere?
The answer to all of these is YES!
The CAD industry has historically been excruciatingly slow to change. Sure, new updates get pushed out year after year (nevermind the fact that these sometimes require days or even weeks’ worth of “converting” to the new version of the same system...but that’s for a different blog post). Features are added, things are tweaked, new bugs are inadvertently created...rinse and repeat. To give credit where it’s due...CAD programs like SolidWorks, Creo, and Inventor are VERY powerful, and have allowed engineers to create almost everything you see around you. However, those programs, at their core, function the exact same way they did decades ago when they were first created. They require top-of-the-line machines to run properly...and that means engineers and designers need to carry around mammoth laptops (in the best case scenario) in order to work anywhere out of the office. Then they’ll need to establish a VPN connection in order to pull a CAD license and start working. And in some places, that is going to be spotty at best...and will be a complete roadblock at worst. That essentially means you’re dead in the water, and it happens with regularity in places like China.
Collaborate from anywhere
As we’ve already discussed, you may already be partially working in the cloud, using Google Docs, Dropbox, etc. You’ve probably already enjoyed the benefits of being able to access your work from anywhere, on any device...and also collaborate with team members seamlessly.
Onshape works in much the same way. There’s no need to save your work. You won’t lose any work due to a computer crash. You can access your entire library of CAD data from ANYWHERE there’s an Internet connection. That is a truly powerful thing, considering you can now quite literally take your entire business with you in your pocket...CAD data and all!
No longer do you need to worry about VPN connections, making sure files are checked in before you go somewhere, or lugging a huge laptop around a busy airport. By switching to cloud-based CAD, you can immediately make your business more efficient, and your teams more effective.
So, how reliable is it?
It is true that you do need an Internet connection for it to work...same as with Google Drive. At first this was a bit of a concern for us as we considered moving to cloud-based CAD. However, if you think about it for a minute...when’s the last time you couldn’t access your Drive? One of the enormous advantages we enjoy today is the ability to access the Internet from almost anywhere. There are very, very few instances where a connection is not available...and unless you are planning to move to some faraway island with no connection to the modern world whatsoever, chances are you will never be hampered by lack of a connection.
Also, remember needing to pull a license for traditional CAD? That would (generally) first require a VPN connection. I can point to one business trip in particular where I simply couldn’t get anything done. After lugging my massive boat anchor of a laptop through the Shanghai airport, we arrived at the supplier’s facility and started getting set up to review a tooling model. Only problem was, we simply couldn’t get a VPN connection, even though their network was blazing fast. Which meant we couldn’t even get the CAD software to open, let alone access any files. And, being 12 hours ahead in China...no one was available back in the States to help out. We essentially lost a day’s worth of work that could have been entirely avoided. With Onshape, we could have been up and running in about as long as it took to connect to their WiFi.
Cloud CAD is the missing link
Distributed design teams have existed for years already. In one design team alone, there could be people working in the U.S., Australia, the U.K., China, Mexico, Brazil, and Germany. All of this generally works pretty well with traditional CAD...on the surface, anyway. If you really dig into it, however, you’ll find a huge portion of the engineering team’s day is spent fighting PDM, waiting for someone to check in a file so they can work on it, or saving copies of designs, modifying them, and then trying to somehow merge them all back into the original. All while another engineer sits waiting so they can jump back into it.
Cloud CAD has solved these problems, allowing teams across the world to work on the same file, at the same time, with no overwriting someone’s work, saving a copy, or checking in or out files. You’ve probably worked with someone on a Google Document at the same time...Onshape brings this highly collaborative way of getting things done to the CAD world.
It is truly the missing link to a successful distributed design team. For these reasons, choosing Onshape as our CAD tool was an absolute no brainer for us over traditional CAD. Aside from it’s beautiful, clean interface...it affords us the opportunity work from anywhere, on any device.
THAT is a powerful benefit that has already paid dividends for us.