For some reason we have no patience with getting lines and arcs created on our CAD system. Many times resulting in going down the wrong path with our design. Resulting in recreating way to many things. This week’s tip is to slow down and maybe make sure you think through a few questions before drawing your first lines.
One of the more interesting questions is; how has Autodesk developed to become the leader of manufacturing? For those unfamiliar with Autodesk, the company’s rise and current leadership developing design and engineering software has improved the technical tools and helped manufacturing.
Most people who are in the business of manufacturing know Autodesk created the groundbreaking 2D Autocad, the first real mainstream CAD system. This started the growth and development into today’s use of 3D CAD and CAM for design and manufacturing. From here the company started to go in a new direction. Anyone who has looked at the Autodesk portfolio will see that Autodesk is focusing on providing both width and depth in a total solution of software for their customer base. Autodesk is setting the gold standard for selling and supporting the entire manufacturing and fabrication world.
There are plenty of individuals at Autodesk who have been a big part of shaping this new industry leadership. The engineers who are creating Autodesk products have switched attention to making a better solution, and CEO, Carl Bass, is the chief “user” of Autodesk products himself.
I would like to suggest that the reason the company is successful can be boiled down to three key principles that make it hard for competitors to compete with Autodesk.
1. The products that Autodesk creates are in sync with what the market needs.
So many times with other software companies, the goal is almost always based around the technology first, followed by the question, do people want to use it? Geeky engineers are dazzled by technology at their disposal and often create something because they can. However, Autodesk is taking a hard look at this. The company is creating ease of use software that can easily be implemented either as a total product solution or as bits and pieces depending on the customer’s needs. The engineers are not sitting in deep hidden caves, but are often spotted testing and making products with their creations at Autodesk’s state of the art manufacturing and fabrication place on San Francisco’s Pier9.
2. Offer great customer service and Product flexibility.
Even if you create products that are easy to use, the variety of things that people want to make creates complexity. Because of this, users may need some hand holding from time to time. Besides relying on their big partner network for support, Autodesk has created a network of support in places like social media. Listening to customer request and concerns has pushed Autodesk to be the front runner offering such things as Desktop Subscription (Pay-as-you-go). Big companies might not value this at the same level as small manufacturing companies, but that is not a coincidence as the company is just as focused on small business. If you want to be a leader, it is not just about keeping the stock market happy, but also to help and support smaller companies into growth. Autodesk does many things to push the design world in a better direction. Most notable is their decision to provide all educational institutions with all their software at no cost. This is helping to create an entire new generation of makers. But also such things as sponsoring free workshops and making software free, such as 2.5D integrated CAM that runs inside SolidWorks and Inventor with support.
3. Autodesk stays ahead of its competitors.
Every industry has their giants, but no one looks at companies such as GM or Ford for direction and innovation in the automotive industry today. They were once considered leaders and might still be giants. This should be one of the fears of Autodesk’s competitors. Those competitors are the GMs and Fords, who have spent enormous resources protecting their customer base. When you spend more time playing defense than listening to your customers, and innovate, there will be a point where customers will look elsewhere for better solutions. With Autodesk’s approach, they are building an exceptional set of tools for everyone in the manufacturing and fabrication industry.
Some of these are:
- Trusted, high-end CAM such as Partmaker and Powermill from Delcam. HSM, the fully integrated CAM inside Inventor and SolidWorks.
- Best in class, nesting, waterjet, laser cutting and the magic power of composite from Majestic.
- The only released CAD in the cloud, Fusion 360, a full CAD package including CAM and 3D Print layout capabilities inside the software.
These three principles may seem a bit simplistic, but as long as they adhere to them, it is pretty likely that will Autodesk continue to grow and command a large share of the manufacturing market.
Does it make sense to stuff more power into your existing CAD tool? Most people will answer yes if it will make their design life easier.
Take Autodesk’s Nastran Simulation software that runs inside Inventor and SolidWorks. You get the most trusted industry simulation brain right inside two of the most powerful CAD packages. If your designs live outside a box of bubble wrap, Nastran can save you from re-designs caused by product failure in the field. You can, with a few mouse clicks, get a picture of how your designs react to things like temperature, loads, twisting and everyday usage. It’s much better than the old trick of over-designing: beef up material, and then take a hit on cost and weight.
