New Year Predictions for CAD Managers, Part 2

26 Jan, 2009 By: Robert Green

The CAD manager who plans for the future by improving efficiency in the downturn will position the company for greater success when the economy recovers.

In the last edition of CAD Manager's Newsletter I made some general predictions for the coming year. Here I'll finish up my New Year prognostications by focusing a little more on how the tight economy will affect the CAD manager's job this year. And as I do so I'll pass along some tips to help you stretch every budget dollar. Here goes.

Training Will Get More Difficult
It's a fact of life that training is one of the first things to be cut when money is limited. Therefore, simple economics dictate that 2009 isn't going to be the year for large training initiatives. So how can you continue to provide valuable training resources to your users in this climate? By thinking about the mission of training in a different way!

Here are the three metrics I've used with great success to approach training during several past recessions. I see no reason why these approaches won't work this time. They are:

Smaller training. Training doesn't always have to be in conjunction with big tasks like software migrations or even upgrades to be useful.

Cheaper training. Training classes don't have to take all day to be useful and, thus, they don't have to cost a fortune. Consider lunch-and-learn or after hours user group training classes to minimize impact on company time and cost.

Targeted training. I always advocate what I like to call "targeted technical training" in CAD environments. This methodology essentially says the following:

  • Find where your users have questions.
  • Find where your users make mistakes.
  • Conduct short training courses to address the above.

Financial conclusions. The beauty of this targeted technical approach is that it focuses any available training time on solving existing problems while making people more technically competent on the CAD tools they use over time. This type of short-duration training program, when applied consistently over time, can yield big productivity benefits without costing too much.

Standards Will Languish
Another CAD management area that is deemed expendable during down times is reworking CAD standards. After all, if there's not that much CAD work going on, why worry about standards, right? Wrong!

The savvy CAD manager will make the argument that there will never be a better time to revamp CAD standards than during the down times. My thinking on standards has certainly evolved over the years, but I remain convinced that standardization is always a good idea because good standards yield higher productivity. Here are a few reasons I think now is the time to revise your standards:

Small staff. Staff size is minimal during recessions, so there are fewer people to train on any standards changes you do make. And the fewer people you have to train, the faster and cheaper that training will be.

Core staff. Staff members who stay with the company during recessions tend to be the dedicated, core members who have a vested interest in making the company more productive. These are precisely the people you want involved with revising your standards.

Time is available. Smaller workloads mean less project pressure and more time to put in the thought required to revamp standards. You can use any lulls in production schedules to make operations more efficient and standardize.

Vision Will Be Rewarded
Bad times can provide an opportunity for forward-thinking CAD managers who bring a "What if we tried it this way?" approach to their senior management teams. So long as any new ideas you bring help make the company more productive or lowers costs, you'll at least be listened to.

To advance your CAD management vision, consider using the following strategies:

This will pass. Your managers know that bad times will eventually pass, but they can sometimes get so stressed with current problems that they may not think about the eventual turnaround. CAD managers who plan for the future by improving efficiency in the downturn will position their companies for greater success when the economy recovers.

Leaner and more streamlined. Advocate any ideas that reduce steps so that jobs can be done incrementally faster. Remember that customers can be picky in recessions and demand faster delivery timeframes along with lower costs. Therefore anything you do to cut time will help you company be more competitive now and more productive later.

Improve quality. Push for anything that makes the quality of your CAD processes and products better. After all, no customer ever fired a contractor for improving their quality, right?

You'll Wear More Hats
My last prediction for the New Year is that CAD managers will have to take on a wider variety of tasks and be more multidisciplinary than ever before. Essentially, I'm telling you that the vexingly hard job of CAD management is going to get harder this year -- but you're probably not surprised.

It may be small comfort, but try to remember that it is better to have a hard job than no job at all, so roll with the circumstances the best you can. Try to use the positive, productivity-enhancing and cost-saving strategies I've outlined and you may find your job more secure in the recession than you thought possible.

Summing Up
Given the economic realities we'll be dealing with, I'm going to focus on making CAD Manager's Newsletter more hands-on this year by highlighting more software utilities, coverage of programming and customization topics, and paying closer attention to standards and training trends. Along the way I'll also be including more perspectives with industry veterans.

I hope you'll like the new focus of CAD Manager's Newsletter and, more important, I hope you'll feel free to contact me with any questions you have or ideas for newsletter topics.

Related content: CAD Management

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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