CAD Manager's Newsletter (#293)

12 Dec, 2012 By: Robert Green

Looking Back at Autodesk University 2012 Reveals What's Ahead for CAD Managers

Conversations at the annual user conference indicate that priorities are shifting to project profitability.

I always spend the week after Thanksgiving teaching at the annual Autodesk University (AU) conference, which in recent years has been held in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year I taught a variety of CAD management and programming classes, participated in the Leadership Forum senior management conference, and moderated a number of roundtable discussion sessions. I met with a variety of CAD managers and users and, as usual, I learned a great deal.

Whether or not you use Autodesk tools, AU can be a great indicator of trends in the broader CAD market. I invariably come away from AU with a better idea of what the coming year may bring, and I start formulating an action plan. What I want to pass along to you, the working CAD manager, are some impressions I drew from my AU 2012 experience and my forecast for 2013, so that you can do the same. Here goes.

Who Was There

AU attendance was 8,400 this year, according to Autodesk. Compared with attendees in previous years, I'd categorize this year's crowd as follows:

  • More senior and managerial. I talked to far more CAD managers, BIM managers, digital design directors, company owners, and senior management attendees than in years past. I noted fewer CAD operators (non-supervisory users), and more super-users who often operate as junior CAD managers.
  • More focused on building information modeling (BIM) than ever before. After last year, I didn't think BIM could garner any more hype, but I was wrong. And it's not all hype: The BIM managers I talked to this year were far more likely to be knee-deep in BIM implementation and production use than in years past. I also noticed BIM managers really focusing on project management and work team coordination; classes about Revit Server and best practices were the hot ticket.
  • More practical, less theoretical. I noted far fewer "How might this work?" questions this year, and far more of the "How do I solve these particular problems?" variety. I attribute this focus on practical software implementation topics to increased pressure to manage CAD with minimal man-hours. Because CAD managers are under more time pressure than ever, they're focusing on nuts-and-bolts software issues and worrying less about abstract topics.
  • More financially aware. I participated in more conversations about pressure to reduce overhead, increase project margins, decrease training time, and lower software/IT costs than I can ever remember. It is clear that senior management teams and company owners finally expect software to save them money — something I've been preaching about for years.

Read more »

:: Tackle the Status Quo in Your Workplace

CAD Manager's Toolbox: Change is scary, even when there's a good reason for it. To ease the transition to new methods, demonstrate how users will save time and increase efficiency.

We've all heard this conversation in our office at one point or another:

CAD manager: "Why are we doing this?"
CAD user: "I don't know; we've just always done things this way."

As one of my students once told me, that's not a reason, that's an excuse! It's an excuse to avoid putting in the effort required to make things better.

So how can CAD managers battle the status quo mindset? Here are a few methods that have always worked for me:

  • Point out wasted time. If we could alter our processes to streamline our work, reduce needless steps, and get things moving, wouldn't it make sense to do so?
  • Ruthlessly attack rework. Rework means extra man-hours to fix problems, and those extra hours cost money, right? The follow-up question would be, Why are we continuing to use processes that lead to rework?

Read more »

Do you have a question or tip for the CAD Manager's Newsletter? Send it to me at; if I use it in the newsletter you'll receive a cool Cadalyst prize!

:: Resources

Review Paper from CIMdata Examines PTC Windchill
PLM (product lifecycle management) research firm CIMdata has published a whitepaper that reports its research on PTC Windchill v10 and Windchill v10.1. The paper, "PTC Windchill Program Review," focuses on the improvements PTC has made in the past few years. Anyone can register and download the free paper at CIMdata's web site.

:: Events

Introduction to Clayoo Freeforming for Rhino 5.0
December 19, 2012
11 a.m. PT
Industrial designers, architects, and jewelry designers can attend this free Novedge webinar to learn about Clayoo, which provides an interface similar to modeling by hand. Read more »

SolidWorks World 2013
January 20–23, 2013
Orlando, Florida
SolidWorks attendees can choose from more than 200 technical breakout sessions; network with other SolidWorks users, solution partners, resellers, and SolidWorks employees; and explore the latest in 3D design and technology, offered by more than 100 exhibitors in the SolidWorks Partner Pavilion. Read more »

RTC (Revit Technology Conference) 2013 North America
July 11–13, 2013
Vancouver, Canada
The 2013 conference will offer an opening plenary session and keynote address, followed by multiple concurrent sessions over three days. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to

:: What's New at

AutoCAD Copy and Paste Tips
Do you already know everything there is to know about copying and pasting in AutoCAD? You may think you're an expert already, but this video from Cadalyst and Lynn Allen contains a couple of tips you might not know about! Watch the video »

Autodesk and the Cloud, Part 1: Customers 'Absolutely' Will Have a Choice
At Autodesk University 2012, CEO Carl Bass says desktop tools are not going away — for now — and users should move to online apps only if it makes good business sense. Read more »

DraftSight v1R2.1
First Look Review: CAD software has AutoCAD-like interface, views and edits DWG files, and is easy on the budget — that is, free. Read more »

IMAGINiT Clarity for Autodesk Revit Server
First Look Review: Manage your Revit Server, projects, and team members; automate tasks; and collaborate with users in multiple locations — for a price. Read more »

Lunar Architecture Becomes Feasible with 3D Printing
Space may be the next frontier for construction. Read more »

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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