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CAD Manager Tips: Common Workplace Complaints—and Their Solutions—of a CAD Draftsman

Complaints, huh? Well, where do you start? You're not paid enough, the hours are long, and the deadlines are too tight. Well, welcome to the world of the CAD draftsman.

Wikipedia’s definition is this: “Drafter, draughtsman (British English), or draftsman (American English) can mean two things:

1. A visual artist who specializes in artistic drawings.

2. A person who prepares technical drawings and plans under the direction of an architect or engineer.”

It can also mean that even though us Brits speak the same language as you guys in America do, spellings can vary! So can words. Been there, done that with hood (bonnet), trunk (boot), sidewalk (pavement), and so on.

So, on to the complaints of a CAD draftsman, or, to be more politically correct, a CAD draftsperson. (Now there is a whole article there in just one sentence, but we will cover that another time.)

Well, there are many complaints. Some are physical, some are rhetorical or metaphorical. It depends on your point of view. I am going to go with workplace complaints. These would come under physical complaints, ranging from an uncomfortable chair to software not doing what it should do, and, perhaps, other people not doing what they should do, too.

CAD manager

Workplace Complaint No. 1: Comfort. To start, let’s pull up a chair, right? Physical position is very important when using CAD. A CAD draftsperson can be seated in front of a screen for as many as 10 hours (or more) during a busy workweek. So, not only does the chair need to be comfortable, adjusted properly, and support the lower back, it needs to be of good quality to survive the workplace.

I remember my CAD manager chair very well—a Herman Miller one that I loved. You get what you pay for, and my employer paid for it due to me having lower back issues after an auto accident. The only problem was that a number of other managers in the office loved it, too. It used to disappear occasionally, and I had to search other manager’s offices to find it. That was my complaint about the chair: It kept disappearing!

Eventually, I persuaded the procurement and HR departments that all staff should have Herman Miller chairs, using a good business argument of less lower back pain, encouraging better work—and that argument still stands (or sits) true to this day. A CAD draftsperson is only as good as the chair he or she sits in. Trust me. And if you’re a chair fan, check out the Herman Miller website at www.hermanmiller.com. The company even provides AutoCAD 3D models and Revit families of its entire catalog. Neat, huh?

Complaint No. 2: Software and Hardware. Now, before I open a huge can of worms here, the things I am going to mention are not exhaustive. No piece of software is ever perfect. There are so many variables here, so let’s just look at a few.

1. Need a Faster PC/Laptop. This is perpetually a bone of contention, for both CAD draftsperson and CAD manager alike. There is always a faster CAD “box” out there, and that has been the case since computers first hit the workplace. It is how they are sold. Marketing folks love to tell you that your PC/laptop is not the best. So how do you make sure you have, at least, a suitable CAD box to work on?

CAD manager

When I was a CAD manager, we did two things: We never purchased hardware as a capital expenditure item. We leased through various companies and suppliers, and every two years we had an option to upgrade, which we normally did.

We were then offered a price for the existing PCs/laptops that was much lower than the original price two years earlier. We often then purchased some of them for general office use to enhance the general office technology. A two-year-old CAD box makes a very reasonable general office PC/laptop. Also, we offered the older PCs/laptops to staff to purchase for home use. You knew where they had been, and you knew they had been looked after, so it was a good purchase!

2. Need to Increase Productivity. As a CAD manager, productivity was paramount. My CAD team wanted to perform and perform well. A complaint from upon high was often, “Can’t you make the CAD team more productive?” Internally, as a CAD team, that was also a complaint, but one that was normally raised as an aspiration of the team rather than a direct complaint. It was a bugbear of mine as their manager.

There are many ways to make productivity gains, both as a CAD team and as an individual CAD draftsperson. Consider the following three tips:

  • Monday Morning Meetings. Talk with your CAD team on Monday about targets and goals for that week, ready for the output needed by the client that coming Friday. That way, the CAD team members know what they need to produce that week and have direction.
  • Three-Week Holiday Rule. Your CAD team members need their breaks and holidays to relax (and regain some sense of sanity away from CAD). The three-week holiday rule is to give at least three weeks of notice for any holiday needed, and take only a maximum of three weeks of vacation. Yes, that can be changed in exception circumstances. It is not rigid. As Captain Jack Sparrow says, it’s more of a guideline than a rule. Productivity is maintained with no last-minute absences.
  • Coffee and Donuts Rota. To make your team work as a team, introduce a rota where all team members make coffee during the week, and each team member buys donuts/Danish pastries/fruit on their rota’ed Friday morning. It is a great icebreaker for new team members, plus it builds that “family” feeling within the team. Studies have shown that team members who feel included in the family are more productive.

3. Need CAD Software That Works. We have all been there: Software that falls over just when you don’t want it to. It is a common CAD draftsperson complaint that, as a CAD manager, you often need to assist with. Encourage your CAD team to install the latest updates and patches. Companies such as Microsoft and Autodesk release updates at regular intervals. Build time into the workweek to allow for updates at sensible times, such as a Monday mornings and not Fridays at lunchtime when an important deadline needs to be met.

Sometimes it is a good thing to encourage self-learning for your CAD team. It builds knowledge, and with that knowledge comes confidence. That confidence can often be put to good use by the CAD draftsperson to solve a software problem on his or her own. That independence is what makes a good draftsperson.

Make sure that CAD team members are aware of Autodesk Knowledge Base, Autodesk User Group International (AUGI) forums, and Autodesk Community. These are great sites to build knowledge and understanding of Autodesk software, plus the forums allow for users to discuss issues and work-related questions they might have. Users learn from users.

I have only touched the surface here. I could list numerous complaints. It is a big subject and solutions can be found, with the right application of knowledge and confidence. I have heard many complaints in my 26 years of CAD experience, and I have also seen many solutions to those problems worked out with sensible, pragmatic thought processes and workflows.

Maybe I should write a book on this? Now there’s a thought!

For more CAD manager tips, check out Use the Force: Learn 4 Management Skills to Build a Tight CAD Jedi Team and 3 Must-Know Tips to Be a Successful CAD Manager.

What are some common complaints from your CAD team? What are some of the solutions? Please share your experiences below in the comments section.

 

Shaun Bryant

Shaun Bryant provides Autodesk product consultancy and training as the director of CADFMconsultants Limited (www.cadfmconsult.co.uk) and serves as a director on the board of Autodesk User Group International (AUGI).

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  • TipiTom

    Lighting is critical as well.Some like it dim, some like it bright, nobody likes reflected screen glare. It’s also helpful if the restroom is close to the coffee pot for those 10+ hour days. Requiring engineering changes to only be accepted if written on $100 bills speeds things up as well…haha…-Tom Martin,Somewhere USA, retired after 30 years of PCB design.