Should You Change Your CAD Solution–or Not?
Surely your organization has come across the annual or semi-annual dilemma of whether it makes sense to pay for key software upgrades or if it’s time to seriously consider a new CAD solution. I’ve had to many times in my career, and it is never an easy choice.
Last week, I wrote about the pros and cons of switching from AutoCAD to Autodesk Revit, and it got me thinking in more general terms about how switching CAD solutions can impact design organizations.
As I was pondering the question, I came across information on CAD Software Performance in a recent Aberdeen Group study involving 412 organizations and how frequently they change their CAD software to improve design performance.
Here are some of the highlights:
- 52 percent of companies have never made a major CAD switch, and believe they can continue to improve year-to-year with their existing tool
- 21 percent of organizations have switched their CAD solution within the past five years. The top five reasons for switching include access to new functionality (48 percent), improved design productivity (44 percent), migration to a 3D application (33 percent), ease of use (31 percent) and software quality (25 percent)
Reasons for Switching CAD Tools
New CAD implementations at Best-in-Class companies result in a 30 percent reduction in development time, a 23 percent reduction in development costs, and an 18 percent reduction in the average time needed to implement an engineering change order (ECO). Lesser companies can still expect a 14 percent reduction in development time, an 11 percent reduction in development costs and a 9 percent reduction in ECO implementation.
Figure 1: Reasons for Switching CAD Tools
Figure 2: Design Process Improvements
Study author Michelle Boucher, senior research analyst at Aberdeen, points out that performance improvements aren’t dependent on a solution switch. “The type of improvement realized by the Best-in-Class [when switching CAD software] in particular results from something more,” she writes. “The key is HOW the CAD tools are used and the right practices, combined with applying the right technologies.”
In fact, solution switchers can put themselves at a short-term disadvantage. Changing old habits, updating legacy data and learning new ways of working can actually reduce performance temporarily. According to Aberdeen, it takes about six months, on average, for an organization to resume full productivity after implementing a new CAD solution—and about a year to recoup the cost of changing tools.
What this Means for Most Organizations
The results of the Aberdeen study tell me that companies should try to maximize their performance using their existing CAD solution before attempting to switch to a whole new solution, unless that absolutely can’t be avoided. All the major CAD software vendors continually refine their offerings to meet customer needs, so if you can keep up with the improvements you can improve your design efficiency incrementally as you go along.
In my experience, I’ve found that companies need to do three things to ensure that they’re performing at their best with a given CAD solution.
- Regularly update their CAD software as new versions are released
- Take advantage of ongoing training and events provided by their software provider
- Use the latest, high-performing workstations
When these things become second nature to you, you’ll likely find that the best CAD switch is no switch at all. And if you do have to make a switch, you’ll be following best practices that will serve you well with any solution.
What do you think? If you’ve changed solutions in the past, please let us know if it was really necessary or if you could have done without it. If you’re thinking of changing solutions, please share what factors are going into your decision-making process.