The fear most people have is learning a new piece of software. I have to admit that I was a little scared when asked to learn simulation. You are not going to find any Ph.Ds in my family tree. Lucky for me and other former C-grade students, the simulation software is in many ways easier than CAD software you are using today. You are really just following the same dance steps every time. Pick material, how everything is being assembled, and where the forces are applied.
Check out this great video where my friend, Jim Byrne, gives an excellent example of the power of Nastran In-CAD.
Where are you now…
This is important! Autodesk has drawn the line in the sand, February 1st. 2016 and Autodesk as the first major CAD software company does not sell standard perpetual licenses unless you buy one of the Suites. Perpetual license means that you purchase the right to use the software, and then can choose to be on a maintenance agreement paid annually. The maintenance will give you support and products updates, such as major product releases annually and periodic software enhancements through the year. Suites is a bundle of Autodesk products, such as Product Design Suite, that has Inventor, AutoCAD and can include other products such as simulation software.
Autodesk software purchased prior to February 1st. 2016 can stay on the perpetual license.
Most CAD software used today hit the market a long time ago when desktop computers did not exist in the home, and the internet was a flaky experiences that at its best served as email traffic and chat room noise. So software companies purchased pretty card board boxes and stuffed them with discs, and maybe if you were lucky, a mousepad and software shortcuts printed on heavy thick paper.
Luckily the internet have tremendously improved, it has made it so much easier to use products and get service. People favor downloading their products over waiting to receive a disc in the mail (my latest laptop did not even ship with a DVD drive, talk about a para-dime shift).
Now, it’s easy to eliminate millions of software boxes that is shipped to people who throw them in the corner of a closet, answer; just make everything a download option. But, Desktop Subscription offers some really great benefits over perpetual licensing. 1st it offers you a flexible pricing, that will let companies pay for what they exactly use. Last month I visited a previous employer of mine and, the owner told me that one department had not managed to upgrade their CAD/CAM software as was planned and paied for over 4 years ago. With the pay-as-you-go option you pay as you use the software. If you get busy you can ramp up on software, and if you get slow you can cancel the software instead of having it sitting on the self. It is like a GYM membership, paying monthly is a benefit when we get further away from the New Years and we might not chase the threadmill so often anymore.
But it’s not just about pricing and shipping DVDs in a box. Subscription with cloud services provides better customer service. There is no need for complex network licensing and home use licenses. Critical software updates are now pushed directly to the end user when available.
This also means that if there is a bug that might only effect a few hundred users at this moment. Autodesk can push a fix that will immediately go to every installation. What do you want, smoke signals, emails or calls from your reseller telling you install new patch because of and issue, or “Yes, there was a problem, but we fixed that for you about 2 weeks ago”?
Honestly, I hope every software company will go to this platform.
Autodesk Product Design Suite Pricing
So how does this work? It is pretty simple, if you need a seat of for example Product Design Suite you have choices on how to purchase. You can purchase a perpetual license (for the near future) paying $5000+ plus an additional yearly maintenance. If you choose not to renew that maintenance, you will have the right to use the product at the software release state it is in at the point.
With Desktop Subscription, you choose to pay monthly, quarterly or annually. If you do not need the software you stop paying, if you need it again, you start paying. This eliminate that you spend a lot of money on software that just like the GYM membership, ends not being utilized. You can purchase some of these options online, but make sure you contact your local reseller as Autodesk is offering flexible terms and programs in efforts to assure that this new style of doing CAD business works for everyone involved.
Desktop Subscription makes a lot of sense to me. Pay-as-you-go, give the customer flexibility on pricing plans and Autodesk can help them by pushing the latest software enhancements to them. Who has the time to check websites and read blogs to assure you are not missing new features. What do you think the benefits are?
Have you ever given constructive feedback that was useful?
It is not easy to do: you have to be clear, convincing and actionable. You cross a social line when speaking up, and you never know what reaction you are going to get. Rejected, reprimanded, you might even feel like you are missing something obvious. And then of course the fact that we might think we help the other person and then realizing that the effort was worth nothing.
But when someone does care enough, true constructive feedback can raise the lid. You’re design might get better, easier passing inspection and lower cost to manufacture.
You can react to feedback by taking it as an attack, deflecting the blame and point fingers around you. Maybe you even point blame upward for not giving you enough time, better tools or direction.
You can also act like you don’t care as much as I do. And if you don’t care, why should I?
