Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Migrating to 3D Takes More Than Just Software

So your company has decided to go to SolidWorks (or any 3D package for that matter). You got your computer upgrades, your software, and your training all completed, but you don't have 100% support from your people. Managers heard one thing, "This will let your people get the work done faster." The designers heard, "Once you really learn to use it. . ." and that's where some of them stopped listening. Some people don't like change. It's just the way they are. They may not want to learn a new software, or they may be afraid of being passed up by newer designers. Whatever the reasons you will most likely run into some type of opposition.

I have heard all the arguments already; "Back in my day...we changed a dimension with an eraser in seconds." "This was supposed to be faster, but it's not." "What do you mean the drawings can't look exactly like AutoCAD? We shouldn't have to change the way our drawings look because of the software." and many more. In many cases they are not entirely wrong. Moving to any new software package has a period of learning curve and a period of adjustment. Building a library of parts in 3D takes time. Is it faster to do the project you have in front of you today in 2D because you have the historical files to draw on and copy from? Yes! Will it benefit you in the future? No!

So how can these comments be addressed to reassure management that they haven't spent thousands of dollars for nothing?
- Tackle them one at a time. An opponent will often lay out several negative claims at once in an effort to overwhelm you and others into thinking there is no way out from under their arguments, so they must be right.
- Take brief notes to collect the opposition's arguments so you don't miss any when you have your chance to respond.
- Understand the argument. If you don't understand what someone is getting at, ask them to clarify their point. If they can't their point becomes lost and you don't need to deal with it.
- When you get your chance to speak don't let others interrupt you. It is acceptable to ask someone to wait their turn when you will be sure to listen intently.
- When opposition comes from multiple individuals, be sure to address each individual eye-to-eye when discussing their issues. It lets them know you were listening and you aren't forgetting about them.
- Don't be afraid to confront unsubstantiated claims directly. "The program crashes all the time." 'All the time? I'm not having that problem. Maybe you have a bad installation. I'll let IT know and we'll get you fixed up if there is a problem.' Any extreme is an unsubstantiated claim. (always, never, can't, won't, only...) Very few things in the world fall into the extremes. Challenge those claims.
- BE POLITE and PROFESSIONAL! No matter how upset others may get, keep your cool. They may be trying to derail you. Use phrases like, "I understand your concerns..." and "You have a valid issue, but..." These phases take away the competition in the situation.

Those are some general rules to any meeting confrontation. Specifically you can argue the points above with these responses:
- "Back in my day..." Yes, when drafting was done on the board we changed a dimension and we were done, but the more changes that got made the less accurate the drawings were and the more errors were made in not following changes through all the affected parts. With 3D modeling we can eliminate that type of problem through proper modeling and interference checking.
- "This is supposed to be faster..." With anything new you have a period of learning and some growing pains. E-mail was not well received at first and many people refused to use it in favor of the good old letter. Now we couldn't do business without it.
- "...can't look like AutoCAD?" This is a good one, but remind them that AutoCAD has the ability to draw things that aren't real. Yes, holes can be rotated up into view, but details can be drawn in unmanufacturable ways as well. In SolidWorks detail and section views are cheep to create. In AutoCAD they are expensive (rated by time to create). Solidworks can show more views of an object faster and more accurately and thus make the drawing more understandable on the manufacturing floor. That is, after all the point of the drawing in the first place.

I hope these tool allow you to effectively make your points and keep your company moving forward.