5 Ways Cloud PLM Takes the Hard out of Hardware Development

Kellan O’Connor

Co-founder & COO, Duro.

March 16, 2022


Agile product development originated to serve software. However, these agile workflows are now transforming hardware for manufacturers via Cloud PLM (product lifecycle management) software.

Today, many hardware manufacturers are working with shorter lead times between the development and delivery of products. Cloud-native PLM is a key part of this transformation.

 Cloud-native PLM benefits hardware businesses that need to:

  • Free up engineers from non-productive administrative tasks.
  • Eliminate multiple data silos and create a single source of truth.
  • Remove bottlenecks between engineering, procurement, and manufacturing.
  • Shorten time to market.
  • Improve quality by minimizing mistakes throughout the product lifecycle.

As the hardware industry becomes more agile, companies must look at better data management systems to stay competitive and get their products to market faster than their competitors. Rapid Robotics noticed and reduced duplication using agile workflows.

Manufacturing companies can stay ahead of the competition by implementing a product data management platform (Cloud PLM) that empowers engineers to work how they want, when they want, without imposing rigid workflows, forms, and templates.

To survive and scale in often uncertain times, hardware manufacturers are pivoting to agile workflows, which increase productivity, decrease inefficiencies, and increase a company’s competitive edge. But how does a cloud-native PLM enable this?

Let’s look at the five key ways cloud PLM improves the collaborative product development process and helps you prepare for a new product introduction.

What is Cloud PLM?

Cloud PLM is changing how hardware teams manage design and manufacturing. The right Cloud PLM software can enable hardware teams to move with agility, make timely decisions, and build disruptive products.

This cloud-based tool boosts efficiency, encourages collaboration, and speeds up product launches. Cloud PLM offers a simpler, more cost-effective solution than traditional PLM systems, giving hardware teams immediate access to the latest data.

5 Benefits of Cloud PLM for Hardware Development

1 – Built-in automation frees up more time for engineering

Hardware engineers need the freedom to be innovative and make changes rapidly, and they do not have to keep track of things a system should do independently.

However, much of their time is spent on non-engineering functions without appropriate automation. Studies show that about half an engineer’s day is spent on unproductive administrative tasks such as:

  • Searching/sourcing for components in catalogs and websites.
  • Manually entering component metadata.
  • Bill of materials version management (BOM management) of spreadsheets.
  • Understanding the impact of a change (e.g., choosing a different component).

Cloud PLM recoups that lost time by automating a number of these administrative tasks. Manual data entry, component sourcing, and BOM version management can all be orchestrated or supported by software.

Through this automation, engineers save time and reduce the risk inherent in completing these types of tasks manually without software support.

2- Use Cloud PLM for seamless integration and endless collaboration

It’s not uncommon for engineering teams to exclusively use 3D CAD software to conduct and track the design process at the onset of a new collaborative product development project. Design iterations and product decisions are then communicated via spreadsheet and email.

At this early stage, without the correct PLM processes in place, the engineering team constantly faces tension between attempts to speed up manufacturing by disseminating information amongst product stakeholders and the risk of making downstream decisions based on temporary, incomplete, or unfinished models.

This tension can be alleviated by connecting the engineering stakeholders with the manufacturing stakeholders through an integrated toolset composed of 3D CAD and cloud-native PLM.

Cloud PLM software maintains proper collaboration between departments. Online PLM allows engineers to decide what elements of their designs to release when to share information, and what departments can review and approve changes.

3 – Cloud PLM Software maintains real-time control of designs

Engineers understand the importance of cloud solutions to ensure that there is always one master design for every product design. It prevents the problem of other departments making business decisions based on older versions of a design, which is particularly critical in today’s multi-national and distributed organizations.

Solving this problem was a top-of-mind priority for one of our aerospace and defense customers. With manufacturing in Asia and the engineering team spread across Australia and North America, collaboration posed unique challenges.

While the global design team shared designs of different modules with one another, the manufacturing team simultaneously needed to know what components were needed far in advance to meet their own deadlines. With designs in flux, how could the manufacturing stakeholders be confident they were making the right business decisions? One small error could result in lost time and money for their business.

To address these challenges, the company moved to Duro’s Cloud PLM. Coupled with their existing 3D CAD tool (Onshape), Duro PLM enabled the team to eliminate the need for cumbersome product data management (PDM) and increase communication between engineering and manufacturing.

Combining these cloud solutions allowed the engineering team to specify exactly which components had already been finalized and which were still under consideration as they were in the design phase.

This enabled the purchasing department to start the requisition process for many parts even before the entire BOM was finalized—but without taking any risks, they were exposed to before the Duro and Onshape integration.

4 – Cloud PLM saves time and money by streamlining operations

Even though CAD systems, like Onshape, have some overlap with PLM functions, dedicated PLM systems are focused on specific lifecycle tasks. These tasks include:

  • Managing the bill of materials (BOM Management).
  • Streamlining part number assignments.
  • Organizing supply chain data.

While the engineers will be relieved of the need to send and manage exported designs and spreadsheets, the main users of the PLM system will be on the operations side. After all, heavy ERP systems can create a significant drag on the organization.

One of our customers reflected on an experience with a previous ERP system that led to a three-day slowdown because merely fixing a typo propagated it to the many places it was stored in the system. Repeated inefficiency like that would cost any company both time and money.

Duro’s cloud-native PLM provides an experience most modern users expect. The moment the engineer upgrades any detail of the 3D CAD system and publishes the data, it is propagated automatically and instantly across the entire PLM system and the different departments using the data.

Using a PLM to manage this process instead of CAD allows for holistic control of a product rather than limiting it to the visibility of the CAD application.

5 – Cloud PLM gets you to market faster (we see it all the time)

When it came to hardware, 18—or 24-month lead times were the industry norm. Both business customers and consumers were used to how long it took actually to build physical products.

However, a six-month lead time can be too slow today to meet the market’s changing needs. PLM is a crucial element in shortening lead time. In fact, without PLM, 55 percent of companies reported missing their launch dates.

More importantly, the PLM itself needs to accommodate this rapidly changing timeline. Some of the PLM systems on the market can take three to six months to implement, but manufacturers can’t afford to wait that long.

Duro’s online PLM software can be up and running across the organization in a few days, and training can be completed in just a few hours. Employers don’t need to hire a separate manager to maintain the PLM, and staff don’t need to remember complicated tasks—everything is simple and intuitive.

Upgrades and improvements happen automatically in the cloud, meaning Duro runs itself to a certain extent.

Hardware is the New Software: Power the Next Generation of Makers with Duro

As hardware manufacturers move to more agile development cycles, cloud-native PLM is a cornerstone of their organization. Choosing the right online PLM software can smooth the transition for engineers and dramatically streamline processes while increasing revenue for the organization.

You cannot create the future when your engineering team is stuck in yesterday’s way of developing hardware; schedule a demo with Duro to learn how you can pave the future of collaborative product development at your organization.

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