How to speed up MicroStation production — CADsmart CEO, Rory Vance, talks about technical competence and production speed

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Clearwater, Florida, USA — CADsmart, headed by CEO Rory Vance, has created a software tool that is designed to help CAD managers assess what’s needed in order improve efficiency and increase production.


Rory takes time off from helping companies meet project deadlines to spend time with his family (and monkey) at the Rock of Gibraltar.

MicroStation Today: CAD managers are more overworked and overstressed today than ever before. How does your program help with that?

Rory Vance: They’re overworked partly because they or their users aren’t as technically proficient as they could be. The stress comes from having too much to do in not enough time. Training in general can both increase someone’s speed as well as proficiency which handles both of the problems you mentioned. What we offer is the ability to determine what specifically they need training on. If you increase someone’s technical expertise, designs can be completed faster and with fewer errors. This leads the way to getting projects done faster.

MST: How much improvement are companies actually experiencing with your program?
Vance: Our goal, which is often exceeded by our customers, is to help increase performance by just five percent in a year. Research has shown that significant productivity gains can be achieved by targeting simple performance improvements each year. For instance, a target of five percent annual improvement in performance is worth 12.5 extra days per person per year. [Editor’s note: Example given is for 50 weeks (two weeks off for vacation) per year times 5 work days per week. Multiplying 250 days by a 5% performance improvement equates to 12.5 extra days per designer.] For a firm that has 20 designers, if you increase each of their performance by just five percent, the company gains the equivalent of an extra person working full-time at no extra cost. These days, with competition the way it is, that extra person could be crucial to the success of a company.

MST: Can your program reduce the amount of time — and therefore expense — that someone has to spend on training?
Vance: Yes, it certainly can. Training for the sake of training isn’t smart. If someone is already proficient at 80% of the software they’re working on, why waste time and increase company expenses training them on the part of the software they’re already good at? Instead, tailor the training to the 20% that needs improvement. The assessments show what areas a person is weak in as well as which areas they’re strong in. They also give companies the ability to monitor and manage performance improvements. We have a saying at CADsmart, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” At the end of the day, if you don’t know what your staff don’t know, then you’re not maximizing your efficiency.

MST: You call them “assessments” but they sound like tests to me. Most people don’t like taking tests. What’s different about CADsmart?
Vance: A test is where you study something and then find out if you retained and can apply the information you studied. Our software provides an assessment of skills in a live, real-world scenario. All we’re interested in doing is helping to show where users are strong and where additional training is indicated. After someone takes a CADsmart assessment, they receive a certificate with a full breakdown of how they did in each area of the assessment, along with a detailed training-needs analysis. Our software also has a discreet recording feature, so sessions can be replayed for training or support purposes afterward. With a test, you either pass or fail and you either go on or don’t. Our assessment is different. We provide an exact “road map” on how to increase performance and proficiency. This will result in faster production and fewer errors. We’ve found that the combination of both assessment and training can bring about a dramatic increase in both width and depth of knowledge of our customers’ CAD users.

MST: The assessments only seem to be part of the issue. The users would need training as well, which you don’t provide. When are you going to add that to your line of products?
Vance: We don’t offer training nor will we ever offer training. Yes, training is the other element needed after assessing. However, CADsmart specializes in assessing CAD skills. It could be viewed as a conflict of interest if we also provided the training. We leave the training to others. Ideally, companies would use a system like LearningBay, which provides on-demand, tailored training on specific areas. That way, users get training on the exact area that they need training in. Again, the idea is to determine what the weak areas are and then provide training targeted to those areas and not spend a lot of time and money grinding away at areas that a person already knows well.

MST: How often are the assessments done?
Vance: Companies only need to assess their employees and contractors once or twice a year. First, you do an assessment and then you let the person complete some training in the area or areas that were weak. A training program can then be created based on the results of the detailed training-needs analysis. This process of assessment and training is then repeated over and over. The results of the repeated assessments provide CAD managers with ongoing skills assessment of users and gives a roadmap for training that will improve both the quality and the quantity of work produced. It’s a continuous improvement loop.

MST: Can CADsmart be used as a method of screening contractors and new employees?
Vance: Yes. Originally, CADsmart was developed as a way to automate CAD skills assessment for Human Resource personnel. In addition to benchmarking CAD performance and targeting training needs, Human Resource personnel use our software to help determine CAD skill levels. How do you know if a job candidate — employee or contractor — is as good at CAD as they say they are? Our unbiased skills assessment not only helps determine the actual skill levels of both employees and contract workers, but can also be used to negotiate pay rates.

MST: Where do you see the future of CAD going?
Vance: More and more there’s a big push for “sustainability” both in the CAD environment and in the world at large — sustainable life-styles, sustainable communities, sustainable economies. Right now, in the CAD arena, Bentley is pushing sustainable infrastructure. Autodesk is pushing “sustainable design” and has even created a position called “Director of Sustainability”. A lot of factors go into the concept of “sustainability”. But it means more than just being “green” and making responsible choices in materials. No matter how you look at it, creating a sustainable anything comes down to creating a sustainable company, which is built on the individuals that work there. If you empower the individual to be able to be more proficient and more able, then the company is more likely to survive. A community that has thriving companies is more likely to be sustainable than one that doesn’t. The same goes for a city, state or country. At the end of the day, it’s the individual with the right tools and the right know-how that makes the difference.

MST: Thanks, Rory.

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