Key Considerations When Changing CAD Tools
Articles • Central Innovation • 22 August 2016
Recent research conducted by US firm Tech-Clarity has found companies are switching CAD tools not so much because of problems with their existing choice but in order to gain a competitive edge through faster time-to-market or other improvements in efficiencies. Central Innovation’s Nando Mogollon, Professional Services Consultant within the BIM (Building Information Modelling) team, commented on the applicability of the research’s findings to the Australian AEC sector.
“BIM technology offers advantages at the business level by creating savings for designers, as well as builders and the final owners and users of buildings,” comments Nando. “So in many situations companies are looking to move to BIM technologies and related ones such as parametric design, because these can provide a business advantage and the opportunity to offer a much better product at the end of the day.”
Reviewing Tech-Clarity’s Are You Changing CAD Tools? What You Should Know whitepaper, Nando, an architect by training, concurs with the research’s findings that the main concerns for companies when switching CAD tools are the required learning curve to bring staff up to speed with the new systems, and worries about accessing and reusing ‘legacy data’ (created with the previous CAD software).
“Whenever you’re changing to a more complex system, you do have to invest in upskilling your staff,” he explains. “When you do that it will impact productivity, at least in the beginning. So businesses worry that the cost of that productivity loss is not worth the upskill.”
‘Companies should consider investing in an experienced professional services team as it is their job to make sure all the risks involved when productivity goes into a slowdown for that period of time can be mitigated through detailed implementation planning and a transition period from the old CAD tool to the new.”
Nando says one of the biggest concerns for companies who have been using a particular tool for years is that their existing database currently exists in a proprietary format, usually readable only from one particular tool. “They want to make sure they can capitalise on all that information they have built up over time. Once they decide to change their current CAD tool, service providers need to make sure everything can be moved into the new tool as so much new work in this field is often an adaptation of old solutions or draws on previous concepts, no one wants to have to start from scratch.”
While the US research suggests companies convert only 51% of their legacy data, Nando believes that in the Australian AEC sector the figure will be much higher – more like up to 75%. “The issues are knowing how to do it and how to minimise productivity loss during transition, and it’s our job to make sure companies feel we have their back when they face these concerns.” This includes offering basic training courses to aid upskiling, as well as project by project support to make sure productivity doesn’t suffer during the transition phase.
The US research found the top factor in choosing a new CAD selection (identified by 77% of companies surveyed) was ease of use – or as Nando prefers to describe it, transparency. “What architects and engineers want to experience is sitting at the screen, thinking about something and being able to make it appear in front of them. It’s not so much about the number of clicks or specific features, but more to do with mirroring the mindset of a designer, going with the flow.”
He says another factor rated in the research – the ability to work with multiCAD data, identified by 58% of survey respondents – is likely to be much stronger among design and construction professionals. “We call it interoperability and it’s very important because in this field almost all projects run across multiple disciplines. Even just a simple house has structural, architectural, heating, ventilation and electrical components. When you’re designing buildings there’s so much more to consider. So there is a range of different disciplines, most of which use different tools and formats. You have to be able to ensure that all the systems can talk to each other. Over the years this has grown from somewhat important to super-important.” Hence Open BIM, the industry-wide international effort to facilitate interoperability – so the architect can read and write data about the structural components the engineer has been working on and vice versa. “The focus is on adapting the tool to the user, not just the user to the tool,” Nando affirms.