CAD Manager's Newsletter (#366)

21 Jun, 2016 By: Robert Green

Classic CAD Manager: Don't Be Penny-Wise and Computer-Foolish

Using outdated computers for CAD is a false economy that can waste staggering amounts of employee time. Here's how to open management's eyes.

Editor's note: Until Robert Green returns, we'll be revisiting a few classic CAD Manager columns and their timeless advice. This column was originally published on October 23, 2013.

One trend I've noticed during periods of low economic growth is that companies use their computers longer than usual in the name of saving money on hardware. Using a CAD machine for four or five years may seem like a wise choice to many senior management teams, but I see the issue differently.

In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll make the argument that cutting corners on hardware updates often costs massive amounts of productivity — and labor dollars — when you consider the complete picture. Here goes.

Computers Are Cheap

I know some accountants will disagree with me, but computers really are cheap. In fact, considering everything they do, I would argue they are dirt cheap.

When an ergonomic chair costs $500, a plane ticket costs $400, and annual salaries with benefits start at $60,000, a computer that will crank out CAD work for three years is a steal at $3,000, adding only 50 cents per hour to the labor cost of an information worker's cost over a three-year lifespan ($3,000 divided by 3 years comes to $1,000 per year, which is then divided by 2,000 man-hours per year). Even high-end machines tipping the scale at $6,000 add only $1 per hour in labor costs per employee.

And when you consider that leasing and financing options can negate the big up-front cost of purchasing new computers — while delivering tax write-offs immediately — getting new machines doesn't have to be painful financially.

To put it another way, you can power up your employees with a new computer for 50 cents to $1 per hour — which may be less than your company is presently spending on coffee for that employee. Have you ever thought of it that way?

A Real-Life Example

To illustrate the folly of keeping an old "boat anchor" computer in service, I'll present the true story of "Jim" — a client I've worked with in recent years. Jim is a structural engineer who does a lot of analysis work on very large concrete and metal truss building structures. He runs a variety of CAD and calculation programs to model static and seismic loads, and all are memory-hungry, data-intensive applications.

Every other day or so, Jim needs to run major analytical calculations on his old dual-core machine that features a whopping 6 GB of RAM. When faced with larger file sizes, this clunker often locks up, and Jim has to start over. In any given week, Jim loses at least five hours of processing time because of these types of problems. Not only are these delays very frustrating for Jim, they also hamper the progress of other personnel who need Jim's results to proceed with their work, and they ultimately lead to increased project turnaround times and even missed deadlines. Read more »

:: Resources

SDC Publishes 2017 Versions of Revit and AutoCAD Textbooks
Software guide publisher SDC has released five new textbooks from author Daniel Stine: Interior Design Using Autodesk Revit 2017, Design Integration Using Autodesk Revit 2017, Residential Design Using Autodesk Revit 2017, Commercial Design Using Autodesk Revit 2017, and Residential Design Using AutoCAD 2017. The books are available in paperback and e-book formats.

:: What's New at

Lenovo Rounds Out Updated Desktop Family with Two New Workstations
The ThinkStation P510 and P410 serve as stepping stones for customers looking to move up in the workstation world — or to enter it for the first time. Read more »

Caps Lock and Columns in AutoCAD Mtext
AutoCAD 2015 added quite a few new features to the Mtext editor. Do you know about them? Join Lynn Allen as she shows you some of the new features to make sure you're getting the most out of your text editor! Watch the video »

Frustum Unveils Time-Crunching Topology Optimization Platform
Generate seeks to help designers create 3D-printed and traditionally manufactured parts and structures more efficiently by running multiple optimization processes in parallel. Read more »

Implementation Tips for the United States National CAD Standard (NCS), Version 6
What is the NCS — and should your organization adopt it for building design? Read more »

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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