Connecting Cloud-Native CAD, PDM, and PLM With One Button

Written by: Nancy White

Read Time: 4 min

PTC has introduced a seamless connection between Onshape, its cloud-native CAD with built-in PDM solution, and Arena, its Cloud PLM software solution.

Onshape is a fully featured CAD solution with next generation PDM built-in that is used to accelerate the product design of complex assemblies, improve collaboration with dispersed teams, and lower overall design and manufacturing costs.

Arena PLM is helping thousands of global product companies track and manage product design, engineering change, and quality information throughout a product’s lifespan by simplifying collaboration between their product design and development teams and manufacturing partners.

Connecting Onshape and Arena in the Cloud natively offers a level of communication for product design teams that simply hasn’t been possible before.

[Watch the On-Demand Webinar on the Onshape-Arena Connection.]

PTC announced this new feature in September. We asked Graham Birch, VP of Product Management at Onshape, and Mike Halladay, Principal Solution Consultant at Arena, to shed light on how the Onshape-Arena Connection helps manufacturers accelerate new product development and introduction (NPDI).


Why do today’s manufacturers need a cloud infrastructure to manage their product development processes?

Graham: Cloud-native applications are extremely attractive to companies where speed to market, innovation, agility, security, and quality are priorities. They allow teams to quickly scale up or down without all the costs and lead time to acquire high-powered workstations and new software licenses.

They are also a great fit for companies with distributed teams. Cloud is the easiest way to connect product team members with each other and with global supply chain partners from anywhere.

Mike: In today’s volatile market, manufacturers must optimize operational efficiency to accelerate product launches and meet their targets. This means freeing themselves from extensive IT resources, lengthy installations, and other bottlenecks that are associated with on-premises applications.

Cloud-native software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions like Onshape and Arena are designed for fast deployment, thus eliminating the need for hardware, virtual private networks (VPNs), and other IT infrastructure. Since continuous software enhancements take place behind the scenes, you don’t incur the cost of upgrades and ongoing maintenance.

How does the Onshape-Arena Connection differ from a typical CAD-PLM software integration?

Mike: The Connection is not an integration in a traditional sense. It does not require an application programming interface (API) or similar software intermediary for the two systems to communicate with each other. Instead, the Connection is native to both applications. With a simple click of a button, Arena talks directly to Onshape and vice versa.

Graham: The difference can be summed up in one word—frictionless!

Traditionally, CAD-PLM integrations have been very complex to administer and difficult for the end user. To teach a PLM system how to understand CAD data, a third module called product data management (PDM) is typically introduced. The role of PDM is to have an intimate knowledge of the CAD data, translate it, and make it easily consumable for the PLM system.

With this approach, you have to manage three separate systems (i.e., CAD, PDM, and PLM), which runs the risk of future incompatibility. However, Onshape changed the playing field completely. Because a new generation of PDM is already built into our CAD system, we were able to easily add Arena PLM to the Onshape workflow. There’s no extra software to install and it’s all in the Cloud. From an end-user perspective, that means easy adoption.

What type of company is the Onshape-Arena Connection best suited for?

Graham: Any growing company that is starting to look beyond the design phase and get into manufacturing will benefit from a connected CAD-PLM platform in many ways.

For example, BOM management now encompasses all aspects of the product design including mechanical, electrical, software, packaging, documentation, and associated costs. This endeavor is nearly impossible using a traditional spreadsheet.

Another appealing aspect of the Connection is change management. It allows the cross-functional product team to review any proposed design changes and easily submit approvals or feedback.

Working with suppliers and design partners also becomes more streamlined. With a connected CAD-PLM system, it’s easier to manage approved suppliers and map them to OEM parts planning. That’s super important these days as companies deal with part shortages, longer lead times, and fluctuating costs.

Mike: The Onshape-Arena Connection is best suited for manufacturers that are looking to make a digital transformation and adopt a cloud-first strategy to streamline NPDI. It is also ideal for organizations that are already utilizing Onshape or Arena and are wanting to leverage additional functionality across both systems.