Another option: you can even more than than just excepting the feedback, you can embrace it, respect it, chew on it. You can thankfully appreciate that someone cares enough to speak up, and appreciate their insight and contribution. Because if it is true constructive feedback, you’re lucky having that person around, and if you treat the situation right it might happen again.
How can you become a growing manufacturing company? A necessity is you have to be engaged and ready for change. It’s not smart finding yourself in that comfortable groove and stay there. It might make your life fun and fat for awhile, but change will eventually have to happen.
What if your customers change before you? Change their products, their customer base, their ordering system, how about changing their stagnant suppliers? What is going to happen with the new generations entering the workforce? you know they are living a life with technology that changes every minute. They are not as afraid of change as you, and don’t forget they will be your customers soon.
Solution could be:
1, Wide might be better than deep. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, instead embrase that you have people working for you, not robots. Start more projects in your company. With the same staff loosen the ropes, let them be creative, chances are they are more loyal than you give them credit.
2, Being present in the moment. Get engaged with teenagers. Hook up with the local BOCES or high-schools, trust that by you sharing your knowledge, you will learn something too.
3, Change shouldn’t be made for the change’s sake. Change should happen because you care enough to make a difference. For your company, your employee’s, co-workers and the world.
Most organizations go too slow. don’t just work, work to make a difference, that’s what matters.
You have an option to reshuffle the deck. Make your work important and make it matter.
If you are a leader; it’s your responsibility to help get the best out of your team. If you aren’t a leader, but consider yourself a team player; it’s your responsibility to help get the best out of your team. The end goal is the same, so stop looking at someone else to pick up the slack. You are in the driver seat, and you can be the driving force for how your team success.
Imagine two teams.
The first is full of team members who are open with one another, passionately debate important issues, and commit to clear decisions even if they highly disagree. They call each other out when needed, always trying to help each other out, and focus their attention and energy on the good for the organization.
The second is a random group of people who are guarded and less then honest with one another. They hold back during difficult conversations, and hesitate to call one another on unproductive behaviors. Often they pursue their own agendas rather than those of the greater organisation.
The question: What kind of advantage would the first team have over the second, and how much time and energy would it be worth investing to make this advantage a reality?
It doesn’t matter if you are part of a design team surrounded by the latest hip furniture, colors and Macintosh, or if this is a shop floor, blue collar, CNC cutting oil crew.
Building a great team takes the same steps.
When being part of a team it is normal that not everyone is at the same level. Some have more experience because they have done the job longer, some of the team members might even get paid more, but it is important that everyone understand that everyone do carry part of the load. If you do not bring something to the team, even just an opinion, you might not belong there.
It’s not only important to get the team together, it is also important to get everyone looking in the same direction. Your help to the team can be as simple as asking “What is the end goal look like? What should be considered? And what is the steps to get there?”. That question can help the team figuring out how to make the next design project come within budget, or lead the next shipment of parts being delivered on time.
Don’t you hate sitting in a room where you feel someone has their own agenda? It’s important to understand that when trust is questioned, vulnerability is many times the factor. The absolute first step is to put yourself in their shoe’s. If you were that person, would you have concerns? For a team to build trust it is essential that the team gets to a point where things like “I screwed up,” “I need help,” “Your idea is better than mine,” “I’m confused,” and even “I’m sorry,” can be said. Consider it might be in your best interest to lead in this category.
As a team leader it is pretty clear that one of your objective is to get commitment from your team. But, even just as a team member it’s critical that you not only are open to give your commitment, but also seek commitment from others. Sometimes when tasks are at hand that you do not want to do, remembering your commitment to be committed to the team might be the signal to role up your sleeves and get things done.
There can be no question of the advantage of a strong team, but creating such a team is like a marriage, it takes constant effort from everyone involved. If there is a starting point, I would recommend the 6 critical questions from Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Advantage”.
1. Why do we exist?
2. How do we behave?
3. What do we do?
4. How will we succeed?
5. What is most important, right now?
6. Who must do what?
I challenge you, I challenge myself, let’s take “the advantage” and make better teams!
This is not much of an article, but just a short post on one of those strange things we sometimes come across that in the moment seem very difficult to wrap your head around, but in the end is nothing more than a confused state that easily can be explained.
Inventor Project files
Going from being a SolidWorks expert to a Inventor rookie. Well, that is kind of the place I am living these days, and though the two CAD programs are extremely similar and easy to use, I have to admit that I had to stop and investigate. Want to know more? check out this video…