Building a Highly Productive Design Team
There are basically two ways to build a highly productive design team: (1) hire highly productive design professionals, and (2) improve the productivity of the team members you already have.
With the U.S. unemployment rate dropping to its lowest rate in nearly 50 years, finding, attracting, and retaining quality design professionals is harder than ever. So as a business owner or manager of a design team, it may be more prudent to focus on increasing the productivity of the design workforce that you already have. This can be accomplished by ensuring your design team has the best tools for the job and that they are well trained on how to use those tools.
Design tools can include anything from computer hardware and software to prototyping equipment, to diagnostic tools, to engineering databases, but the principal tool of the design team is the CAD software. And, unless you are designing only two-dimensional objects, there is no question that a 3D CAD software will improve your design process by increasing creativity, accelerating time to market, reducing design costs, and improving product quality when compared to a 2D CAD tool. 3D CAD tools accomplish this by creating output that is easily interpreted and understood by even your non-technical colleagues. 3D CAD allows you to see how your parts move and interact and even allows you to validate performance by running simulations before the first prototype is built. 3D models allow for easy design changes and reuse of designs and they can be taken directly to manufacturing. The real question is – which 3D CAD software is the right choice for your design team?
When choosing a 3D CAD software, compare your options to determine how efficiently they can create the geometry needed for your product designs and how long it takes to become proficient in the use of the software. Check to see what your customers, suppliers, and partners are using to ensure collaboration will be seamless. Look for software that will expand to meet your future needs. For example, do you plan on doing in-house simulation or electrical design in the future? If so, how well are these capabilities integrated into the CAD system? Look for a software that is well supported. Does it have an active user community, quick access to knowledgeable customer support, and easy to find online resources?
For more details on choosing a CAD software, L. Stephen Wolfe, P.E. does a great job explaining what to look for in his article “9 Criteria for Choosing a 3D CAD System” (https://www.solidworks.com/sw/docs/Top9_WP_2010_ENG_FINAL.pdf).
It doesn’t matter how good the tool is if your design team doesn’t know how to use it. Users often don’t even realize they are using a tool incorrectly until they see someone that is truly proficient with that same tool. This is especially true with CAD software. CAD operators may spend their day modeling a part not realizing their software contains tools that would allow them to create the same geometry in a fraction of the time.
Many CAD programs come with tutorials and you can find online videos for just about anything, but the fastest way to become proficient with any tool is to learn from an expert. The dealer of the software you purchase should offer quality training classes taught by their software experts. Quality training will lead to increased productivity that will quickly make-up for the time and money invested.
Attracting and Retaining
Regarding finding highly productive individuals to add to your design team, choosing the right CAD program can benefit you here as well. It’s a bonus if the employee you hire is already proficient in the CAD software you are using, so find out what is being taught at the local technology center, community college or university before making a CAD software decision. Choosing the right software may also make it easier to find new talent. Look at the job boards in your area to see what CAD software the majority of the prospects are using and what software experience is being sought by other companies in your area.
Your design team will likely see the access to quality tools and training as a benefit that improves their job satisfaction. So not only will this investment make your design team more productive, but it can also help to attract and retain quality team members.
About the author
Doug Enns, one of MLC CAD Systems Application Experts, is focused on helping companies improve their designs and reduce product development time and cost through the use of computer simulation. He is a licensed professional engineer and has his SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer certification.