Proactive CAD Management – for 2019 and Beyond8 May, 2019 By: Robert Green
Make this the year that you set up long-term strategies to prevent problems from occurring in the first place.
If you're a CAD manager I don't have to tell you how many responsibilities you have and how much pressure you are under — you already know. However, what many CAD managers miss is the importance of having a long-term strategy to prevent problems in the first place. I like to think of CAD management like a well-crafted chess game — the more you think through your moves the higher the chance that you'll win.
In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter I'll share my updated strategies for CAD management in 2019. Here goes.
Image source carlofornitano/istockphoto.com
Strategy 1: Mind the Basics
While it might be more exciting to think about new technologies and workflows than it is to dwell on the basics, the smart CAD manager should never lose sight of tending to those basics. By paying attention to them, you'll be in a defensive position, when working against difficulties. After all, part of moving forward is making sure you don't slide backward, right? What are the basics I'm talking about? Consider these:
- Enforcement of CAD/BIM standards
- File storage and archiving procedures
- Data security
- Constant improvement of workflows
- Ongoing training programs
The simple fact is if you don't do these basic tasks well, everything can spiral out of control very quickly. Stop enforcing standards and you'll spend weeks fixing project files. Stop training people and best practices will devolve. Lose track of filing/security control and intellectual property could be at risk of loss or theft. I'll let you think of the myriad of ways things could go wrong.
Action Item(s): Be sure you have procedures in place to deal with standards problems as well as filing/security issues so you can respond immediately if the problem comes up. I like to think of these types of procedures as fire extinguishers — the time to have one is before the fire breaks out.
Strategy 2: Ongoing Training Programs
Be sure you have some sort of training plan in place even if just an hour or two per month. Whether the training is in person, via webinar or just a conference call doesn't much matter, what is important is that communication occurs at regular intervals. Training topics can change each month as project demands and software updates dictate but be sure to always stress standards and file security so users don't forget the basics.
Action Item(s): If you don't have a regularly scheduled training program, start one. If your management doesn't see the value in training, show them. Make sure your users understand the importance of training as a communication tool.
Strategy 3: Control Mobile Devices
I amended my CAD management strategies to account for better control of mobile devices back in 2016, but I continue to see way too many data management risks related to personal devices. Sometimes referred to as the BYOD (bring your own device) problem, personal devices constitute a critical threat to data security.
Consider how easy it might be to lose control of information via theft of a phone or tablet and you can appreciate the risk involved. Ask yourself the following diagnostic questions:
- What risks are we taking by not controlling mobile devices?
- What mobile apps do we use and what risks do each contain?
- Do any cloud applications we run have security flaws?
- What happens if a rogue/disgruntled employee uses a mobile device or cloud-based account to steal data?
- How can we control file editing and revisions with mobile devices or cloud services?
If your organization hasn't answered all these questions, then you're at risk!
Action Item(s): Make sure your company policies regarding mobile devices and cloud services take CAD-enabled applications into account to ensure you don't have data exposure. Be sure your IT and senior management teams understand your concerns and are engaged in this process.
Strategy 4: Always Pursue New Hardware
If you want your users to love you, then do everything you can to research, specify, and pursue the purchase of only high-performance CAD hardware.
I realize that it isn't always easy to purchase new hardware but when you do, purchase only the best. If you benchmark how much time you can save by rendering, plotting, viewing, or exporting files on a high-performance workstation then you can justify the purchase because time saved is money saved. (Time = Money)
Action Item(s): Make sure that any new workstation you specify takes advantage of new technology to deliver maximum speed. Do so by specifying the following items:
- The highest speed i7 or i9 processor you can afford. Look for the highest clock speed and turbo-step speed to maximize overall processing and single core processing performance. Then be sure to load it up with 32GB of the fastest memory the processor can support.
- An SSD (solid-state bootable drive) drive big enough to hold all software and most working project files — ideally a 500GB or 1TB NVMe M.2 technology drive. If you must choose between more RAM or the SSD, I recommend prioritizing the SSD — the difference is that profound.
- A 4- to 6GB graphics processing unit (GPU) will suffice for all but the most aggressive rendering applications. If possible, get a GPU that is certified by your software vendor.
Strategy 5: Investigate Future Software Trends
If your basic defensive strategy is in place and you're pushing for new hardware, you can branch out to explore what might be a part of your CAD environment's future. But how can you best use your limited time to get the maximum benefit from any investigation you may choose to do? Before examining/testing any new software for potential use be sure you can answer "yes" to the following questions.
- Will this software provide a solution to a current or near-term need?
- Will this software provide enough functionality or automation to save users time over the tools they're using now?
- Will this software bring real value to your company processes?
- Will this software pay for itself as you use it?
If you can't answer yes to all these questions, then there's a high likelihood that the software won't make sense for your company anyway so there's no reason to spend your limited time investigating it.
Action Item(s): Blast through new software rapidly to see if new features, capabilities, or productivity appears to be likely and investigate only those that meet that criteria. The goal is to skim through lots of software technology but to only spend substantial time on the few concepts that pay for themselves.
If you utilize these five CAD management strategies, it is my experience that you'll achieve and maintain a well-controlled, low-risk, yet modern CAD environment. It is my hope that you can use the recommendations to plan your course of action.
What are your guiding strategies for CAD management? Please email me your thoughts. Until next time.