Rally the Troops: Getting Your Team Ready for 3D CAD

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When an organization makes the decision to implement any new technology, it often requires changes in established procedures, processes, and user behavior. Before implementing 3D CAD for the first time, organizations should map out their current design processes, assess the needs of their engineers, and establish the objectives for transitioning to 3D CAD. After evaluating current processes for design, modeling and data management, management should outline the areas of improvement in process, workflow and training requirements.

Organizations also must thoroughly evaluate several critical areas: processes (approaches to implementation), organization (ability to support implementation and the design process), technology (tools to support implementation and the design process), knowledge management (capturing and promoting best practices), and performance management (the ability to measure results).

A great way to maximize your investment in your CAD system is to take advantage of all the training and support services offered by your vendor. No one understands the underlying functionality of your CAD system more than its developer, so making use of its training, often offered at no charge, as well as its support offerings, will speed implementations and help resolve problems faster. This support might be offered directly through the vendor or through a value-added reseller (VAR).

Software vendors have vast amounts of experience deploying, training and optimizing their 3D CAD software at companies representing nearly every industry. Their “lessons learned” through years of experience successfully implementing CAD software and integrating it with existing systems and processes can greatly facilitate customers’ adoption of 3D CAD, as opposed to manufacturers attempting to do their own implementations with little or no such experience.

Transitioning a team of users to 3D CAD takes time, training, and patience, but the potential payoff of faster design cycles and decreased development costs will make the change to 3D well worth it.  Placing trust in your vendor or VAR to help your troops transition to 3D and having a proactive plan in place prior to implementation will help speed training periods, reduce errors, decrease rework, and boost productivity.

Let’s take a look at a few best practices for companies to follow to prepare their teams for 3D CAD implementations.

Training

Enlist outside help. According to the study, Best Practices for Migrating from 2D to 3D CAD by the Aberdeen Group, “best-in-class” companies are 22 times more likely than the Industry Average to send employees to third-party run training programs.

Take advantage of vendor-provided training. Most vendors offer a variety of training options, some at no cost, including traditional classroom training, self-paced online training, and online access to libraries of learning material and tutorials. Managers can enroll engineering teams in on-demand training so they can learn at their own pace.

Keep it simple. When conducting in-house training for updates or new functionality, keep training materials simple and straightforward. Concentrate on simple exercises that are easy enough to understand but demonstrate the concept clearly. Save before-and-after cases of your models or parts so you can easily demonstrate step-by-step.

Timing is everything. If training is done too early, employees forget what they’ve learned before they get a change to use it; if done too late, they become frustrated and bad practices develop.

Organizational Changes

Determine support options. When you purchase 3D CAD software, find out what type of support options are available to your team. Many vendors will provide customers with access to the company’s knowledge base, free webinars, online tutorials, telephone support, 24/7 Web-based technical support, including proactive alerts and access to Tech Tips Webcasts.

Add a dedicated help desk. Having a centralized help center ensures that all issues during implementation are given the appropriate level of visibility and attention.

Establish best practices. Knowledge management is key to identifying and promoting best modeling practices. Creating part and drawing templates, and material, part, and assembly profile libraries speeds up repetitive processes. Make best practices easier to follow by leveraging “start parts” that contain standard company parameters.

Upgrade hardware. CAD management must carefully consider if their hardware infrastructure is adequate for 3D modeling. 3D CAD tools often require network upgrades. The CAD files can be very large and running the 3D CAD applications can consume a large amount of memory so upgrading computers and purchasing high-end graphics cards will greatly increase performance.

Appoint an in-house expert. According to the Aberdeen study, one of the top strategies for improving the use of 3D CAD was to identify an internal technical expert. This ensures that the majority of the staff can get a basic level of training while the expert can complete more in-depth training and become a resource for the remainder of the staff.

Provide central access to data. As more data is created, the need for centralized data storage via data management and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems is essential to ensure all users can access the data they need. Also facilitates version control.

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