Skyways: Creating a Single Source of Truth for Cross-Functional Collaboration with PDM and BOM Management

Case Study
February 19, 2024


Skyways is revolutionizing transportation with fully autonomous, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) designed for cargo transport. Founded in 2017 near Austin, Texas, the company was inspired by the traffic challenges of Silicon Valley. Their drones feature vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities, leveraging advancements in energy storage and electric propulsion. Skyways continues to innovate, aiming to redefine the future of cargo transportation.


Prior to Bild, Skyways managed their data through a combination of GrabCAD and a SolidWorks PDM vault which was co-managed by their design partner. Avery, a Mechanical Engineer at Skyways since 2021, labeled the sunsetting of GrabCAD as the push they needed to start looking for a solution to their primary issues: slow collaboration, siloed data, and inefficient workflows.  

Inefficient Collaboration: While GrabCAD served as Skyways’ primary data management system, it lacked the collaborative nature and security safeguards essential for hosting co-work with their design partner. This forced them to access their design partner’s SolidWorks PDM for all joint projects, requiring VPN usage for even the simplest activities.

Scattered Data: As a result of managing data across both GrabCAD and SolidWorks PDM, files were siloed off across multiple platforms and, therefore, lacked a centralized source of truth. Since there was no easy way to share files, Skyways kept collaborative files on SolidWorks PDM and managed in-house products separately on GrabCAD.

“There were two separate sources of truth, there were some items that were shared on a “need to be shared” basis. We had a folder in their PDM vault with files that they needed and then we also had files in our GrabCAD [repository].”

Avery recalled that this system was far from ideal but, at the time, they didn’t have any other means to collaborate or bring their design partner onboard to a secure platform.

Overwriting Designs: Without a formal check in and check out workflow - overwriting designs was inevitable. Even with a team that worked in close quarters, Avery mentioned that overwriting designs would still happen and lead to hours of work lost each time.

“We definitely got into situations where you start editing and then someone's about to push changes to a design you’ve been working on for hours”

When asked how they would try and salvage those situations, Avery responded “I think most of the time it was just like ‘That sucks. You'll have to cancel your changes, get the new [design], and start over.’ It's worse the more people you have working in a space.”

Unstable & Clunky Platform: SolidWorks PDM proved to be challenging even for experienced engineers to use - Avery brings up the frequent crashes and choppy workflows they experienced while on it.

“You had the VPN - if the VPN stopped working, which was pretty often, their vault would crash your computer. It was clunky that you had to go into File Explorer, go into the vault, create a part, populate it with metadata, then open that in SolidWorks and start your edits.”

The hours of downtime, emotional frustration, and interrupted workflows which stemmed from these frequent crashes made it painstakingly difficult for the team to work at all with collaborators, let alone efficiently.

Impossible Workflows: Manual and error-prone bill-of-material (BOM) management was also a significant challenge, requiring extensive manual input which often led to inaccuracies. Avery recalls how

“We got SolidWorks to spit out a BOM and then massaged it, but it's missing a lot of information. It was nowhere near right - we didn't even try to track the dependencies and like the parent child and stuff. It was all manual.”

This inefficient process compounded the challenges faced by Skyways in their design workflows. Avery notes that to get an accurate BOM from SolidWorks was impossible - the effort to shape BOMs into something deliverable took multiple days and required a disproportionate amount of bandwidth. As designs were updated, BOM reconciliation became a problem, adding anywhere from 3 hours to a day to clean up each BOM.

Skyways' unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) - with continuous innovative iterations on their UAV, Skyways aims to deliver their latest production version across multiple market sectors


Since integrating Bild into their workflow, Skyways has seen significant improvements in their design processes. They now have a centralized source of truth for their design data, streamlining collaboration and ensuring that all team members have access to the latest files. For the team, this dramatically improved efficiency, vastly reduced errors, and gave the engineering team more time to focus on their core top-of-minds.

File Ownership: Bild’s robust version control and file ownership capabilities have provided Skyways with a one-stop shop for their design process, eliminating cascading errors and pesky downtime caused by overwritten designs. Avery explains, "The nuts and bolts are checked-in, checked-out. As long as I can see that someone is working on a part, I know they have changes. That's what I need 99% of the time." This functionality has not only eliminated the issue of designs getting overwritten constantly, but has also provided a reliable system for tracking and managing versions. He lamented about the overwriting nightmares with GrabCAD and was relieved this was no longer an issue - “the fact that [overwriting designs] is not possible now is definitely huge"

Bild tore down the data silos left behind by GrabCAD and SolidWorks PDM at Skyways, eliminating the risk of accidental file overwrites and ensuring all team members have access to the latest files.

Bill Of Materials: Bild's BOM management features have completely restructured Skyways' approach to BOM creation, with engineers noticing significant drops in both time and effort required to produce one. Previously, Skyways relied on manual processes and spreadsheets, both of which were prone to human errors and, put simply, inefficient when automated solutions exist. Avery highlights the impact of Bild on BOM management, stating,

“The fact that Bild can spit out a BOM for me and it takes less than an hour for a huge assembly, that's easily 7 times faster than it used to be”
“Bild is also always correct and all the information is there. You just need to get it in the right format. Whereas doing it by hand is just impossible. You're always gonna miss something, you're gonna forget something, and not know where it goes.”

What used to take days of laborious work can now be done automatically in a fraction of the time with Bild's intuitive BOM tools.

Efficient Collaboration: Bild’s stable and secure platform allowed the Skyways team to bring their design partner onboard for joint workflows - a feat that was impossible when working across multiple disparate systems. With both parties recognizing the benefits of a unified platform, Bild is now the sole workspace used for collaborative work. Avery mentions that their design partner has full access to selected files and they both work in real time on Bild. Stakeholders on both sides can access shared files anytime, view associated histories, and open files in the CAD viewer: Bild gives teams the traceability necessary to track complex, multiparty workflows.

Flexibility: Bild’s user-friendly interface makes navigating projects, working on files, and visualizing files a much easier and reliable procedure. The platform's flexibility allows them to rapidly create and manage files with ease, giving them more time to focus on innovation and product development, “now [on Bild] you can just create a new part and Bild will automatically part number it. If you go back you can add a description if you want … it makes the day-to-day easier allows us to focus on designing”


In conclusion, Skyways’ adoption of Bild has been essential in enhancing its design processes, improving efficiency, and fostering collaboration. Bild has brought tangible results to the Skyways team and has not only eliminated errors caused by lack of a central source of truth or lack of file ownership, but has delivered quantifiable results with hours saved across day-to-day workflows and BOM creations. As Skyways continues to innovate and push the boundaries of aerospace design, Bild remains a key piece in their journey towards excellence.

To learn more about Skyways, you can visit their website here.