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Onshape as a PDM system?

malcolm_smith_1malcolm_smith_1 Member Posts: 44
I'm investigating cloud based PDM systems. Currently our company is using the Solidworks PDM system to manage  our data (server based) and we use Autodesk Inventor as our main drafting program. We have a large repository of legacy data (around 300k drawing files excluding Inventor files), mostly PDFs but also other file formats such as xls, tiff and other image formats, and of course DWG. We also have a large amount of Inventor files. Our reason for looking at moving to a cloud based system is to reduce (eliminate) the software and server maintenance issues. The document control possibilities of a cloud based system are also very appealing. Our company is currently moving from the standard Microsoft office suite to the cloud based Google suite for general office software, so the mindset is there to make this happen.

Moving over to Onshape would be no small undertaking, I think. Although the Onshape site appears to offer a large amount of educational material, I don't have the time to wade through it all and I'm struggling to understand how Onshape would look as a replacement for our current PDM system and how difficult it will be to migrate our data over to Onshape, including conversion of Inventor files. I'm appealing to the user forum in the hope that I can get some answers as my attempts so far to contact Onshape directly have been fruitless.

My Questions:

1. As a PDM system, how does Onshape compare to something like Solidworks PDM or Autodesk Vault? I'm assuming that as far as document control goes, Onshape should be brilliant compared to the cludgy server based system that is still copying files around over the network, but what is the reality for users?

2. For a user not interested in drafting, but only viewing files, what does Onshape look like and how easy is it for a new, non drafting savvy user to pick up? One of the things we liked about the Solidworks PDM is the familiar Windows like use interface.

3. How easy will it be to migrate our existing legacy data over to Onshape? How long will it take and can Onshape migrate all of the existing metadata in the currently in the Solidworks PDM?

4. Can we migrate our existing Inventor files and use them in Onshape? I assume that existing part files would be translated as dumb solids, but are there any smarts that can make them more useful?

5. Network performance could be a big issue here as our internet is not always 100% reliable. Is that a deal breaker? What are user experiences with cloud based CAD with regard to reliability?


  • tyler_popetyler_pope Member, Developers Posts: 20 PRO
    I can't answer all of your questions, but the core of Onshape is meant to eliminate the need for PDM systems all together. PDM's were developed as a work around the limitations of file based programs like SW.

    I spent too many hours at my previous job waiting for files to sync from a PDM system to ever invest in one. 

    I hope that helps. 
  • malcolm_smith_1malcolm_smith_1 Member Posts: 44
    Thanks Tyler. I think I understand the potential advantages of this system, but even to to be able to go ahead with a trial, I need to be able to convince the non CAD management that this is a good thing. The questions I'm asking are the types of questions I'll be asked.
  • adrian_vlzkzadrian_vlzkz Member Posts: 113 PRO
    Onshape is a great PDM Solution for CAD system, most CAD application have files that are connected via references, that is why PDM software is needed. If you mainly want to manage PDFs and office files that changes things. There are plenty of solutions out there that are designed to Manage files without the reference baggage. Onshape will certainly work, but you'll be paying a lot for it
    Adrian V.
    Sr. CAD Engineer
  • Jason_SJason_S Moderator, Onshape Employees, Developers Posts: 175
    I suggest you guys take a look at we just announced. Coming very soon.

    QA Engineer - Onshape, Inc.
  • HakroHakro Member Posts: 55 ✭✭
    Cool !
  • MBartlett21MBartlett21 Member Posts: 1,577 EDU
    Jason_S said:
    I suggest you guys take a look at we just announced. Coming very soon.

    When will that be released?
    MB - I make FeatureScripts: view FS (My FS's have "Official" beside them)
  • HakroHakro Member Posts: 55 ✭✭
    Is that new Design Data Management 2.0 only available for Pro Users and not for FreePlan Users?
    In the video it looks like it is only available for companies.
  • NeilCookeNeilCooke Moderator, Onshape Employees Posts: 2,266
    @Hakro that is correct - Release Management and Approval Workflows are only available for Companies (which makes sense). Simultaneous BOMs and all the other features in the blog post are available to everyone. 
    Neil Cooke, Director of Technical Marketing, Onshape Inc.
  • malcolm_smith_1malcolm_smith_1 Member Posts: 44
    Thanks all for the answers so far. I have now had some discussions with Onshape support on this issue. We are still considering various options, but Onshape is looking pretty good, particularly if we bundle in ARAS Kudo for 2D drawings.
  • malcolm_smith_1malcolm_smith_1 Member Posts: 44
    We are currently running a trial. I have uploaded a bunch of PDF's. I tried first loading them as individual documents, but I found it best to load multiple PDF's into a single document, because it takes nearly as long to load a document containing one item as it does for a document with many items. I have found a few issues so far:

    1) There is currently no preview for PDFs. Is this on the radar for future inclusion?

    2) Although there are quite a few default property fields and the ability to create custom properties. However, it doesn't appear that you can search for anything more than name, description, part number and revision. What is the point of having all the additional properties if you can't search on them? Are there any plans to improve the search tools?

    3) Zooming and panning the PDF within the document is buggy.
  • philip_thomasphilip_thomas Member, Moderator, Onshape Employees, Developers Posts: 1,280

    1) What do you mean by 'preview'? Yes you can upload PDF's. Yes you can view them.
    2) Malcolm, yes! You absolutely will be able to search by custom properties. I believe the expression is 'coming (very) soon!' :)
    3) The mechanism we are using is 'browser preview'. All of the Onshape-supported browsers have a PDF viewer build into them.
    • What browser are you using?
    • What 'bugs' are you seeing?
    The data management capabilities built into Onshape are quite sophisticated, please let us know if your company would like a one-on-one tech session with a pre-sales application engineer. 
    Philip Thomas - Onshape
  • malcolm_smith_1malcolm_smith_1 Member Posts: 44
    See image below of the preview pane. It's only showing the Acrobat icon. Similarly the icons beside the file names are only Acrobat icons and not thumbnails. When searching for drawings, its handy to be able to see a quick preview or thumbnail of the drawing rather than having to open each one in the full screen.

    The bug I was seeing was with the zooming, panning and scroll bars not working, however I haven't been able to reproduce it, so it may have been a browser issue.

  • malcolm_smith_1malcolm_smith_1 Member Posts: 44
    I thought I might be able to get around the lack of search fields inside a document by putting all of the metadata into the tab name. This sort of works, but the search results are not always what you would hope for. The search needs to find all of the characters of the search term in order, but they don't have to be contiguous, so you do get search results that aren't useful. In the image below are the results of a search on the term "hopper" in a document in which 30 tabs had names with a long string of data. Two of the six results don't actually have the term "hopper" in them. It might be good if there was an option to search on contiguous strings.

  • brucebartlettbrucebartlett Member, OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 1,854 PRO
    Rather than using in document search, wouldn't you be better to search globally from the home screen?  Then you can just add your metadata in the document properties rather than confusing it in the tab name and you are also seeing across all version and release history.

    Engineer ı Product Designer ı Onshape Consulting Partner
    Twitter: @onshapetricks  & @babart1977   
  • malcolm_smith_1malcolm_smith_1 Member Posts: 44
    Yes and no. We currently store our drawings in folders, each of which  group drawings for a particular area of the plant. The plan is to put the all of the drawings in each of those folders (which may contain up to 1000 drawings) into an Onshape document, so searching within one of those documents will immediately narrow the search to a particular plant area. I have put in an improvement request for uniform search tools for both the documents area and within the document. If that was to happen, we could search on the same property fields in the tabs as we could for documents. The long tab names is just a workaround.
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