CAD Manager's Newsletter (#344)

27 May, 2015 By: Robert Green

Select the Right CAD Tool for the Job, Part 2

To make wise choices about whether to stick with your existing software, start by evaluating how effective it is — and why.

In the previous edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I shared a story about a company that rushed to abandon its existing optimized 2D CAD systems in favor of a poorly understood 3D design system, and chronicled the harm that ill-informed decision caused. If you haven't had a chance to read it, I recommend you do before proceeding.

In this installment of the series, I'll share a checklist you can use to evaluate the effectiveness of your current processes and to decide if old or new software tools will better serve you. This will not be a discussion of the merits of 2D vs. 3D, or a declaration of which software is best — I'm simply laying out a method for comparing tools so you can pick the best one for your needs. Here goes.

Do You Know Your Own Processes?

One of my personal heroes, W. Edwards Deming, famously remarked, "If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, then you don't know what you are doing." I find this statement describes quite a lot of companies that struggle with which CAD tools to use. It seems that when you don't really understand your current software tools, you're more likely to blindly buy into the promises of software marketing and pick the wrong tool for the job.

The first task in analyzing your CAD environment's tool usage is to understand what the CAD tools you're currently using are doing right — or wrong. Once you've determined that, you can figure how out to do things progressively better.

This leads me to the first items on our checklist:

  1. What CAD tools work well in your current system(s)?
  2. What CAD tools don't work well in your current system(s)?
  3. What is it that makes those CAD tools work or not work?
  4. Where are your CAD process gaps?

Addressing these questions will require some effort on your part, but you can use these guidelines to get started:

Item 1: CAD tools that people know how to use, that deliver predictable results, and that hardly ever generate errors will invariably be thought of as "working well" by users and management alike. As clear-cut winners, these tools should be easy to categorize, but if in doubt, ask your users which tools they enjoy using most.

Item 2: CAD tools that are difficult to use, that require lots of management, or that are technically problematic in terms of support are much more likely to generate errors and cost money, are thus deemed to be "not working well." These tools are usually disliked by users, and are loathed by management because of rework costs or their tendency to negatively impact schedules. These tools are easy to find because users, management, and the CAD manager all cuss about them on a regular basis.

Item 3: This is where it gets interesting. Here are a few conclusions I would offer:

  • Most tools that work well are simple to use, have a well-defined process, and have well-trained users running them.
  • Tools that don't work well tend to be complex, processes for using them are sparse or poorly defined, and users aren't well trained to use them — often due to lack of process.
  • It all comes down to Deming's observation about process: You must know what you're doing in order to do it well.

Item 4: Any place in your design process where users get confused or errors occur frequently can be thought of as process gaps. Those are opportunities for improvement, where better-proceduralized software tools could be used to close the gaps. Read more »

:: CAD Manager's Toolbox

Familiarize Yourself with Management Concepts from a Master

To expand on a point made in the article above, here is a quick way to read up on process analysis from the master himself. By perusing the theories page on the Deming Institute's web site, you can become acquainted with a wide variety of management concepts that can help you transcend simply managing software and move toward managing how CAD work gets done.

Visit The Deming Institute web site to learn more about these management concepts.

If you're motivated to make things work better but struggle with how to get people (users and managers alike) on board with making those changes, the quality theories espoused by Mr. Deming are required reading. Read more »

Do you have a helpful tip, recommendation, or question for the CAD Manager's Newsletter? Send it to me at If I use your tip in the newsletter, you'll receive a Cadalyst prize!

:: Resources

ClearEdge 3D Publishes Webinar on Handheld Scanning with Revit and EdgeWise
ClearEdge has released a free, on-demand webinar that discusses the integration of the Dot Product DPI-7 handheld scanner with EdgeWise automated modeling technology and Autodesk Revit. The webinar will discuss the types of projects that can benefit from handheld scanners, practical handheld collection tips to ensure fast and accurate field work, and potential project savings.

:: Events

2015 International Forum on Design for Manufacture and Assembly
June 2–3, 2015
Providence, Rhode Island
The International Forum on DFMA focuses on early design analysis methodologies and implementation in an effort to help attendees understand the impact design has on product development. Read more »

PTC Live Global 2015
June 7 – 10, 2015
Nashville, Tennessee
Those who attend this gathering will learn how to reduce product design and implementation time and optimize work processes. Read more »

Revit Technology Conference 2015
July 23 – 25, 2015
Washington D.C.
Attendees of the fifth North American Revit Technology Conference will learn from some of the world's top instructors and industry experts. 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

Circles and Lines Tutorial: A Few of My Favorite Things in AutoCAD 2016
Learn about the hidden gems in the newest AutoCAD release. Read more »

Herrera on Hardware: It's Time for a CAD Monitor Makeover
Are your desktop displays doing all they can to maximize your productivity? Read more »

First Look Review: Eurocom P5 Pro
Powerful mobile workstation boasts expansive memory and a beautiful display, but its uses are limited by a short battery life. Read more »

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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