The CAD Manager’s 2016 Playbook

26 Jan, 2016 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: To navigate the challenges of the coming year, you’ll need a strategy — so start planning now.

In the previous issue of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, we examined some potential software and market trends for 2016. In this issue, we’ll expand upon a few of these predicted trends — particularly cloud resistance and the slowing of upgrades — by giving you a playbook for dealing with the possible side effects of each.

Let’s have a look at coping strategies I think may be especially helpful in the coming year, along with some specific recommendations you may want to use in your CAD management environment. Here goes.

Practice Defensive CAD Management

While it is always tempting to think of all the new and different things you’d like to do in the future, the pragmatic CAD manager should always take care to make sure things don’t get worse. This defensive position is well warranted if you think about the following questions:

  • What happens if you stop enforcing standards?
  • What happens if you stop training users?
  • What happens if you ignore filing/security issues?

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that if you don’t maintain these three crucial points of focus, projects can become problematic, individual productivity can slide, and data can be lost or stolen. So although these three core areas of CAD management — standards, training, and security — may not be the most compelling or interesting topics to work on, they are critically important to the success of your company.

Recommendation: Be sure you have procedures in place to deal with standards problems, as well as filing/security issues, so you can respond immediately when a problem comes up. I like to think of these types of procedures like a fire extinguisher: The time to get one and learn how to use it is before a fire breaks out.

Recommendation: Have some sort of training plan in place, even if it’s just for an hour or two per month. In your curriculum, stress the critical importance of basic issues such as standards and file security.

Get a Mobile Device / Cloud Game Plan

As forecast in my 2016 predictions, this year we should see much more senior management attention focused on the risk of data loss/hacking. Since one of the easiest ways to hack information is via use/abuse of mobile devices connected to cloud services, you need to ask the following questions:

  • What risks are we taking by not controlling mobile devices?
  • Do any cloud applications we run have security flaws?
  • What happens if a rogue employee uses a mobile device or cloud-based account to steal data?
  • How can we control file editing and revision with mobile devices or cloud services?

If your organization hasn’t answered all these questions, then you’re at risk!

Recommendation: Check that your company policies regarding mobile devices and cloud services take CAD-enabled applications into account to be sure you don’t have data exposure.

Recommendation: Be sure your IT and senior management teams understand your concerns and are engaged in this process.

Specify New Hardware

As forecast in my 2016 predictions, this year should see big boosts in performance-enhancing high-speed memory and solid-state drives (SSDs). If you really want to do your users a favor, then make sure you do everything you can to research, specify, and pursue the purchase of new CAD hardware.

I realize that it isn’t always easy to purchase new hardware, but anytime that you do manage to obtain a new high-performance workstation (more on that in a moment) be sure to perform some benchmark tests such as rendering, PDF/plot processing, and 3D real-time viewing on old vs. new workstations to document how much faster the new hardware is. You can use these benchmarks to predict time saved to justify more new hardware.

Recommendation: Ensure that any new workstation you specify takes advantage of new technology to deliver maximum speed. You can do so by including the following items:

  • The highest-speed i7 or Xeon processor you can afford. Look for the highest clock speed and turbo-step speed to maximize overall processing and single-core processing performance. Then be sure to load it up with at least 16 GB of 2,133-MHz DDR4 memory; 32 GB is better.
  • A bootable SSD big enough to hold all software and most working project files (ideally, one of the new NVMe M.2 technology SSDs). If you must choose between more RAM or the SSD, I recommend prioritizing the latter — the difference is that profound.

Investigate Future Software Trends

As long as your basic defensive strategy is in place and you’re pushing for new hardware, you can then branch out to explore what might be a part of your CAD environment’s future. But how can you best use your limited time to get the maximum benefit from any investigation you may choose to do?

Playbook check: Before examining/testing any new software for potential implementation, be sure you can answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Will this software provide a solution to a current or near-term need?
  • Will this software provide enough functionality or automation to save users time over the tools they’re using now?
  • Will this software bring real value to your company processes?
  • Will this software pay for itself as we use it?

If one or more of your answers is “no,” then there’s a high likelihood that the software won’t make sense for your company anyway, so there’s no reason to spend your limited time investigating it.

Recommendation: Blast through new software rapidly to see if significant new features, capabilities, or productivity appear to be likely, and investigate only those that meet the criteria. The goal is to skim through lots of software technology, but to only spend substantial time on the few concepts that pay for themselves.

Summing Up

If you utilize these four CAD management strategies, it is my experience that you’ll achieve a well-controlled, low-risk CAD environment. It is my hope that you can use the recommendations to help plan your course of action.

What are your guiding strategies for CAD management? Please email me your thoughts at if you’d like to share.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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