CAD Manager's Newsletter (#416)

23 Oct, 2018 By: Robert Green

Avoid Software Tool Worship by Focusing on Design, Part 2

In your efforts to use the right software tools in the right ways, follow this step-by-step procedure for examining — and optimizing — your design processes.

In the last edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, we talked about the concept of tool worship — a phenomenon that occurs when you conform your design process to the software you use, rather than optimizing the design process independently of the tools involved. The result is a subpar design process and CAD users who fumble along frustrated, repeating the same mistakes and wasting time and money.

If you can't describe what you're doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing.In this column, we'll have a look at some strategies you can use to keep tool worship at bay — that is, use the right tools at the right times, get rid of the wrong tools, and improve your overall design process by minimizing steps. Here goes.

Laying the Groundwork

To begin, let's define a disciplined approach to analyzing and understanding your CAD users' needs and tasks, which will be the basis for fleshing out the most efficient design process (with optimal tool use).

As W. Edwards Deming famously said, "If you can't describe what you're doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing."

I've found that the best approach to optimizing a design process goes something like this (and as shown in the diagram below):

1.  What are the steps that make up the process?
2.  What is the order of those steps?
3.  What are the most common problems experienced during each step?
4.  What are the best solutions that users have identified for each problem?
5.  Which tools can best help to solve each problem?
6.  How should our standards and training change to optimize each step of the process?
How to Optimize a Design Process

Now that we've outlined the approach, let's get started.

Analyzing CAD Processes, Steps 1 and 2: Identify and Put Steps in Order

I'm constantly amazed by how many companies perform CAD work with no real understanding of how overall processes could be improved. By writing down all the steps in your CAD processes and getting them in the right order, you'll lay the groundwork for proper use of CAD tools. Here's how I handle the exercise with clients:

• Get everyone together. To identify all your CAD processes and capture the steps involved, you need all the key users and project managers present, right?
• Capture the steps. As those in the room identify all the steps of each process, I suggest you act as the facilitator and write down everything on a large whiteboard.
• Interject as needed. If a step is missed or a sequence is wrong, you can point it out,— but try to keep a flow of information going with minimal interruption and just get the steps in the right order at this point. (A more thorough analysis will come later.)
• Save the results. As agreement forms on the steps, take care to save the information — or have someone help you do so — by recording the results in a spreadsheet. Don't rely on memory and never assume the whiteboard won't get erased.

Read more »


Tools and Resources

Free 30-Day Trial Now Available for Autodesk BIM 360 Design
Autodesk announced the availability of a free 30-day trial version of BIM 360 Design, its cloud-based software for Revit collaboration and data management. All features of the paid product are included in the trial version, the company reports; it requires Autodesk Revit 2018.3 or later to run. BIM 360 Design subscription is $115/month or $900/year.

What's New from Our Sponsors

Boost Profit Margins with Design Collaboration

Boost Profit Margins with Design Collaboration
From Autodesk: Download our free eBook to learn how BIM is impacting design professionals and how the most profitable firms are extending their Revit investment with the cloud to get ahead. Read more

BIM 360 Design Customer Spotlight with Stantec

BIM 360 Design Customer Spotlight with Stantec
From Autodesk: Join Adam Peter, Autodesk Customer Success Engineer, as he journeys with Stantec's Robert Manna talking about all things BIM 360 Design. Walk through the collaboration, coordination, and communication challenges that a firm like Stantec typically faces on projects and see how they use best practices in BIM 360 Design to overcome them. Register for the webinar

Collaborate on Revit Models Anytime, Anywhere

Collaborate on Revit Models Anytime, Anywhere
From Autodesk: Watch this short video to learn how BIM 360 Design allows distributed project teams to collaborate in real time on multidiscipline Revit models with anyone, anytime, from anywhere in BIM 360 Design. Eliminate costly delays, maximize your talent pool, and reduce friction from disparate collaboration solutions. Watch the video

Intro to BIM 360 Design

Intro to BIM 360 Design
From Autodesk: Watch this on-demand webinar to learn how BIM 360 Design helps you collaborate on Revit models anytime, anywhere, with the cloud. In this webinar, we introduce BIM 360 Design and deep dive into a demo of its main features and workflows. Watch the webinar

What's New at

AutoCAD Video Tip: What's Up with That AutoCAD DEFPOINTS Layer?
We've all seen the DEFPOINTS layer in AutoCAD, but how did it get there? Maybe you use this mystery layer to place objects you wish to display but not plot — but what are the perils of doing so, and is there a better solution? Watch the video »

Herrera on Hardware: With New Turing, NVIDIA Doubles Down on the Future of Real-Time Ray-Tracing
And CAD professionals are expected to reap the benefits. Read more »

Bentley Systems Believes Digital Twins Are 'the Future,' and Invests Accordingly
The company is committed to developing digital twin technologies for infrastructure projects and assets, including an iTwin Services cloud platform and a plant operations solution created in partnership with Siemens. Read more »

About the Author

Cadalyst contributing editor Robert Green performs CAD programming and consulting throughout the United States and Canada. He is the author of Expert CAD Management: The Complete Guide.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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