Expert Manufacturing Advice tailored for step-by-step implementation in the workplace. Small Manufacturers, Machine Shops and CAD Engineers improve and thrive with our hands-on help. 3D CAD Implementation 4: CAD Pilot projects, standardising for productivity gains and rolling 3D CAD out more broadly throughout the business

3D CAD Implementation 4:

CAD Pilot projects, standardising for productivity gains and rolling 3D CAD out more broadly throughout the business

7.   3D CAD Implementation 4: Pilot projects, standardising for productivity gains and rolling 3D CAD out more broadly throughout the business

  • Consider using CAD pilot projects to spearhead the rapid take-up of the design software. Those involved should be design engineers with an interest in both using the software, as well as making 3D CAD succeed in the business. Provide training for a number of engineers rather than one. This avoids bottlenecks, satisfies ambitions fairly and enables engineers to support and encourage each other.

  • CAD Pilot project examples include new products or alternatively developing production engineering items, such as jigs, fixtures and gauges.

  • Pilot projects enable the tangible advantages of 3D CAD to be demonstrated very quickly, therefore winning over unsure employees from across the business.



  • CAD Pilot projects also facilitate a rapid return on investment, as the speed, reduced defects and rapid time to market (and so sales within a given period) can all be calculated in hard currency.

  • As the project is new, there are no concerns about legacy data still in 2D. Everything is generated from fresh.

  • For pilot projects, stick to the core functional features of 3D CAD. These include modelling parts and assemblies, generating 2D technical drawings and BOMs, as well as starting to compile parts libraries to save development time in the future. Core functional features are the key skills engineers will have learned during training.

  • CAD Pilot projects enable freshly trained engineers to practice and embed their skills, becoming faster, more proficient and increasingly productive.

  • Good practice for increased productivity can be established during these projects. For example standard company drawing templates can be designed and called up to save time, as can standard BOM and view arrangements that work for your business (e.g. traditional orthographic views, together with an isometric view in the top right hand corner, to minimise the risk of misinterpreting a drawing by suppliers or by production workers).

  • Again, document best practice for your business. Get into the habit of quickly jotting down instructions with screen shots to illustrate what works well. Consider hints, tips and tricks, as well as pitfalls to avoid – all tailored to your company’s way of working. Documented best practice aids consistency.

  • Start considering Project Data Management issues. These will include model and drawing numbers, revision control, releases and publication (possibly PDF files). Also, controlling access and a ‘vault’ system for checking models and drawings in and out, as a means of controlling them. Your chosen CAD supplier will help with all of this, enabling you to tailor a solution for your needs.

  • CAD design engineers are able to make a flying start on pilot projects, as they build on the solid investment in training. 

  • The timing of CAD pilot projects should be planned, taking into account factors like the size of the project, number of people, skill levels and what else you are currently committed to. Set targets, communicate them and stick to them. Include milestones and hold people to account.



8.   Rolling out 3D CAD more broadly throughout the business

  • Following the pilot project, where the tangible benefits of 3D CAD are apparent to all, start rolling it out more broadly.

  • Use your documented best practice, together with the guidance of your internal experts and any other training you deem necessary.



  • Start with the rest of the design engineering team who haven’t been involved yet. Then you can start moving on to other areas of the business.

  • Different departments may benefit from specific software features or add-on modules. Two examples include photo-realistic rendering for Marketing and CADCAM for Production. Take advice from your CAD vendor. Importantly, engage with your employees in different teams to find out their requirements.

  • During broader rollout, those who started earliest may then wish to explore enhanced features, functionality and modules.

  • As with the pilot stage, the timing of the broader rollout should be carefully considered. It will depend on a number of factors, including the size of your business, prior staff knowledge, training needs, current workload and any investment decisions. To optimise the rollout schedule so it best works for your organisation, factor in these aspects, together with any other considerations unique to your organisation. As ever, tap into the support and expertise of your CAD vendor. Finally, plan with milestones, target dates and progress meetings.

CAD pilot projects


Next... 3D CAD Implementation 5: The importance of reviewing the CAD implementation, overcoming hurdles and challenges


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