CAD Standards: Company Culture and the Hybrid Work Environment
HOW to INCORPORATE CAD STANDARDS EFFECTIVELY
Company Culture in Today’s Hybrid Work Environment.
Company culture has always been a key factor in the corporate organization.
Positive company culture is critical to any working environment, regardless of your chosen industry.
A culture that allows workers at all levels to be respected and their concerns to be taken seriously is essential to establish a solid foundation for a company to build its future.
The challenges facing today’s hybrid working environment are many. Everything from communication between team members to executing plans developed by those team members has become very challenging.
In my chosen industry (AGV design), these challenges start very early in the p a well-designed and efficient product.
Creating a Positive Corporate Culture in a New Reality.
The core of any organization is the employees. This is a controversial statement. I have had many management-level personnel tell me that people are replaceable and that corporate rules must be followed whether they are liked or not.
A company needs a well-established corporate culture to avoid challenges in daily operations.
The remote worker is particularly susceptible to the effects of a poorly established company plan. In a design environment, this becomes highly apparent at all organizational levels.
The remote worker is often seen as “the problem” within a hybrid environment. In reality, the management structure that does not consider their unique situation and its impact on in-office personnel is the real problem.
When management does not have a well-established plan to track hybrid and in-office workers and their output, there is no real way to track the quality or accuracy of products generated.
There are, however, a few key areas that, with some planning, can be less impacted by an overall lack of organization at the top. Some groundwork developed in these areas can make them more stable, reducing future challenges.
Standards, in particular, CAD standards, are one of these core functions in any product development cycle. Issues will arise without clean and consistent documentation across all company design projects.
Engineers create CAD documents for the shop to facilitate the building new designs. The quality of documentation created will directly affect the shop and its assigned tasks. Lack of uniform, accurate documents will cause delays and errors for shop personnel. This causes conflict and rework costs during product build.
This is exasperated when the engineer is “working from home” and is unavailable to consult on issues that arise. Conflicts with and negative perceptions of one group by another is a toxic mix. I can tell you firsthand that this will kill any good working environment development chance.
Standards and Their Role in Modern Company Culture
To illustrate the effects of corporate culture (both positive and not so) on corporate longevity and Market visibility, I will use two examples.
First, I will describe the situation of a company that failed to set up a plan to get ahead and develop a long-term plan for its business.
This is a common situation, not by intention, however. Daily issues internal to any company can get overwhelming. Add to it the current supply chain issues, and we have the cause of potential trouble. With intervention to remedy these issues, things go well.
Lost without a Clue
Company “A” has been in business for forty years. They started with a few determined people and became very well-known in their field. Their product was well received in the market; they were making money.
When the time came to diversify to meet an expanding market, management did not hesitate to dive in and go for it.
Unfortunately, the company had become comfortable with its signature product, leaving corporate life at the status quo. Reusing existing documentation regularly, seen as the best plan, became an issue.
The company had a lot of long-term employees that “knew what they had to do.” Management did not worry about what to them was not a problem.
When these people started moving on to retirement or other positions, managers faced another reality: untrained personnel and no infrastructure to support training new people.
First, there had been little investment in the corporate network for quite a while. The IT manager maintained things very well. He never had anything happen he could not cover.
When the requirement for training new personnel came up, there was a challenge that no one had previously seen. As the IT manager was used to things going his way since management was satisfied, he balked at the request to have a newly appointed CAD manager request changes.
The new CAD manager, having no power to enact changes, became frustrated and scheduled a meeting with all parties involved.
As expected, things could have gone better for the new guy. Management needed to see the value in redoing what had been working for forty years and did nothing to back his requests.
The IT manager, for his part, was skeptical at best. Is a new guy trying to change the system? It would take his time, and he would lose some of his authority.
As the managers were focused on high-level issues, the subject of standards, let alone a newbie being involved, was dropped. The CAD manager (or so his title claimed) did what he could to try to set things up. People were using multiple outdated versions of AutoCAD, set up as they saw fit. Ten CAD users, ten styles of work. As the CAD manager brought up every issue, the response was, “We need to ship the product; we have no time for standards.”
No Time for low priority issues
Company “A” saved money in the short run by not investing overhead costs in training or maintaining their design software functionality.
They learned quickly that their AutoCAD users needed training and now need to look into updating obsolete software. As things were going well (as far as management knew), nothing was done in either area. The company doubled the number of AutoCAD users to increase the output. With the new staff came untrained operators who needed AutoCAD licenses, causing more reuse of obsolete software versions. Now they were too busy to worry about non-design work.
Reality Set In
The poor documentation became apparent as the product was scrutinized to improve current designs. This set management into panic mode. How did this happen, and why were we (management) unaware? This reaction is expected, with the mindset that company “A” took.
As the company looked into increasing its product margins, it began trying to correct this. Consistency in their product became paramount.
To this day, company “A” is still trying to fix years of legacy data and outdated software issues. They are still in business. However, they are not running up to their full potential. Rework and cleanup are still haunting them.
A Better Road
Company “B” started about the same time as company “A”; however, their management took the mindset to set up a plan to ensure success for many years.
They also took the mindset that their plan is a living process. When the hybrid working environment set in, they considered the impact of having key personnel off-site. Arrangements were set up to keep key groups in contact and monitor their productivity.
A core issue for both companies, “A” and “B,” would be documentation quality and consistency.
Company “B” sees the long-term value in quality documentation. They put in place functional procedures to ensure their success. The plan they implemented included the following concepts.
A workable IT network was established, being secure and user-friendly simultaneously. The CAD manager had the blessing and support of upper management in the efforts to set up corporate-wide design protocols and teaching plans for all AutoCAD operators. He worked with the IT manager to establish a maintainable yet secure data storage and version control system. Thus allowing AutoCAD users easily access necessary data, increasing efficiency.
Standard protocol was established to maintain software versioning and installations. All CAD users would have the same setup throughout the company. Also, the CAD manager was authorized to easily maintain AutoCAD on everyone’s system, pushing updates as necessary without burdening the IT manager.
As the CAD manager for company “B” was able to maintain and tune the AutoCAD design process efficiently, the company grew, and their product designs are now industry-leading. Their market share has dramatically increased while keeping the (ROI) high, all while retaining valued employees.
The forethought by company “B” enabled them to handle the operational environment disruption with minimal issues. Planning now for the environment that may be a reality in the future kept them constantly improving. The stagnation of company “A”’s mindset was their ultimate trouble. While they survived, new product development was plagued with quality and consistent supporting documentation.