How to audit CAD usage in your office

August 24, 2022

From: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: Use this process to resolve issues and errors across your organization to move work forward.

In the last edition of the CAD manager newsletter, I mentioned having had a great conversation with a few CAD managers and promised that we would cover one of the great topics we discussed. This topic is how to audit your CAD practices and optimize organizational performance. The real question was this:

Our management wants us to audit our CAD usage and practices and recommend how things can be improved. So how are we going to do this?

In this edition of the CAD Manager Newsletter, I will share a summary of our discussion on this topic. Here is.

Image source: WrightStudio/

Start by finding the problems/errors

In my experience, any CAD performance audit starts because there are issues (errors) that need to be fixed. The logical place to start is therefore to identify what the problems are. After all, if you’re trying to be more efficient, doesn’t it make sense that the goal should be to eliminate problems? It also turns out that when everyone is focused on eliminating the problem, the audit has a common goal. The natural progression then becomes to find where the errors are occurring and then identify the root problem causing the error.

To get the process started, here are a few steps that I’ve found always effective when trying to get rid of errors:

Ask CAD users where the problems lie. They will tell you. Sure, they’ll tell you what the issues are from their production perspective, but you’ll have a good starting point to start auditing.

Ask senior managers and project managers (PMs) where they think the problems lie. They will tell you something different than CAD users because they focus almost entirely on timelines and customer satisfaction.

Ask the IT department if they see any problems using CAD tools. They will give you an entirely different view of the matter which will focus on security, cost and licensing.

If you keep track of all the answers, you’ll have a balanced assessment of your CAD problems from all angles. In my experience, you cannot solve CAD problems by focusing on just one perspective (user, PM, or IT), rather you need to consider all stakeholders.

Filter and collect your responses

Now that you have a list of issues from all stakeholders, it’s time to start correlating and looking for common threads. Here is the hierarchy of filters I use with some examples:

Problems listed by everyone. If everyone is telling you that capturing PDF output for submissions is a hassle, then it probably is. Sure, users can talk about standard configurations, PMs won’t meet deadlines, and IT can talk about configuration with Bluebeam, but the fact is, you have some consensus to work with.

Issues listed by users and PMs. If users and PMs are all telling you that sending data back and forth to customers is problematic, then it probably is. The problem could be with different software versions, intermediate formats like IFC, or just data standards.

Issues listed only by PMs. If PMs tell you that meeting customer deadlines is a problem, but CAD users are NOT telling you, then the situation is usually that CAD users don’t know until too late – a simple communication problem.

Issues only listed by CAD users. If users tell you that sending information to customers is like pulling teeth because there’s no standard way to do it, but PMs don’t say anything about the problem, then users usually solve the problem by themselves.

Issues listed by IT only. Typically, cloud application security issues or license server issues that CAD users might not even know are causing them problems.

Obviously, this isn’t a complete list of issues you’ll encounter, but in my experience, it covers the majority. Don’t go any further in your CAD audit process until you’ve filtered and collated your results.

Eliminate Solution Bias

Of course, to solve any problem, you have to come up with a plausible solution, right? Sometimes the solutions are simple (fix a standard, configure drivers correctly, etc.), but sometimes the solutions become unnecessarily biased towards software. After all, if we’re having trouble with our CAD tools, we should probably just buy new software, right? Nope! Let me illustrate by sharing two examples of client audits I’ve been involved in and you’ll see what I mean.

Company A A few years ago, I started working with a client who had recently botched their CAD audit. They decided to abandon the tools they had to seek greater efficiency by purchasing the most advanced 3D modeling and machining software on the market. They spent a ton of money only to find that the new design and production processes they put in place were worse than the old system. They had to go back to their old software and admit costly defeat.

It turns out the real issues they had were inefficient workflows, poor training, and an abject lack of data and grading standards. No matter what software they adopted, they would have the same problem as before because the software was not the problem in the first place. Our subsequent audit brought these issues to light and we worked diligently to eliminate the issues using the software environment they already had.

Company B I’m currently working with a company that makes extremely complex plastic and bent metal tube furniture using just a few seats of Inventor, mostly AutoCAD, and a variety of older CNC and tube bending software tools tailored to their specific needs. They have increased CAD productivity 8x in the 20 years I have worked with them because they are constantly internally audited based on manufacturing errors.

The only thing this company cares about is producing quality products with the fastest delivery and lowest possible error rates. If buying new software meets these goals, they buy and implement it correctly. On the other hand, if using the tools they already have but more intelligently customized is the answer, then that is what they will do. Note that they are not married to any CAD tools, they just use what works.

What I mean is that any solution you come up with should be strictly based on what it takes to fix the problem no matter what. Ultimately, you’ll need to champion your solution so that it’s factual, practical, and results-oriented.

Propose solutions

Based on what you’ve done so far, you probably have a good idea of ​​where the problems are and how you would propose to fix them. Now is the time to put everything together to create a preliminary report that includes the following:

Problems found. As shown above.

Severity of the problem. Depending on which issues are causing the most disruption in production. It’s not what annoys users or PMs the most, it’s what causes delays or work errors.

Actors of the problem. Defines the groups that should participate in the solution: users, PM, IT, or a combination of all.

Suggested solutions. It’s just your conceptual framework for how these problems might be solved considering what users, project managers, senior management, and IT all need to do to solve the problem together.

Proposed costs. What will your solutions require in terms of manpower, training, IT time, software utilities, etc.? Management will want to know, so it behooves you to get a good idea of ​​the numbers now.

Ask for next steps. Since everyone will need to be involved in solving the problems you have encountered, why not ask everyone for their opinion? You’ll need their involvement later, so why not register them now to ensure their engagement later.

wait and communicate

Now you wait for feedback to come in and follow up with in-depth communication. Since you identified the issues by talking to all the stakeholders, you should now be able to start making progress. Do this as long as meaningful feedback comes in.

Once the waiting and communicating phase comes to its logical conclusion, deliver your final report to management and await approval or cross-examination.


The process of auditing your CAD processes requires effort from everyone and a unified push to resolve issues. As a CAD manager, you are in a unique position to collect the data and correlate it to achieve the best possible results once the audit is complete. Just use the basic process I outlined above and you can’t go wrong. Until next time.