Speak another language? ¿Habla otro idioma? latlh Hol jatlh? Whether you hail from Austin, Santiago, or Qo'noS, knowing multiple languages is an indispensible asset. Driven by the growing importance of international business, multi-lingual skills are increasingly in demand to support a macro Globalization trend. But what in the name of Kahless does this have to with engineering design? CAD is the means by which we express the language of design.
How engineering design is communicated across partners, suppliers, and customers is more diverse now than it ever has been before. CAD is undergoing a globalization phenomenon of its own, but one based in technology where a variety of different tools are used for their distinct strengths. In a multi-CAD reality, those who are well-versed in multiple CAD platforms hold a distinct advantage.
A long, long time ago supply chains were flatter, software choices and licensing options were more limited, and CAD was more akin to a religion, you were born into a platform via your first employer and that's where you tended to stay. CAD consolidation was then and still can be a perfectly viable strategy, and one that provides distinct economic benefits by reducing software costs, and streamlining collaboration barriers.
But sometimes the pain of consolidation was too high to bear. Acquisitions especially were particularly painful, where companies would hold internal Thunderdome-style competitions over which CAD system would rule going forward. Users of the winning software would breathe a sigh of relief and continue business as usual, those under the flag of the loser were put at a distinct disadvantage, needing to be retrained quickly.
Today's market is a little more haphazard, but perhaps also more egalitarian. Or at least it's trying to be. Part of that is driven by a higher prevalence of smaller firms and suppliers that can't afford to vertically integrate and mandate homogenous solutions. But it's also driven by newer subscription models that allow easy access to other platforms without long-term commitments. Not to mention the variety of strong modeling solutions currently available, each with their particular strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the best way to accomplish a design is by utilizing a variety of tools, each used for their particular strengths. One-size-fits-all CAD strategy can still work, but especially across a diverse supply chain it's certainly more difficult to accomplish. Nevertheless, it's probably safe to say that the multi-CAD reality is here to stay.
Multi-CAD Skills for the Future
While it used to be that a resume declaring umpteen thousand hours driving a particular piece of software was the unequivocal benchmark of desirability, now a more diverse background in a variety of platforms may be preferable.
While deep expertise is useful, sometimes a generalist approach is more useful. It may not be good enough to be a one-CAD pony anymore. Here are some distinct reasons why:
- With a range of tools in your arsenal, you have more knowledge to select the right tool for the right job - aligning the technology with the project at hand.
- Understanding more than one platform actually helps you to learn even more, because your understanding of functionality is based less on the particulars of an interface, but the underlying concepts.
- First-hand experience with how each tool operates within your workflow can greatly aid you in avoiding Multi-CAD pitfalls.
- Tackling translation challenges is far easier when you can understand the problem well from both ends of the translation.
- Let's face it, on average people are choosing to stay with their employers for shorter periods of time, knowing a variety of CAD technologies certainly opens up your options.
It certainly seems that wielding a variety of CAD tools will be valuable going forward. So many CAD tools do you deal with in your projects? Feel free to share in the comments. Qapla'.
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