How to Challenge the Challengers In Your CAD Department

February 13, 2018 Brett Stacks

You want to improve, but that stubborn detailer says “No.” Find a champion, use them to prove that change is good, then give your resistant resource an ultimatum. Don’t let your company suffer from lack of change.

Construction technology is ever-changing and moving at an amazing pace. Several companies have emerged as leaders for markets such as MEP in less than 10 years, and we are seeing what were once competing software products become highly interoperable—  and even merging into new and updated solutions.

However, keeping up with these changes is difficult and costly.

Adapting to changes in processes and technology helps companies increase productivity and, coincidentally, increase profit. According to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, Reinventing Construction for a Productivity Revolution, construction-related spending accounts for 13% of the world’s GDP, but the sector’s annual productivity growth has only increased by 1% over the past 20 years. The report adds that $1.6 trillion dollars of additional value could be added through higher productivity (meeting half of the world’s infrastructure need). Rethinking design is one of the seven areas where the McKinsey Report claims action could boost sector productivity by 50-60%. With the industry so ready for advancement, it only makes sense to reshape the way we design, build, and operate.

If you’ve ever been forced to keep old technology in the workplace because of that stubborn and (all too often) soon-to-retire end user, this is for you.


Fear surrounding CAD changes

CAD is one area where companies will need to adapt, as changes in CAD technologies are happening all around us. This often requires companies to learn a new platform.

One common challenge that these companies face is how to move their staff on to new technologies after using the same software for many years —  sometimes as long as 15 years. You can imagine that any person who has used the same software for 15 years can be resistant to doing things a new way. As an end user, I might feel threatened. The latest generation of my trade is already much more experienced in the newest software, and if I move away from the one technology that makes me the expert, then I might feel like I’ll lose my expertise.


What makes me valuable if I am no longer using the software that I am used to?

Making a change requires you to understand why your staff is resistant, and offer assurance that it’s not just their experience in the software. It’s also their industry experience and their experience with your organization that are valuable.


How to challenge the challengers without intimidating

The challenger needs to know that they are the reason that your organization has succeeded and that they can be much more effective if they have access to a better product. Sometimes this recognition is not enough, however, and they are adamant that you will fail. It’s time to promote a champion, recognize someone who has a fresh attitude and acknowledges those who are excited about the change. Give them everything they need to learn and use the new software on the next project, including training.

“Adapting to technology is necessary in any industry. The mechanical industry is experiencing tremendous technological advancements that are making more efficient workflows in estimation, project management, and especially drafting and design. We must maintain awareness in any and all avenues to increase productivity and return on current and future investments. There is no roadmap that guides contractors to the right decision in their investments. We learn by trial and error, and not all investments in technology have great ROIs. If you see something that makes sense, try it. Some of the best ideas will come from your team. Reward innovation. If you always do a task the same way, it will always be completed the same way. Try new things and always, always, always collaborate with your team and industry peers.”

-- Dustin Allen, Project Manager/ VDC Technology Leader/ Estimator at North Mechanical Inc


One of the best ways to encourage change is to build metrics on the old methods vs. the new methods. Make a list of what worked with the last software you were using and what didn’t, and outline measurable results. Use the new software for a while and compare it to the old system. Then, present your findings to stakeholders at your company.

When you are done, others in the department will be begging for their license.

About the Author

Brett Stacks

Brett started as a Local #67 Sheet Metal Worker then quickly moved into CAD for the Austin, TX based company Dynamic Systems. This eventually led to management roles at TSI, QuickPen, Trimble and Autodesk. That experience provided him with a deep knowledge & understanding of the tech used throughout the MEP construction process. He remains passionate about improving technologies and processes behind BIM, using his role at Trimble to continue developing strategies for MEP tech.

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