Tips for Selecting the Right CAD Bundle

Purchasing a package or bundle of CAD software offers distinct advantages over buying a core CAD product and then adding individual modules or extensions later. Yet, how do you choose which bundle is right for your company?

This question matters more than you might think at first. A careful approach to choosing your software bundle can make your company more lean, innovative, and competitive.  A haphazard approach leads to wasted money, extended roll out, and lost opportunities.

Here are five tips for choosing the right bundle for your business.

Tip 1. Implement Processes, Not Software

The biggest mistake most companies make when purchasing design and engineering software is ignoring its larger role in product development. CAD work rarely exists in a vacuum. Rather, it’s part of an engineering process that may also include bids, analysis, data management, manufacturing systems, etc.

Make sure you focus on the whole picture, rather than just the CAD software. This helps you identify the best core products and capabilities to support your engineering process.

For example, companies of all sizes struggle with managing models, drawings, and all corresponding versions. That’s why PDM capabilities should play a part of any CAD strategy. How will you store, query, and update newly created CAD files? When will you need to expand that system? What are the risks of putting off a data management solution? Is the CAD bundle you’re evaluating compatible with your overall PDM strategy?

I’m not asking you to boil the ocean. Based on my experiences with other companies, I recommend that you look ahead 24 months. Evaluate how you might optimize your engineering process in that time. Then, buy the bundle that best suits that vision, rather than your immediate CAD needs. In general, this approach provides companies the best savings and strengthens their product design outcomes considerably.

Tip 2. Ask the Right Questions

Most people approach a major software purchase with some selection criteria in mind.  But how do you select your selection criteria? That is, how do you know you’re asking the right questions? Here are a couple tips from some of the most successful installations:

For smaller design teams. Turn to resellers and vendors for buying guides, customer references, and best practices guidelines. Often these materials will include points you may not have considered. Support? Scalability? Security? File translation? Backwards compatibility? It’s easy to miss key questions, especially when you have an immediate problem to solve. And again, focus on engineering process improvement for the initial 24 months, so that you can purchase a package that best supports all your mid-term plans.

For larger teams and projects. A selection committee can make sure you meet the broadest needs. Plus it may help with adoption later on. Consider input from the following for your committee:

  • One or two high-level decision makers from the affected engineering and business units.
  • Engineering process experts from all affected areas, like design and manufacturing.
  • Financial analysts who can determine the ROI of each package with the help of the aforementioned experts.
  • A business improvement expert, often available from software vendors. This consultant should have proven experience with other customers of your size, industry, and need. In complex situations, the business improvement expert is especially helpful as you plan the cost and timeframe of implementing the software.
  • Legacy systems experts who have a good grasp of the desired engineering processes, understand the current ones, and know the engineering data that must be converted to the new system and process.

Tip 3. Clearly Prioritize Requirements

While prioritizing requirements is largely intuitive, a couple pitfalls for larger teams and projects exist.

For smaller design teams. Prioritize your selection criteria, and map it against the capabilities offered by each of the packages the vendor provides.

For larger projects. Gathering requirements often takes a lot of time and leads to hundreds if not thousands of requirements. Make sure you:

  • Clearly identify “must have” processes and features.
  • Consider engineering data from legacy systems that must be leveraged with the new CAD software.

Tip 4. Weed Out Costly Exceptions

As you prioritize each requirement, resist the urge to spend 80% of your time focusing on the 1% of your business that is overly complex or exception-based.

A bundle or package saves you money by standardizing and eliminating exception processes and “unique” engineering needs. Use your planning time and investment to get rid of expensive outliers and streamline processes where you can.

Tip 5. Understand  Implementation Timeframes

Vendors often tout the speed with which their particular package can be implemented, and for good reason. Time is money in most businesses, and the more quickly a package can go from installation to rollout, the less costly the implementation.

Make sure you know what to expect with regard to rollout. Many companies have relied on vendor estimates, only to be stuck with mounting costs and ever-distant go-live dates, wondering what went wrong. Here are a couple ideas for better outcomes:

  • A business improvement expert (described in Tip 2) can help you plan costs and timeframes.
  • Explore new technologies like fast-to-install and -deploy PDM software. These solutions are a good choice for smaller organizations—but make sure they’ll scale when your company grows in the future.

While it would be impossible at this stage to deliver a perfectly accurate time estimate, knowing that one package may require around six months more time to implement can be a key factor in deciding on one vendor versus another.

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