Predictions and Resolutions for Better CAD Management in 2020

14 Jan, 2020 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: Resolve to manage your resources more effectively, make the most of your budget, and become more involved with IT, and you’ll be better prepared for the challenges coming your way this year.


CAD/BIM Is More and More an IT Problem

In recent years, I’ve opined that the tasks I spend time on these days are much more about IT than CAD. For example: Setting up named-user accounts, accessing portals to download software, setting up cloud repositories, mapping out security protocols for wide-area network (WAN) drives, etc. Not that I’m pining for the old days of outdated physical media, cumbersome update patches, and FedEx-ing envelopes of floppy disks, but there’s no denying that being a CAD manager now is much more IT-intensive than it used to be.

My prediction is this trend will continue and actually accelerate as CAD tools become more decentralized (more on that in the next section) and harder to keep track of.

So how do we deal with this trend?

Resolution: Learn as much about general IT as you can, and take the time to research new tools on your own time rather than remain at the mercy of your IT department.

Resolution: Get more involved with IT at your office, and become “one of the tribe” to immerse yourself in technology that can accelerate your learning. After all, the more you know the better off you’ll be, and the reality is that you don’t know what you don’t know.

CAD Software Becomes More Plugged-In

Way back when the first CAD programs came out, you just bought the software and hoped you could make it work. Then the market evolved to offer add-ons for task-specific undertakings such as architecture or mechanical modeling. The add-on market gave way to entirely new, specialized software products like SOLIDWORKS and Revit. Now we see that even specialized software products are embracing specialized plug-in modules for rendering, surface modeling, analysis, etc., and these products are now offered by many different companies — think Enscape, Act-3D (Lumion), and Robert McNeel & Associates (Grasshopper), for example — so your CAD/BIM installation is no longer controlled by a single vendor like it used to be.

So how do we navigate this this complex, plugged-in landscape?

Resolution: Evaluate any plug-ins based on their function and merit, and to only use those tools that work well and provide value to your users/company.

Resolution: Avoid playing the “plug-in of the week” game! Don’t users randomly install the latest plug-in modules they’ve downloaded without your supervision and approval.

CAD Management Becomes Less Valued

With each passing year, the CAD manager position has become increasingly part-time, more frequently lumped in with overhead, and less understood as technology has become more complex. You know where this is all headed, right? These changes lead to a general lack of enthusiasm for CAD management. I even see the trend with building information modeling (BIM) management, as BIM has become more widely used in many AEC environments.

Alas, it seems that as any technology becomes more common, there is less desire to spend money managing it, and that’s why CAD management is becoming less valued.

So how can we buck this distressing trend?

Resolution: Make CAD and BIM coordination part of the discussion in every project you do, and speak up when you see mistakes being made. If everyone respects your expertise, they’re much more likely to value the job you do.

Resolution: Evangelize about how CAD management can drive standardization and reduce errors, thus saving time and money. You will get a lot more sympathy for spending time on CAD management if everyone around you understands the value of doing so.

CAD Management Stress Continues to Elevate

Entwined with being less valued is the issue of spending more time “working on projects” and less time “on CAD management overhead.” (I put these phrases in quotes because I’ve heard them so often from so many levels of senior management.) While there’s nothing new about this problem, the thing to note is that it continues to get worse each year, in my experience.

So how can we keep the stress from becoming toxic?

Resolution: Do the best you can given the circumstances, stay as calm as you can, and deal with your day-to-day tasks professionally. The adage never let them see you sweat comes to mind here.

Resolution: View your job as creating the greatest amount of project output possible. And if you can create more project output by being a CAD manager “working on projects,” then that’s even better.

Summing Up

I encourage you to take some time and ponder how these predictions may affect your job or your company in the coming year. As you do so, make a prioritized list of the resolutions I outlined here, and see which ones you need to pay particular attention to. And once you finish your list, get to it! This looks to be a busy year with high project loads and a tight labor market, so get ready to work hard in 2020. Just resolve to work smart while you’re doing so. Until next time.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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