CAD Management on the Rocks Yet Again

10 Aug, 2011 By: Robert Green

Is your position in jeopardy? These tips will help you evaluate your layoff risk and enhance your job security.

Just when you thought your job was safe, tight times are back and CAD managers' jobs are again at risk. In the past two months, I've received numerous reports from CAD managers that their companies are experiencing reduced workloads and are preparing for things to get worse. There's a renewed sense of urgency to reduce overhead and "tighten up" operations — I've even heard of sporadic layoffs.

In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll provide some insight for those fighting to survive poor economic conditions. And even if things are fine at your company, these ideas can help you become even more secure in your position. Here goes.

Know the Warning Signs

I doubt that anyone in your senior management staff has walked up to you and said, "We are thinking of eliminating the CAD manager's position." Therefore, you figure your job is safe, right? Well, not necessarily. There are a number of warning signs; you just need to know what to look for.

Reduced project load forecast.
Has it been a while since you've heard about new projects? Does it seem like there haven't been any project kickoffs lately? Is your company putting out fewer proposals now than in the past? These are warning signs that work will be slowing down in the near future.

Overhead investigation.
Are you hearing a lot about raising billable hours and cutting overhead around the office? Has your management told you that you have to spend more time on projects and less on CAD management? If so, consider this a red alert: your company is evaluating who is generating the most billable revenue and who is costing the company money via overhead.

Frequent senior management meetings. Have you noticed more closed-door senior management meetings than normal? Are project managers suddenly being required to produce cost justification and staffing reports? Generally speaking, changes in senior management behavior predict big changes for the company — good or bad — in the near future. In my experience, lots of senior management activity in conjunction with bad business conditions almost always foretells restructuring or layoffs.

Have you noticed these warning signs at your company? If so, what should you do?

Assess the Situation

Less work coming in now means less billable revenue for your company in the near future. Ask yourself what your company will do if revenues drop 5%, 10%, or more: Which departments will suffer? Who will lose their jobs? How will CAD users and CAD management be affected? The answers to these questions aren't very rosy, are they?

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you analyze your situation:

  • Companies that experience a decreased amount of work almost always react by trimming their workforce. If your company's future project load looks slim, you can bet somebody will lose their job sooner or later! The question is, will it be you?
  • Companies with reductions in work volume are motivated to keep their costs as low as possible. The two ways to do that are to employ people who are 100% project-billable and to not employ people who charge high amounts of overhead. Which category do you fit into?
  • Companies who are struggling to survive may forgo functions like CAD management that are viewed as overhead-intensive. Successful CAD managers are those who make themselves billable. I know these aren't fun facts to face but they are, nonetheless, realistic. So how do you deal with these realities?

Make Yourself Layoff-Proof

If you are the CAD manager already, your first mission is to make sure you remain the CAD manager as you help your company weather the bad times so you can stay employed and be in a position to excel when things finally do get better. Here are a few strategies that work well:

Be production-ready. Can you make modeling changes in Revit from marked-up design documents? Can you revise some parts in an Inventor assembly? Can you grab a roll of as-built prints and knock them out in AutoCAD? If the answer to these questions is Yes, then you can be billable whenever you need to be. If the answer is No, you are likely to be viewed as managerial overhead that is not billable. Today's CAD manager must be able to augment lean staffs when workloads dictate.

Be highly flexible. Understand that new clients and projects may require you to change your priorities very quickly. No matter what, the most important goal in a down economy is getting work done and keeping customers happy. Whatever you can do to facilitate these goals is what you should do.

Boost your IT knowledge.
Understand that the IT department will also be under the gun to reduce overhead if business turns south. If you can assist with normal IT functions — and perhaps even help the company to conserve on IT expenses — you'll be that much more valuable. This is especially true if you can help cut your company's reliance on outside IT services.

Find the better mousetrap.
If you can find a way to execute a job more quickly or cheaply, by all means speak up. Your senior management wants to do everything they can to get jobs done for less, so they're more likely to listen to you now than they would be during the good times.

Learn everything you can. Everything you learn will either help your company be more efficient, give you more skills for a future job, or both.

Summing Up

I know this topic doesn't make for fun reading, but the reality seems to be that the economy will continue to be challenging. That means all of us must adjust our approaches to fit our company's needs. CAD managers who understand and embrace the economic necessity of these adjustments are much more likely to survive.

If you have any comments about how the economy is affecting CAD management, I'd love to hear from you. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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