Select the Right CAD Tool for the Job, Part 112 May, 2015 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager Column: You've heard great things about that new software package — does that mean you should implement it at your company?
Ask Diagnostic Questions
When I became involved with this client, they asked me, "What are we doing wrong? Why isn't SolidWorks working for us?" My immediate response was to ask them the following questions:
- What features does SolidWorks offer that you need to do your designs better?
- Are there any portions of your existing processes that are broken or need overhauling?
- How customized/optimized are your existing systems?
Their paraphrased answers were, respectively:
- We feel like designing in 3D will give us better accuracy.
- Our existing processes work very well — we just want to get better.
- Our existing systems have been highly customized and reflect more than 10 years of optimization effort from our engineering and production teams.
Think and Draw Conclusions
After pouring months of effort into "going 3D," this company came to the following conclusion: They could design more slides, more quickly when using a customized version of AutoCAD than they could with SolidWorks. And they could do so with the same level of quality, and fewer production errors. It wouldn't have mattered if the software they were using was (at the time) Pro/ENGINEER, Inventor, or any other commercially available 3D mechanical software package, the result would have been the same.
So why did they make such a big mistake? Why did it take them so long to realize that it was a mistake? Here are the conclusions I drew:
They blindly worshipped a software tool they weren't familiar with. The company was so dazzled by marketing hype and techno-babble that they simply jumped into implementing a 3D package before they were ready. I often categorize this approach — a rush to implement without proper prior planning — as "Ready-Shoot-Aim."
They undervalued their own efficiency. Somehow, the company forgot how much effort they'd put into custom-programming their AutoCAD-based system and how efficient it was.
They never identified the "upside" of the new tool. The company never spent the time to truly understand the features 3D brought to the table, so they never realized that those features offered them no practical advantage.
They underestimated disruptive effects. The company only dealt with production floor drill machine problems and file export issues after they'd started designing with SolidWorks. These types of disruptive effects required re-engineering of processes that had been working for years, meaning that production employees as well as CAD users had to be retrained.
Everything this company did pointed to rushing to implement a new system without truly understanding what that new system would do to their employees, production schedules, and finances. This turned into a true case of Ready-Shoot-Aim.
Your challenge now is to think back on how your company's history of CAD tools and processes has evolved. Perhaps you design buildings; if so, think about how building information modeling (BIM) is being implemented. The point is to get a firm understanding of which tools are being used to perform design tasks and consider whether those tools are optimal, they should be tweaked, or they need to be replaced. You may also find that your company, like the one in the case study I outlined, may be trying to use new technology for a task that doesn't need it.
In the next installment of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll run you through a checklist process to help you audit your environment and plan for implementing the right tools. Until next time.
Read Part 2 of this article here.