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.
3D CAD conclusions and action items. First, understand how your end design will be delivered, and in what formats, so you can build those requirements into your project workflow and understand the features in your software that make it all possible. Learn more software packages and features as required.
Second, if your user base isn't adequately trained, implement an across-the-board training plan and bring in help to get everyone up to speed. If you continue training users one-on-one, you'll never have time to get your systems running smoothly. If necessary, call a time out and persuade your management team to allocate the time and training resources that you and your users need to succeed.
Third, adopt a 3D software management philosophy that mimics how you manage 2D software. You should manage standard parts and families as you would blocks, with single record copies in secured network folders. Focus on making standard content easily available and incorporate these standards into your training so everyone is on the same page.
Finally, constantly strive for best practices. Do not allow five users to program a Revit family five different ways; don't let six users model the same bearing support block in SolidWorks! You should decide how best to create families and standard parts, then have all users work from your approved content while making adjustments as necessary to optimize the overall environment. Spend as much time as it takes to make these best practices part of your standard culture.
As we move more into 3D design, we've been forced to understand more about the visualization aspects of those designs. The old saying can now be restated as, "A rendering is worth 1,000 words." But how much do CAD managers need to know about visualization? After all, most of us are not animators or artists.
The good news for most of us is that the onboard visualization tools in our CAD packages are actually pretty good. Every software package I work with — including AutoCAD — allows me to generate fairly realistic-looking 3D output with basic materials and lighting. This type of output is perfectly adequate for design reviews and basic show-and-tell sessions with clients early in a project's lifecycle. Plus, it doesn't require that I learn a dedicated visualization software package.
However, my clients increasingly need extremely realistic images for their sales presentations that include photographic backgrounds, human figures, accurate solar lighting, shadow casting, transparent glass, and the like. Should CAD managers be expected to know the specialized software that creates these images? In my opinion, the answer is no for the following reasons:
- Urgency. When the sales department needs extra hours to produce a rendering, will the CAD manager be able to drop all existing project workflows to support the effort? No.
- In-depth expertise. To become truly adept at using visualization technology, you must spend a lot of time with the software. Will a CAD manager be able to spend 20 to 30 hours per week using specialized rendering software to achieve expert status? No.
Visualization conclusions and action items. Strive to understand what the expectations for rendering and visualization will be in your company and push to establish an in-house expert — someone other than yourself — to meet those needs. You'll supply most of the CAD geometry this person will need to do his or her job, so it is in your best interest to fill the position with someone you can work with easily.
While the software we must learn and support will continue to change over time, the concepts of keeping legacy systems (currently 2D) running optimally while acclimating our users to new technologies (currently 3D and visualization) probably won't. The challenge for us all is to know the potential problems we may face and allocate our time accordingly to properly manage the software environments so everything continues to run well.
My hope is that this checklist will help you spend your time in the right places to avoid software problems in the coming years. Until next time.