The Creative Inventor

Survive for Today...

Build For Tomorrow!

There's bad news everywhere. Companies downsizing, layoffs and plant closures in virtually every area of manufacturing. The only good news is that the rate of decline has slowed in the past couple months. So, what can you do as an individual and what can your company do to improve your survival rates?

As an individual...

A large portion of current Autodesk Inventor users know just enough of the software's capabilities to get by. So how can you become more productive? Have you grown beyond past AutoCAD experience where you create a part drawing, then annotate that drawing and send it off to production? Or, hopefully, are you utilizing the top-down design benefits available in Autodesk Inventor? Top-down design is but one of many things that you should be using at all times.

Some other areas that you should be investigating are:

  • Digital prototyping - This is Autodesk's big plan for the future of engineering and manufacturing. Have you embraced this concept at your company?
  • Are you completing and testing your designs in Inventor before you are releasing them for manufacture?
  • Are you performing at least initial level stress analysis on critical components?
  • If you are creating assemblies that require wire harnesses, hydraulic, or pneumatic lines, have you moved on to Inventor Routed Systems?
  • If you are doing electrical and control design, have you embraced the use of AutoCAD Electrical alongside Inventor?
  • Have you investigated the use of different manufacturing techniques to reduce the cost of manufacturing?
  • Have you embraced the concept of Design for Manufacture, where you actually visit your manufacturing area to see how the parts you design are actually manufactured? Have you talked to your shop people regarding the difficulties in creating your designs? As engineers, we assume that the shop can build what we design. However, things as simple as a counter bore or radius dimension can increase the cost of manufacture if your shop does not have the correct tooling for your specifications. Bottom line: are your designs simple to manufacture and assemble, or have you built in noncompetitive cost increases to manufacture that part?
  • Get trained. Scholarships are available to fit your needs.

As a company...

I understand the demands on cash flow during an extreme recession. I've been there many times myself. There are basically two ways to deal with a recession:

  • Pull the roof over your head technique - batting down the hatches and attempting to ride out the storm.
  • Start planning intelligently just how you will emerge from the recession.

Using the first technique, you will end the recession at status quo, starting over, doing things in exactly the same way you were prior to the recession. Only this time, you more than likely will be quite a bit poorer and possibly left with impaired ability to compete in the new economy. Your competition, however, may just emerge in a completely different state.

Intelligent planning requires that you investigate all cost-reducing aspects of your business, while at the same time, look at ways to improve efficiency and productivity. If your engineering department has undertrained engineers and designers, you will never achieve a high level of productivity, both in design and in the manufacturing areas of your company.

Many companies believe that software is something people should just naturally learn on their own. There is nothing further from the truth, especially when it comes to the complex CAD software that modern companies use. Every dollar spent to properly train your employees will be returned to you, multiplied, in as little as two or three months. That is an ROI that cannot be ignored by companies that wish to survive. During bad economic times when the workload is slow, it is very difficult to justify spending money to properly train your employees. After all, no one can predict the future or just when the recession will end.

Getting training during the recession does not mean spending a lot of money. I do training for a living, and I have reduced my training prices by 40 percent during this recession, just to keep my head above water. I've even gone so far as to introduce payment plans that reduce the company's cash flow to a minimum.

There is absolutely no excuse for any company to not consider getting their employees trained and ready for when the recession ends. Please keep in mind that I'm not making this statement for my economic benefit, but to encourage companies everywhere on the planet to reevaluate how they prepare their employees for success. As a company you should check out the training that is available to you via the web or locally. Many resellers are doing their part to assist their customers in getting users trained NOW.

It's really a no-brainer decision. If you do not train your people now, then where are you going to find the time to get them trained once the economy improves and you have orders flooding in faster than you can handle them?

Important announcement to all teachers

School budgets rarely have money to train teachers and instructors in CAD. As a result, their vocational programs are severely hampered in training students for jobs in industry. Especially in the United States, manufacturing tends to migrate where there is skilled help. Quite often today, that help is not available within the US.

In the interest of improving the current manufacturing environment, I am providing free Inventor training to all instructors this summer, with classes scheduled for late June and a second class starting in late July.

Any teacher located anywhere can register to attend these training classes for free and receive a certificate and continuing education units for their time. These are formal training classes that will instruct on how to use and how to teach Autodesk Inventor. The classes will be caught live via the Internet with opportunity to ask questions and communicate with the instructor.

All class materials including the training manual will be provided free. The requirements to take the class are simple: broadband access, sound card, and a computer capable of running Inventor 2009 or 2010. Autodesk has free software available to students. Registration is available to all middle school, high school, and college instructors.

Registration for the classes can be found here: Event Calendar. Be sure to sign up for my free newsletter at the site, so that you will be notified of the date and time of these free live web training events.

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