Break the Bottleneck9 Jul, 2014 By: Robert Green
Diagnose where the bottlenecks are in your company’s CAD workflow so your users can work more efficiently.
Over the years I've come to believe that CAD managers are in charge of an ecosystem of components that, when properly combined, produce completed CAD work. And, since CAD managers always want things to work better and faster, with less effort, they strive to constantly make the CAD ecosystem more productive for their users.
So the question becomes, "How can I make my CAD ecosystem work better for everyone involved?" The answer, in my opinion, is by chasing down and eliminating the productivity-sapping bottlenecks in your system. In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll explain what I mean by bottleneck and demonstrate how you can quantify them so you're always making your CAD ecosystem a better place to get work done. Here goes.
The Ecosystem Defined
I like to think of the CAD ecosystem as comprising all the components necessary to complete CAD projects, which usually move from one component to the next in this sequence:
- The users. They think about solutions to the design problem at hand, then attempt to input their ideas into the CAD software.
- The input devices. Mice, trackballs, keyboards, laser scanners, and digital cameras all capture information for use with CAD software.
- The workstation and network. None of the user input means anything without a workstation, and in most cases a network as well, that run the software reliably.
- The standards and training system. The more thoroughly the users are trained and the standard procedures are implemented, the better the software will serve us.
- The software. The software processes the user input into a final work product.
- The output devices. Plotters, 2D and 3D printers, PDF capture software, and other devices create tangible work products that can be delivered to clients.
- The iteration/revision process. As design reviews, checking, and evolving design parameters necessitate changes, the entire process now reverts back to the user and everything starts again.
Of course, you may need to add in some additional components to describe your particular CAD ecosystem, but the checklist above gives you a good starting point.
Bottlenecks and Process Flow
Now that you've mapped out your CAD ecosystem, you can start to graphically visualize how CAD tasks are executed in your office. For me, the workflow that emerges looks something like this (using numbers from the above section):
Once you've diagrammed your CAD ecosystem in this manner, you can draw a few conclusions almost immediately:
- The workflow that travels through your ecosystem is only as good as the weakest component, which may create a bottleneck — a choke point that slows the progress of the entire workflow.
- The more frequently you revise a design, the longer the entire process takes.
I've found it fascinating over the years to draw this type of diagram for clients and ask them where their bottlenecks are, only to be met with blank stares — they often have no clue as to where the true problems lie. Once you establish this for your company, you'll have a great advantage in tackling workflow problems.