Choose Your Battles

9 Sep, 2014 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager's Newsletter: You don't have the time and energy to pursue every single thing that might improve your CAD users' efficiency — so prioritize, then push for the changes that have a big impact.

The past few years have been an interesting time for CAD managers. Software environments haven't changed all that much, yet the various elements affecting how that software works — hardware, cloud/network environments, personal devices, and mobile work methods — have changed a lot. It seems that just when our transition from 2D CAD to 3D modeling and building information modeling (BIM) was starting to stabilize, everything else in our world got turned upside down.

This upheaval has led me to ponder the following questions: What priorities must CAD managers set to survive in the new CAD environment? And what initiatives and resources should CAD managers be pushing to implement? In this installment of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, we'll strive to answer these questions, and give some practical advice as we do so. Here goes.


I'm starting with hardware because upgrading your hardware is the biggest no-brainer decision in the CAD environment. Of course hardware always gets more powerful over time, but the past year has brought huge gains in processing (more cores with bigger caches), more RAM, higher clock rates, better graphics, and cheap solid-state disks that speed CAD performance in a big way. A great CAD platform for 3D users can be purchased for $2,000 now (provided that the entire cost can be devoted to the workstation and not the display).

With the new hardware we have available to us, it simply doesn't make sense to keep using old, slow hardware that bogs down or crashes when attempting to work with large data files. Why would you want an expensive employee working on a high-profile project to be weighed down by a boat anchor of a computer when he or she could be using a fast, efficient machine instead?

What to fight for: The CAD manager's role is to make the case that new workstations really aren't expensive when amortized over time.

Consider a $2,000 workstation upgrade's real cost over a three-year lifespan using 48 40-hour workweeks as a cost basis, and you'll arrive at the following cost per hour:


$2,000    =    $0.35 per hour
3 yrs X 48 wks/yr X 40 hrs/week

Now take this computation to your senior management team, point out that hardware cost is the least expensive part of equipping a CAD user, and see where the conversation goes.


To the extent that many CAD tools utilize a wide-area network (WAN), the cloud, or Internet access, there is no overstating how critical adequate bandwidth is to running CAD applications well. After all, what good is running CAD on the cloud if your connection to the cloud is so slow that CAD applications don't run well?

I've found that many corporate management teams want to use cloud- or Internet-enabled CAD tools because they believe they'll save money by doing so — yet they don't factor in the increased cost of the network and bandwidth upgrades required to run the software properly.

What to fight for: If your management team is pushing for collaborative or cloud-based CAD tools, then it's your job to show them how those tools really run in your current network environment. Demonstrations of slow file opening, intolerable wait times for updating models between remote locations, or sluggish performance at job sites is one way to make slow bandwidth stick out like a sore thumb.

It is crucial that the CAD manager fight for the bandwidth necessary to run CAD properly. Your users will thank you for doing so.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: Choose Your Battles
by: mikepo
September 11, 2014 - 1:01pm
As always, your insight is spot on. I do have questions on your $$$ amount for workstation upgrades. When you use $2000 as a number for a workstation upgrade, what particular pc specs do you have in mind? We're discussing what kind of pc would effectively run a C3D suite and the number we're coming up with is more like $4000. Are we way overshooting what we think is necessary?
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