Why should an organization that uses Onshape for CAD consider adding Arena PLM to the mix and vice versa?

Graham: Many Onshape customers start small, but when a highly motivated, innovation-fueled team begins designing and testing the next great product idea, challenges arise. They’ll need help with managing BOMs, managing suppliers and supplier parts, and running effective and efficient change processes. At this point, the team discovers that tools for managing BOMs, like spreadsheets, don’t scale and aren’t sufficiently functional in the effort to realize the finished product and bring it to market. This is when they look for a software solution like Arena PLM.

The Onshape-Arena Connection makes Arena a natural extension to the Onshape environment.

Another key factor is Arena’s reputation in the marketplace. Arena was pioneering Cloud PLM from the start. It is a great solution and complement to the Onshape application.

Mike: With Onshape, engineering teams use CAD to define the physical appearance, shape, and function of the product. The addition of Arena PLM enables organizations to define the product even further and create the entire product record which consists of BOMs, quality documents, standard operating procedures (SOPs), approved manufacturer/supplier lists, and more. You can then link automated change processes and people to the product record to ensure that the right product gets built without delays.

Alternately, engineers that are already accustomed to using Arena PLM can leverage the functionality within Onshape to view 3D models of their product designs.

How does the Connection create more agile processes for a product development team?

Mike: Both Arena and Onshape are collaboration platforms at their core.

Today, many companies are working with component and contract manufacturing partners from around the globe to deal with increasing product complexity. Gathering their input on the latest designs can be challenging when they’re scattered across different time zones and using multiple disparate systems.

Leveraging the Onshape-Arena Connection, engineering teams can easily publish their CAD BOMs directly to Arena PLM. External partners can then access the system and lend their expertise early on to ensure design for manufacturability.

Graham: The ability to frequently share information far in advance of the final product release helps teams make downstream decisions or implement changes that result in significant cost reductions and schedule improvements. Multiple users can also work concurrently on the in-progress design in a way that everybody has become accustomed to, with modern apps like Google Docs or Microsoft 365.

This kind of access and information sharing builds agility into product design workflows and drives NPDI success.

Hassle-Free Connected CAD, PDM, and PLM

With every advancement in design and manufacturing technology come the challenges of managing more and more information.

Surprisingly, some organizations still rely on file-based CAD systems, Excel spreadsheets, and other point software solutions to maintain product development and quality information to support a product throughout its lifespan.

Disconnected and dated solutions make it difficult for dispersed teams to do their daily jobs. Teams without modern and efficient technology stacks waste time trying to identify the latest product revision, implement design changes, and communicate with suppliers every time there is an engineering change order (ECO). Additionally, these methods are not secure or scalable.

Now, with the Onshape-Arena Connection, companies can streamline the flow of information between designers, engineers, and manufacturing partners—accelerating the time it takes to go from prototype to production. Onshape eliminates any need to copy or manually manage design files. Instead, all product design data and a complete design history are automatically stored in the Cloud for easy and secure sharing.

In turn, Cloud PLM software centralizes the entire product record—enabling quality, purchasing, manufacturing, suppliers, and other key stakeholders to provide input on the latest designs early on and throughout the product lifecycle. Also, Cloud PLM is safer for scaled access for dispersed teams and those that rely on external manufacturers.

The Onshape-Arena Connection helps teams manage more information with less, delivering more real-time collaboration with less administration, less cost, and less hassle.

See what the Onshape-Arena Connection can do for your product development team.


The Onshape-Arena Connection

Learn more about our new connection between cloud-native CAD, PDM, and PLM solutions. Click Here
Tags: CAD Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Onshape Arena Agile Cloud Native Digital Transformation SaaS

About the Author

Nancy White

Nancy White is the content marketing manager for the Corporate Brand team at PTC. A journalist turned content marketer, she has a diverse writing background—from Fortune 500 companies to community newspapers—that spans more than a decade.