CAD Manager's Newsletter (#356)

15 Dec, 2015 By: Robert Green

Autodesk University Report: The State of CAD Management in 2015

Conversations at the annual conference shed light on what's happening in the trenches.

I recently returned from Autodesk University (AU) 2015, the company's annual user event, where I had a chance to interact with about 800 CAD managers over the course of four days. This year I participated in panel discussions and taught a variety of classes on topics ranging from software testing to programming languages. Drawing on what I heard in the Q&A sessions, as well as many conversations in the exhibit hall, I was able to form a broad opinion about the state of CAD management in 2015.

In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll try to share with you what I learned in the hope that it will help you clarify your agenda for the coming year. Here goes.

Something for Everyone

Let me first state that I realize not all CAD managers support Autodesk products. So, why should a non-Autodesk user care about AU? Here are my top reasons:

Strength in numbers. There's no larger gathering of CAD managers anywhere, to my knowledge, and tapping into that huge peer group can yield great insights into our career field.

Interoperability knowledge. Those CAD managers who don't use Autodesk products usually do have to interoperate with them, and I've never found a group of CAD managers with more experience in making disparate tools work together.

Non-CAD topics abound. Want to learn about .NET customization, document management systems, product data management (PDM) integration, or perhaps project management strategies? These topics are all covered at AU, and in a surprisingly product-agnostic way.

AU Size and Demographics

With almost 9,700 attendees this year, AU is nearing the 10,000-attendee mark it achieved prior to the 2008 recession. As usual, this year's attendees included architects, engineers, designers, detailers, IT professionals, artists, and visualization specialists from a broad swath of industry disciplines. Civil engineering, manufacturing, and architecture are the best-represented fields, with software classes distributed accordingly.

CAD and building information modeling (BIM) managers were widely represented in 41 class sections with more than 3,900 total class seats filled. With AU offering almost 700 classes total, it is clear that CAD/BIM management is a niche offering — accounting for about 6% of offered classes — but a substantial niche nonetheless.

Impressions via Informal Survey

During my class sessions, I always conduct some informal "show of hands" polls, followed by individual conversations to take the pulse of the CAD manager community. I try to survey a broad variety of topics and note particularly passionate responses, so I can draw conclusions about problems and trends facing CAD managers. This year, these trends were easy to identify:

Business is getting better. Whenever I asked questions like, "How many of you are hiring?" or "How many of you are struggling to get project work done?" more than 50% of the group raised their hands. Also, I heard many CAD managers talk about how hard it is to find really good CAD talent — more than any year in recent memory.

The struggle to do more with less continues. Even though business is looking up, questions such as, "Are you still pressured to get more done with the same staff?" caused more than half the hands in the room to go up. It seems that the push for maximum productivity is a trend that'll never go out of style.

More CAD managers operate without authority. Questions such as, "How many of you operate without any authority to enforce standards?" and "How many of you have all the responsibility and none of the authority?" always drew a 75% or better show of hands. Read more »

:: CAD Manager's Toolbox

Access Learning Resources with a Free AU Account

I understand that not every CAD manager deals with Autodesk products, but the reality is many of us do. And, while not everyone who manages Autodesk products gets to attend the conference in person, everyone can benefit from Autodesk University (AU) by creating an AU account — and it's free!

Simply register on the Autodesk University web site to access the vast library of text and video resources. Class content for AU 2015 went online beginning December 15, while older content is already available.

Of particular interest to CAD managers will be the IT track courses (CAD management and technology content) along with the business management track (project implementation), architectural track (BIM), and civil/mechanical tracks (civil/GIS and mechanical modeling). Using the Search bar, you can enter keywords for more granular searches. Also be sure to investigate LAB session courses (which contain datasets and examples for hands-on learning). Plus you can view the multitude of recorded sessions anywhere you can carry a device.

Click on the CREATE ACCOUNT button shown at the upper right to get started.

Even if Autodesk tools aren't a part of your software environment, you'll still find tons of useful information on a variety of topics such as IT management, business and project management, building information modeling (BIM) management, interoperability of tools, and more. Given the cost — free — why wouldn't you register for an account and explore the resources available?

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

Safe Software Launches FME Knowledge Center
Safe Software, developer of FME Desktop data conversion and integration software, launched the FME Knowledge Center. The web site offers tutorials, demonstrations, and an expanded community Q&A section.

:: Events

Advanced Part Modeling in Onshape
December 17, 2015
11 a.m. ET
In this webinar, hosted by Onshape, company representatives will discuss advanced part modeling techniques such as sweep, loft, patterns, and multi-part modeling. Read more »

KeyShot 6 Advanced Material Control
December 17, 2015
10 a.m. PT
The third of six training webinars in this series from Luxion will discuss material control in the company's KeyShot 6 3D rendering and animation software. 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

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First Look Review: Computer Direct Outlet Volta Pro VP 1
High-end 3D modeling workstation is reasonably priced, but lacks some extras. Read more »

Build a Plugin Command for AutoCAD Architecture
Use Visual Studio.NET to customize vertical applications. Read more »

Circles and Lines Tutorial: Revamped Revision Clouds in AutoCAD 2016
Unlike the old RevCloud command, the new version creates symmetrical revision clouds with easy-to-use grips for editing. Read more »

Autodesk Expands Photorealistic Rendering Options
After several years of acquisition and development, two ray-tracing engines reach the market — one in standalone format, and the other as part of existing Autodesk software products. Read more »

Q&A with Dan Staples, Vice-President of Solid Edge Development
In an interview with Cadalyst, the executive discusses the state of Solid Edge ST, its position in the MCAD market, Solid Edge on the cloud, and more. Read more »

10 Things You Didn't Know Inventor Could Do
IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: If you learned Inventor on your own, you may have missed a few things that could make your life much easier. Read more »

Circles and Lines Tutorial: AutoCAD 2016 Introduces Smarter Dimensioning Tools
Do you think of dimensioning as a dreary task? With these time-saving new tools, you might start looking forward to it. Read more »

More CPU Cores or Faster CPU Clocks?
Herrera on Hardware: To best address the demands of a modern CAD workflow, look for a balance of CPU core count and clock rate in your next CAD workstation. Read more »

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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