Can You Take on New CAD Software Without Tanking Productivity?

While keeping your CAD software current provides a clear advantage to design teams, many companies avoid upgrades or new CAD systems. We talked about their reasons in the recent post, Too Lean to Learn.

It turns out that while subscription licensing has taken the high costs out of switching or upgrading software, many manufacturers may still stick to their old tools. Why? They don’t want the disruption of training staff on the new technologies.

In his eBook, Switching CAD, Sustaining Productivity, Chad Jackson explains, “Years ago, practically every user got up to speed on a new CAD application by attending instructor-led training for at least a week, if not longer. While such training is valuable, work tends to pile up back at the office while employees are in class.”


Chad Jackson, Lifecycle Insights

However, now Jackson says training has changed enough that it’s time to rethink everything you thought you knew about adopting new software tools.

[Find out more about eLearning options available with PTC subscription licensing. Get 40 hours PTC University eLearning free with any subscription package.]

Traditional learning defined

Most of us have spent time learning in a training classroom like the one below.


Honou via Flickr – Traditional learning environments have advantages and disadvantages.

In these fluorescent-lit rooms, an instructor presents standardized content. There might be time for Q & A or a discussion, but most of the course and exercises are prepared well in advance, often being delivered the same way time and again, no matter the location or students.

When the week is over, everyone goes home, arms loaded with notebooks full of back up material. If additional questions arise, see the online help.

Sounds time consuming, but Jackson says there’s a good reason this model of learning has been so popular….

Traditional learning approaches work. “Most notably, they are proven to be successful,” writes Jackson. “They have been iterated and honed to meet the needs of new users, often over the course of years.”

Unless, of course, they don’t. But it turns out, classroom isn’t for everyone. Think of team members who won’t use many of the CAD system’s features, but still need occasional access to the system—a technical writer who just needs an image of a model. What about the person in purchasing who only needs to check the bill of materials for a product, but will never design models.

Give them all a week of training, and it’s easy to see why getting everyone up to speed on a new system is such a productivity sink.

“Different roles use CAD applications in different ways,” says Jackson. “Yet, with standardized training and learning approaches, you receive the same stock educational materials and exercises.

Learning isn’t what it used to be…and that’s good news

Here’s why Jackson says switching and upgrading aren’t as disruptive as they used to be:

CAD is easier to use now. A new CAD system likely won’t require as much training as it would have in the past. Many current software development teams have specialists who focus on the system’s design. They are trained in user experience (UX) methods and specialize in developing intuitive, easy-to-use features.

Learning tools are more flexible, too. Classroom learning is still valuable, but for those who can’t get away from the office, options are abundant:

  • Multimedia, online: The popularity of YouTube tutorials, search engines, forums, and sites like Wikipedia speak volumes about how people learn today. With multimedia online content, users get the content they want to learn in the format that they want to learn it.
  • Self-paced, web-based courses: These courses are perfect for teams who don’t have bandwidth to leave the office and attend training. These self-paced, web-based courses with multimedia content make it more likely that any type of user will be able to master content.
  • Context-sensitive help: Online help today often now delivers help for just the system screen you happen to be working on. This saves the user time by eliminating the need to pick relevant search terms.

With this abundance of materials, everyone can advance at their own pace, on a timeline that fits their work schedule, says Jackson.


Wolfgang Greller via Flickr – Web-based training allows learners to access content related to parts of the system they access.

Progressive learning with PTC University

Jackson calls these new approaches “progressive learning,” and you can see many examples available from PTC University. Users can freely access content specific to the task they need to accomplish.

PTC has Help Center pages online, short demo videos on the PTC University Learning Exchange, and numerous tutorials on YouTube. For example, this 4-minute video shows how to choose the best analysis for a model simulation in the most recent release of PTC Creo.

Even more online content is in place, and up to 40 hours free, for subscription users.

For many current PTC Creo users, a few videos are all they need to move to a new version of their software.

Leaving behind the old CAD system? Find a supportive training environment

“Traditional learning and support approaches are tried and true,” says Jackson. “However, a big project like switching to a different CAD application has specific challenges that call for new ways of learning to bring the users up to speed.”

[Find out more about eLearning options available with PTC subscription licensing. Get 40 hours PTC University eLearning free with any subscription package.]

Watch this space for part three of this series, in which you’ll hear guidance from Jackson meant especially for managers.

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