CAD Trends and Challenges: Does Your Software Stack Up?

October 14, 2015

If you’ve been surprised any time recently by an engineering change late in product development—you haven’t been in this business very long. Almost all projects run into the unexpected, no matter how much preparation or upfront planning you start with. Everybody knows it, but does everybody do something about it?

We weren’t sure about that. We know that late-stage design changes can lead to a lot of rework, especially in a carefully constructed parametric model. And we also know from previous Aberdeen Research that the most successful companies (the “best in class”) use technologies and processes to meet change when it inevitably arises—so it’s not so disruptive. It turns out that your CAD system can play a significant role in how you respond to those ECOs.

Have other companies learned those same lessons? We conducted a survey of our own to find out.

Very recently, we asked readers to tell us about their CAD challenges.  The survey closed a last week (September 30, 2015), with respondents from 182 manufacturing organizations in 17 countries weighing in. Here are the early results:

What we asked

On this blog, we asked readers to tell us about the challenges they faced, specifically regarding design changes. And while respondents were thinking about those headaches, we asked them to further tell us about the consequences of those challenges.


What we learned

  • About 97% of respondents use 3D CAD software. (We always ask that, just to make sure.)
  • Nearly half of our respondents (48%) said it’s not easy to modify geometry in their CAD systems.
  • Nearly half (48%) said that they don’t easily use models from other sources (e.g., some other CAD system).
  • These challenges led to excessive work (56%), missed deadlines (40%), increased project costs (34%), and delays getting to market (27%).

What we conclude

With so many product developers struggling to make changes to geometry and to use outside data, clear opportunity for improvement exists for many CAD deployments.

Changing Geometry: Late in the design process, little time remains for rebuilding a model from scratch without slipping deadlines. But if the design intent, put in place during the initial parametric modeling, is complex or obscure, the designer may have few other choices. A flexible approach to modifying geometry on the fly would be a better solution.

Multi-CAD files: The ability to use data from other CAD systems may also help teams reach their product goals. In cases where updates come from outside suppliers that use different CAD formats, the time spent translating new information into the existing model could delay release. In markets with aggressive competition or tight time constraints, missed deadlines cost dearly.

Manufacturers that invest in technologies to overcome these challenges are more characteristic of what Aberdeen calls the “best in class.” That is, those who fall in the top 20% on measures such as new product introduction rate, number of post-release engineering change orders, and operating margin.

For companies that lag on those measures, well-chosen new technologies can provide the boost they need to join the higher tier group.

Aberdeen Research 2


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