Do We Need a CAD Manager?

30 Oct, 2011 By: Robert Green

Memo to senior management: A CAD manager is a valuable ally in your efforts to achieve business goals.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in the Fall 2011 issue of Cadalyst magazine.

Over the years, I've heard from readers around the country who, for one reason or another, have to justify the need for a CAD manager to senior management teams that often think of CAD management as overhead — and thus try to cut back the position or eliminate it entirely. In this edition of "CAD Manager," I want to offer some insight to help senior management better understand why CAD management makes good business sense and why it should be preserved.

CAD managers, pass this column to your bosses and use it as a conversation starter about the value of CAD management. Let me know how that conversation turns out for you. Here goes.

Get Regular Checkups

When I speak with senior managers, I'm often asked, "Do we really need a CAD manager?" I almost always answer, "Yes!" Then I make my case for why CAD management is so crucial.

The first question to ask is: What would you pay a consultant to tell you everything you're doing wrong with your CAD processes? What would you pay if he or she produced a plan that would cut waste, speed project completion, increase customer satisfaction, and help you do more with existing staff? I bet you'd pay handsomely for that service, wouldn't you? Well, then, why don't you take advantage of the CAD manager you have who can help you achieve these goals — right now?

If you view your CAD manager as an in-house consultant who helps prevent problems rather than someone who fixes them after they happen, you'll begin to understand why this position is crucial to your business.

Still not convinced? Then think of CAD management like dentistry: cheap and uncomplicated if used regularly, but painful and expensive if ignored for years at a time. Many companies let their CAD systems go without a CAD-management checkup for too long, then have the CAD equivalent of a root canal to deal with at great organizational cost and pain.

It Isn't Easy

As the economy gets tighter, everyone is pushed to do more with less, and the CAD manager is no exception. However, think about some of the challenges a CAD manager has to deal with that others don't.

Software complexity. CAD managers now have to support 2D CAD drafting, 3D modeling, rendering, animation, data management, and information exchange. Keep in mind that if your CAD manager doesn't help your company understand this complexity, you must take the advice of the software developer regarding what is best for your company.

Cloud computing.
Increasingly, developers of CAD and related tools are offering their applications through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, commonly called cloud computing. Accessed via the Internet, such software can be easier and more affordable to maintain and can connect branch offices and support remote workers. However, this technology requires testing, IT interaction, and optimization despite how "easy" all the software companies say it is. If the CAD manager isn't involved with your cloud-computing strategy now, chances are it won't work later.

Shrinking training budgets.
Has your company cut back training? Most have, yet all these new CAD tools and work methods require users to be trained, so the CAD manager runs ragged trying to keep up. Cutting your training budget doesn't reduce the number of people having problems or needing to learn new software.

Standards enforcement. Have you made changes to your company's operating procedures? If so, was it easy to change the way people operate? Well, at least you have the authority to make the changes stick because you have the management power to do so! Try changing company CAD standards when you have no power to do so — that's what your CAD manager is up against.

To make matters worse, CAD managers are often told to accomplish all of this in their "extra time" and "in between projects," and to avoid charging any of the time to overhead.

Real Savings

If your company is like most, you probably consider the activities I've outlined to be overhead. And, like most senior managers, you're probably telling your CAD manager to cut overhead, right? If so, the real questions become, Do you want your company to use new software; and use it optimally and adopt new technologies such as cloud computing, mobile applications, and building information modeling; and have a well-trained CAD workforce — or not?

If you want to say yes to new technology, here are some ways you can work with your CAD manager to make it happen and actually save money while you're at it.

Save via innovation.
If your CAD manager suggests a way to get more done in fewer hours, listen to the proposed plan and put it in place if you think it will work. Typically, these types of ideas require new procedures, new standards, and a change in user behavior. But, if it'll save you time and money, why not? CAD managers may not have business or accounting degrees, but they can typically tell you where the inefficiencies are in your company's operation and how to begin to fix them. Don't believe me? Ask your CAD manager and listen!

Enforce standards.
Help your CAD manager implement innovative, money-saving ideas by helping him or her put smart project standards in place and telling everyone that you expect them to be followed. Enforce the proper use of standards and procedures at the start of every job, and you'll see fewer errors and rework at the end of the job. Very soon you'll realize that CAD management really does have a positive impact on your business and isn't just overhead.

Combine CAD management with IT.
It's time to get your CAD manager involved with information technology (IT) planning. That way your IT department buys the right CAD workstations and you'll have a cloud strategy that will actually work for your CAD users. Plus, your IT department and CAD manager can work together to solve problems before they happen.

In my experience, companies that have a proactive CAD management plan make fewer errors, have less rework, and get more done per employee than companies that don't. Cutting CAD management may save you a few dollars this month, but as the errors start to build up in your projects, you'll spend more fixing the problems than you saved.

Invest in Your CAD Manager

If your CAD manager has the potential to provide so many productivity-enhancing functions to your company, what can you do to make the most of this opportunity?

Talk savings.
Make your CAD manager aware of areas where you'd like to save money. If your CAD manager knows where to look, it's likely they can help you.

Teach management skills. Most CAD managers know CAD but not management. Give them tips, and advice about how to be a better manager — pass on articles you come across, etc. Have lunch with your CAD manager once a month to share career-building ideas.

Introduce return-on-investment (ROI) methods.
When your CAD manager understands how managers analyze cost savings for specific actions, he or she will more likely understand how you think. For example, this will put the focus on better financial performance, which is in line with your goals.

Summing Up

Your CAD manager can be an ally in your efforts to improve your business. Show your CAD manager how to support your efforts to save money and, in return, support your CAD manager's efforts to become a better manager. The boost to your bottom line will more than justify the time you spend.

Without your CAD manager figuring out better ways to do things, teaching users, coordinating vendors, communicating with clients, and keeping the software running, what will happen to your CAD projects? I recommend that you think about what CAD management can do to enhance your operational efficiency and have an open conversation with your CAD manager about it. Believe me, you'll reap the rewards if you do.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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