How Much CAD Software Can You Manage?14 Jan, 2015 By: Robert Green
How many programs are you responsible for — three? Four? Or more? Learn how to allocate your time and skills to best avoid problems.
A decade ago, most CAD managers only had to manage their main CAD package — but those days are long gone. I've watched as CAD managers have taken on the burden of supporting more and more applications during the past ten years. In fact, my recent surveys show that CAD managers now have to support four CAD software programs, on average.
With this demanding workload becoming "the new normal," where do we go from here? What types of software products should you know, how much should you focus on each, and what problems should you watch out for? How can you best support all these software products for optimal project flow? In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll share some of my suggestions for allocating your time among different types of CAD software to best avoid problems. Here goes.
The reality is that most of us still have to be proficient with a major 2D CAD package, such as AutoCAD or MicroStation. So many contracts and projects require data formatted in DWG and DGN file formats — often with specific annotation requirements — that 2D CAD simply won't disappear anytime soon. Like it or not, 2D CAD is still essential, and it must be managed and supported adequately.
I make this point because there is a real danger of your 2D skills atrophying. Consider the following possible scenarios:
- Out-of-date experience. If you haven't touched AutoCAD for years and don't know how to navigate the latest release, you're sure to have a problem supporting users.
- Configuration knowledge gaps. When was the last time you had to configure an AutoCAD plotter or PDF driver? Would you have problems if you received a new plotter or project? Do you remember what master, sub-, and positional units are in MicroStation?
- Eroded standards. Have you ignored your standards for so long that a real standard no longer exists? If so, your 2D CAD environment is headed for anarchy — you just don't realize it.
2D action items. To offer critical user support, you must maintain a user perspective with your 2D software, and you must keep the system well configured and standardized for proper project execution. Consider doing some 2D production work and reviewing your 2D software environment for a few hours each week to refresh your knowledge and stay current. I've seen great CAD managers end up with botched projects simply because their 2D tools (and knowledge) failed them at key milestones — don't let this happen to you.
Naturally, the type of work your company does determines which 3D software systems you need expertise in, so the real questions are: How much do you understand about the user experience with that software? And How much time do you spend managing that experience?
Here are some of the common problems I observe among CAD managers:
- Management at the expense of training. In these situations, you're so busy trying to get users up to speed that you can't pay enough attention to how the overall system is running. This situation invariably leads to the next problem.
- Lack of standardization. It is really difficult to get your whole company up to speed on 3D design software, but doubly so when there are no standards. If you train people to model buildings or products, then let them go off and perform that work however they like, you'll have a train wreck on your hands in no time.
- Coordination of differing formats. Will you need to combine several different file types to create a coordinated project? Will you need to place a Revit-modeled building into an Inroads project model? Will SolidWorks-modeled machines have to be placed inside a BIM-modeled building? You may need to have a working knowledge of more 3D software packages than you thought; don't be caught by surprise.
- Ambiguity in deliverables. You must know how your 3D projects will be delivered to customers. If you don't, you can't possibly know how to best manage them. Will you provide IFC files to other BIM systems? Will you produce STEP geometry for another MCAD system? Will you deliver 2D AutoCAD files for general contractors? If you don't know the answers to these questions before the project starts, you're doomed to failure.