True Life: Our CAD Users Are Not Productive

Our CAD users are not as productive… as they once were

Sometimes living with a workaround is easier than addressing a problem at its core. This is especially true when it comes to extremely complex systems like a CAD tool or ERP system. Our company has only 4 full-time mechanical engineers using our CAD tool (SOLIDWORKS) but everyone on the team seems to be battling the same issues week in and week out, job after job. Slow, sluggish performance, less productivity, and of late…missed deadlines.

The Most Common Headaches

This problem reared its head when a major product development milestone was missed and no one on the team had a solid answer as to why. We have a team of very talented CAD designers and because we don’t have a formal “Admin” or anything like that, I was looked at for guidance - being the most senior member of the team. I am used to it…I’m the same person they all come to for help installing and updating to new releases.

Activation error
Activation errors drive us nuts

Our CAD software has been kept current, so we are all working from the newest version but we don’t all have the same experiences. Laggy file loading, file errors, slow machines, complicated parts, and huge assemblies all played havoc with our ability to get work done. Little by little I began to notice that we had a time thief, stealing minutes here and there throughout the day and that was where things got interesting.

The Time Thieves

The more I investigated, the more I saw that time was slipping away from us in bits and chunks throughout the day. Our biggest “time thieves”  that took away from being productive as we called them were:

  • Files that take way too long to load
  • Unnecessarily complex feature trees
  • Crashing CPUs

Minor delays were causing major problems and it became clear that to correct this, we were going to need to really dive into everyone’s usage and what their processes are.

Many of us had grown set in our ways to how we worked inside SOLIDWORKS but SOLIDWORKS has changed with each release adding new and better features. Ways of doing certain things that we relied on, were actually faster and easier in the version of SOLIDWORKS we have, they just did not know about them!

error dialog box
So many error windows

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

At my last job, we had a dedicated Administrator for our CAD system who probably could have helped here but there was no real appetite to add a body for that purpose now. When it comes to updates and new things in SOLIDWORKS, we were very much in the dark, not knowing what we didn’t know.

An audit of how we use the software is what we really needed. Someone with experience in the best practices of data management who can help get us some day-to-day performance improvements. And if they could help with licensing, installations, and activations, that’s gravy on top.

The Best Path Forward

In the end, we learned that we operate inside our own bubble, and none of us had the time or desire to take on the additional role of CAD Administrator. We started working with CADimensions and did a user productivity assessment which took the time to understand how our team and processes worked, and helped us improve everyone’s day-to-day use of SOLIDWORKS to make our business more productive. It turns out a few of us could benefit from some additional training, while others just needed some best practices help. CADimensions is even staying on to take over the Administration of SOLIDWORKS for us too, which frees up my time to be more productive myself!