How Cloud Product Development Tools Enable Supply Chain Resiliency

Emily Suzuki December 16, 2022 3 min read

How can design and manufacturing businesses achieve supply chain resiliency? See why adopting a cloud product development tool is a great start.


In a perfect world, product designers would have various component choices from many manufacturers at their fingertips. Unfortunately, this usually isn’t the case, as supply chains are limited by component lifecycles, inventory, cost, and lead time. As such, designers often need to adapt or even compromise on an optimal solution to realize a manufacturable product. 

The state of the global supply chain

In recent years, design constraints resulting from supply chain limitations have compounded exponentially. This is due to two primary sources: the global economic shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic and the geopolitical crisis evolving in Russia, Ukraine, China, and Taiwan. The combination of these problems has resulted in unprecedented supply chain disruptions across nearly every industry in the global economy.

When design and manufacturing businesses discuss what CAD/CAM tool to adopt, the conversation often centers around struggles with producing electronic components and mechanical parts. The associated supply chains and the pains they cause electrical and mechanical engineers can partly be alleviated by adopting shop floor digitization and a cloud product development tool.

What are cloud product development tools?

While there are many variations of cloud product development tools, the defining feature is the ability of the user to access their design data and manipulate it on any computer, anywhere in the world, with a reliable internet connection. The software is hosted remotely and accessed through a web browser or browser shell. This eliminates compatibility issues and ensures that the latest software updates are always installed.

Similarly, the design data, along with all its versions and meta-data, is also remotely stored. This ensures data integrity, traceability, and availability. Not only does this free up the designer to focus on their work by eliminating traditional file and software management issues, but it also allows for a level of design collaboration unseen in traditional CAD and CAM platforms. This collaboration extends beyond just the engineers and can include customers, management, and, most importantly, supply chain vendors and contractors. 

These features combined create an end-to-end design and manufacture solution.

Cloud product development tools and the supply chain

The traditional supply paradigm for product development involves three stakeholders: the engineer, the purchaser, and the supplier. These three individuals (or teams) work together to evaluate components and materials for functionality, availability and cost. The problem is that each uses different software platforms in their job and continuously converts their data to a common format to exchange and import it. This exchange often takes place over email and can create challenging problems for traceability and data integrity.

In the world of cloud product development, these same entities interact via a central cloud-based data repository. For example, the engineer still works with the supplier and purchaser to develop a manufacturable product. However, the three parties work simultaneously with the same data set rather than sharing local files back and forth.

Addressing supply chain issues with cloud product development

Autodesk Fusion 360 is well suited to this type of centralization. It offers user management features that enable various stakeholders from different organizations to collaborate at the appropriate permission level. It also provides version control so teams can preserve and revert designs at will. Suppliers, customers, purchasers, and other stakeholders can provide valuable feedback to the designer in real time via commenting and redlining features. These features come together to improve efficiency, reduce errors and oversights, and promote collaboration.

The core principle behind shop floor digitization is connecting people, processes, and data. In today’s global supply chain, part availability can change overnight, and multiple component substitutions are a standard part of the development process. Cloud product development tools can make the difference between success and failure in today’s fragmented supply chain.

Try Autodesk Fusion 360 for free to see how a cloud product development tool can enhance your team’s design to manufacture workflow.

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Mechanical Engineering

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