In the past decade the role of CAD managers has changed quite a bit. More is now expected, from keeping up with new software and updates, and building business cases to purchase new software, to managing the interaction with IT, and helping the organization gain a competitive advantage.
Recently, Robert Green, a recognized leader in CAD management, moderated the CAD Manager Summit, a roundtable of experts at Autodesk headquarters in San Francisco, where they addressed challenges and opportunities, as well as their perspective on the changing landscape. Participants included Frank Mayfield, CAD administrator at Leidos Engineering; R.K. McSwain, CAD manager at LJA Engineering; Jürgen Galba, co-founder of InventorWizard; Michael Viscetto, CAD manager at Bastien and Associates; and Shaun Bryant, director a CADFM consultants.
Here are three ways these experienced CAD managers help organizations stay competitive in the marketplace.
“If you train people they might leave. Yes, but if you don’t train them, they might stay.”— From a conversation Shaun Bryant had with a client.
Keeping users trained on easier and better ways to accomplish tasks enables them to be more productive and efficient saving time and money. As a consultant, one of the first things Bryant does when working with new clients is a training-needs assessment. The client fills out a short two-page document on what functions they aren’t aware of or aren’t able to use. He trains the team on these gaps first.
“From there you go up a level and make it more bespoke and company-specific around their particular standards,” Bryant said. “It seems to work for me, and from a consultancy standpoint it makes things a little easier.”
Lunch and learn sessions are a quick way to keep users informed of new features, new releases, or better ways to do tasks, such as knowing how fields work in Sheet Set Manager. In addition, documenting the update and posting it on an internal blog or the company’s Intranet enables staff to have quick access to things they might forget.
Galba uses email for small updates. To make them stand out from the other emails in his users’ inboxes, he embeds animated GIFs or videos.
An easy day-to-day informal tactic that has been successful for the participants is walking the floor. Sometimes it’s about showing them how to use the tools, not telling them how to use it. Or answering a quick question that users won’t call or email you about. Many times helping a few people translates into many users learning the right way to use a tool on that project.
“Our design room is open floor,” Galba said. “I always do it loud; not just for one person with the problem, so others around them hear me, as well. It’s like an ostrich, [they] pop their heads up. It is like, ‘What’s he saying?’ ”
“The coolest standard is the one they don’t know they are using.”—Robert Green
It’s all about making it easier for the user to design and not overthink, wondering if the page setup is the same, or if they are using the right template, layers, styles, tool palette, etc. Standards drive productivity.
“I build it in from the beginning,” Mayfield said. “From the templates that the Sheet Set Manager uses, all the proper styles and layers, everything they need is built into the template, including page set ups—it’s all in there. Every time they open a drawing and bring in the stuff from the template it always matches.”
While the key is having users focused on the design, they are a critical part of the standardization process.
“It [the standardization process] came from the users,” Viscetto said. “I had a team of 22 designers and said ‘You need to tell me what you need.’ Everybody felt part of it. I stayed humble and gathered input from the users. They felt part of the team, they felt this was my contribution, and it grew from there. My question to them was, ‘What are you always doing that you don’t want to be repeating so often?’ Talk to your neighbor, they are doing it a different way.”
Empowering users and having them feel part of the process is also how McSwain approaches standards.
“I let them know, I don’t know everything,” McSwain said. “You may know something I don’t know. You tell me, too. We have a program that encourages employees to come up with new processes to make an improvement. A young lady came up with a process in Civil 3D. We tested it over a nine-month period and it probably saved 50 percent of time when we go back to make edits. She was recognized and other users step back and think, ‘Wow, I could be doing that, too.’ ”
The Right Tools
“CAD belongs to CAD.”—Jürgen Galba Using the right hardware and software is integral to having a productive team. In this case, the team extends to IT.
“I’ve been very fortunate for the last decade or so, my job description is half production, half IT,” McSwain said. “I am that link that knows how to talk IT to the IT people and knows how to talk engineering to the design and production people.” However, this is not the case for all companies. It comes down to finding a common language and letting IT know why certain items are important.
The right tools can also be the differentiator in landing new business. Showing your prospects or clients what their projects can look like in 3D can make all the difference.
“Currently, we use Revit to develop a model and use that model to generate a presentation,”Viscetto said. “So we are using the software in 3D fashion to wow the client. To show them this is what we are capable of. To see it come to life from a concept or schematic design phase gets them excited. We can use previous projects that we’ve done. We can say, ‘This is what we’ve done in the past and we can apply these strategies to your project.’ That’s a critical selling point.”
Bryant has found that using Autodesk products also gives companies a competitive advantage. Besides the products being customizable and having a consistent look and feel, they are also known.
“It gives you that project-driven advantage, whereby you are using a product everyone knows and everybody involved on that project—whether it be a contractor, a sub-contractor—is using the same products,” Bryant said. “So there’s that compatibility and legacy, where everything is working and sits nicely around each other. Another thing that Autodesk does well is everything talks to each other. The benefit you have is that you do things quicker, more efficiently, and it hits the bottom line—you become more profitable.