CAD Manager's Newsletter (#296)

13 Feb, 2013 By: Robert Green

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Improve CAD Production Quality by Annoying Your Users, Part 3

Transferring the burden of problem solving to the users who cause the problems is a great strategy — but only if you can take yourself out of the process.

In the past two installments of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I discussed enforcing CAD standards by shifting a problem back to the person who caused it, thereby annoying the violator into compliance. I adapted this annoyance transfer methodology from The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office, a book by Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan that changed the way I think about standards enforcement.

In this continuation of the series, we'll explore how to make annoyance transfer a permanent part of CAD quality-control processes by using the widely recognized "andon cord" methodology, which helps avoid the need for the CAD manager to micromanage the effort. Here goes.

Fine-Tuning the Annoyance Transfer Process

The Achilles' heel of my annoyance transfer method is that someone — usually the CAD manager — has to keep up with all standards and quality violations and assign the fix (annoyance) to the correct person (the offender). Experience tells me that this degree of effort will be too time-consuming for many CAD managers to sustain over the long term. And we all know that when the CAD manager becomes disengaged from the process, it is usually just a matter of time before everyone reverts to past behaviors.

What's required is a system that empowers all CAD users to call attention to problems and assign the required fix (annoyance) to the user who caused the problem. Once this becomes part of operational procedure, the CAD manager can step away, confident that CAD quality issues — some of them, at any rate — will take care of themselves.

Does such a system exist, you may ask? Well, what if we allowed every user in our CAD environment to raise a flag when he or she encounters an error, and then focused our attention on fixing that problem? What if this system alerted management to the existence and cause of the problem? What if this system became so ingrained in our processes that CAD users had no doubt that everybody from the lowest user to the highest manager was concerned about CAD quality?

CAD files are the result of a sequential process, just as cars are the final product of an assembly line. In both cases, identifying and fixing problems along the way is essential to creating a high-quality finished product.
CAD files are the result of a sequential process, just as cars are the final product of an assembly line. In both cases, identifying and fixing problems along the way is essential to creating a high-quality finished product. ©

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:: CAD Manager's Toolbox: Take Time to Think Big

Developing techniques that can dramatically improve productivity often starts with a look at the big picture.

Every day CAD managers are burdened with problems that demand immediate attention: Why isn't the plotter working? Where are those old files? How do I upload the latest models to our client's cloud server?

And, to a lesser extent, CAD managers try to think about short-term goals for making things run better: How could we optimize how we generate PDF project documents? How can I better convey standards to my users? What should I teach my users about the new features of our design software?

But between performing these two types of tasks and normal design activities, most CAD managers never find the time to dream about what might be. That is, they never really "think big" about new techniques that could radically change how the company works. Do you ever consider how new tools could revamp your design processes and provide better value to your customers? If you don't, why not? 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

Leica Videos Demonstrate 3D Laser Scanning
Leica Geosystems has posted three new educational movies about laser scanning within the Leica Geosystems YouTube channel. The short, high-definition videos provide an introduction to 3D laser scanning, including point clouds, mapping, surveys, how laser scanners work, how to tackle projects, and more.

:: Events

Preprocessing Point Clouds in Bentley Pointools
March 7, 2013
12 noon ET
This Bentley e-seminar is designed for professionals who prepare and edit point clouds for downstream use. Read more »

March 15, 2013
Waltham, Massachusetts
The National Institute of Building Sciences' buildingSMART alliance event will provide attendees with up-to-the minute information about the latest in building information modeling (BIM). Read more »

May 14–16, 2013
Springfield, Massachusetts
This manufacturing exposition and conference will include resource centers; keynote speakers; panels; and exhibits on growth industries, including aerospace, defense, medical, automotive, commerical machinery, electronics, fabricating, and plastics. New features for 2013 include a panel discussion on workforce development. 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

Cyon Research Wants to Know About Your CAD Use
Cyon Research, organizer of the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES), has launched its 2013 Survey of Users of Engineering Software. The 40-minute survey aims to gauge your current use of and criteria for CAD and other engineering software. Read more »

Do You Really Need ECC Memory for CAD Workstation Computing?
I recently read an article by an Intel product manager on the need for "ECC" (error correction code) memory in CAD workstations. From the article: "Corrupted data can impact every aspect of your business, and worse yet you may not even realize your data has become corrupted." Read the CADspeed blog post »

SolidWorks World 2013, Part 2: A Sampling of Product Debuts
More than 100 solution partners took part in the event, filling the Partner Pavilion with hardware and software offerings for all types of mechanical CAD users — including these new releases. Read more »

At SolidWorks World 2013, Users Get a Peek at What's Coming in Version 2014
Company reveals long list of new features, discusses the move to the cloud, and announces web portal and new Mechanical Conceptual tool. Read more »


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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