Efficiency experts

7 Jan, 2004 By: Sara Ferris

Early indications show that 2004 is shaping up to be a good year—the U.S. stock market is up, and the economy recently posted its strongest growth in nearly two decades. Instead of a corresponding increase in jobs, the growth has been in productivity, which basically means companies are getting more work out of fewer people. Today, it takes just 90 workers to produce what 100 produced in March 2001.

No matter what field you’re working in, the pressure remains on to do more with fewer resources. In his CAD management forecast for 2004 (Cadalyst, January 2004, p. 30), Robert Green notes that CAD managers must be efficiency experts. All initiatives and purchases must be measured against their contribution to your business. Start with the initial purchase price, and add on training costs, integrating with or replacing current systems, possible impact on work in progress, and other indirect costs. The productivity numbers tell us organizations have likely squeezed most of the inefficiencies out of their current work processes. Any change to what you’re doing now needs to prove itself with substantial, measurable improvements.

At Autodesk University this year, we saw signs that this message is registering with developers. Autodesk is working on a 3D object-oriented application for civil engineering—Civil 3D—that is built on top of AutoCAD, unlike the company’s 3D options for architectural and mechanical design. Accessing GIS data from inside CAD applications is the focus of several new products—the latest, Any*GIS from Hitachi Software, lets you use AutoCAD to work with data from a variety of GIS systems and geodatabases. And 64-bit computing is poised to generate impressive performance gains in areas such as analysis and simulation, or anywhere large model sizes tax current systems (see Cadalyst, January 2004, p. 14).

It’s too soon to predict how well the 2004 crop of new and updated products will fare. Which ones will offer compelling productivity and performance improvements? Will the clamps on corporate checkbooks loosen up? How long before firms are confident enough to start adding back design and engineering positions?

Meanwhile, as part of Cadalyst’s ongoing commitment to help you work more efficiently, our redesigned Web site features a CAD Productivity area. There you’ll find the tutorials for SolidWorks, Solid Edge, MicroStation, and Inventor, along with links to add-ons, reviews, and othe resources. The new site is scheduled to launch on January 7 at the same old URL:

We also welcome several new members to the Editorial Advisory Board.

We regularly consult with these representative from all parts of the CAD industry to help guide our coverage and increase our value to readers. But you don’t need an official invitation to send advice, suggestions, and feedback. We welcome and real all comments to We do forward CAD questions to the appropriate columnist, but the volume of mail prevents individual replies. Instead, take advantage of the many expert users who visit the discussion forums at

Finally, you’ll notice a new look for many parts of the magazine. This makeover updates the design and makes the magazine easier to read. Many thanks to graphic designer Carol Bodine for completing this project in record time.
Sara Ferris

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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