CAD Management Forecast for 2014

11 Dec, 2013 By: Robert Green

The new year will bring new challenges; review these predictions and action items now so you can prepare before it arrives.

BIM Reaches the Tipping Point

In recent years, building information modeling (BIM) has become more prevalent in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) arena, but the progress toward implementation has been slowed by real-world considerations such as sluggish economies, hardware and network infrastructure limitations, and intense user training requirements. These are problems that early technology adopters are familiar with, but the economic slowdown has made them tougher to overcome.

As the recession turns around, new AEC projects will be conducted in BIM more frequently, and companies winning proposals will be more likely to have some significant BIM experience. It appears the tipping point has been reached and BIM will now become a contractual requirement in many jobs, so more CAD managers will also have to become BIM managers.

Action item: If you're not BIM-aware yet, 2014 will be the year in which you'll need to learn. And even if you're not in an industry that uses BIM, you may need to exchange information with other project managers you interact with. So unless you work in small-parts manufacturing or a strictly 2D drafting environment, your BIM time has come.

Hardware Is Dirt Cheap

When challenged by increasing BIM work and the need to get more done with the same number of people, I immediately think of more powerful computers. Here, the news is even better than it has been in recent years.

We've now reached a point where a Xeon-based Intel architecture with 4 cores, 16 GB of RAM, solid-state caching disks, and powerful graphics can be had for less than $3,000. Moving up to the $5,000 level can garner multiple processors, 8 cores, 32 GB of RAM, solid-state disks, and high-performance graphics that make visualization and concurrent engineering analysis much faster than even two years ago. With costs this low and performance this high, there's no reason not to upgrade hardware for your CAD users.

With professional salaries at current levels, it just doesn't make sense to have an employee who earns $50,000, $60,000, or even $80,000 a year wasting time with an old clunker of a computer when more powerful machines that raise professional productivity are so relatively inexpensive. (Read more about this cost–benefit calculation in my recent column, "Don't Be Penny-Wise and Computer-Foolish.")

Action item: Push hard for high-end hardware this year, using exactly the same logic I used above. And if your company won't update hardware this year, at least make sure they buy high-end hardware when the time comes. Take a stand against low-end hardware!

CAD Management Is Project Management

With more BIM on the way, more new proposals and projects in the pipeline, and business volume increasing as staffing levels remain flat, there's going to be tremendous pressure for CAD managers to become project managers. After all, executing projects in a more modeling-focused environment makes the CAD software we manage integral to project execution, right?

To the extent that CAD/BIM managers need to implement standards, manage files, train users, change best practices, and manage submittals, they must be empowered to make decisions, just as a traditional project manager is.

Action items: Make your senior management teams aware of how integral you are to the project execution workflow, and tell them what authority you'll need to make it all happen. Stress that your interest is solely in getting projects done, not going on a power trip! Focus on quality, timeliness, and professionalism, then follow through on it and watch how it positively affects your career.

Summing Up

Please consider my predictions and action items as a starting point for your work planning for 2014; as you review them, consider which areas most affect you and which action items are most relevant for your company. My hope is that you will invest some time in thinking about what changing business and technology factors mean for your users.

Also, please e-mail me with your ideas, suggestions, comments and action items so I can make the CAD Manager's Newsletter a more valuable resource for you in 2014. Until next year!

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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