Article by Avatara’s VP of Sales, Kraig Kubicek, originally published in Construction Executive.
Remote work is the new reality. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 35% of businesses expanded remote work opportunities for their employees during the pandemic. What’s more, 60% of organizations intend to keep them in place going forward.
The trend has touched all businesses, and the CAD world is no exception. There’s a good chance you’re thinking, “but CAD doesn’t work in the cloud,” which is true of most engineers’ experiences. That’s because most remote CAD options available are antiquated VPN solutions or hybrid cloud tools that just don’t work how they should with CAD-enabled software. Working with large, complex CAD files stored on a local server at the office or in some public (read: not secure) cloud is inefficient. In fact, it’s usually a downright slow and choppy waste of time.
The good news is that things don’t have to be this way. Helping the team replicate in-office expedience from home is a necessary step toward making remote work truly feel like the new norm.
Despite the inherent challenges, it’s not feasible to default to only doing CAD work in the office. From employee retention to increased productivity, there are tangible benefits to giving employees the right tools to do their work from anywhere.
First, the right approach can add an unlimited number of billable hours to earning potential. Bottom-line gains are always a great motivator, and if CAD enables the team to do more valuable and profitable work, everyone is better off for it.
Remote work also presents a major staffing opportunity to build a global team of experts. Because these employees aren’t limited by geographic borders, the company’s talent pool immediately deepens. That, in turn, raises the bar for work quality and enhances innovation via a globally diverse staff.
But a CAD vision can’t be just about working remotely. The process has to be efficient, too, because CAD efficiency drives increased productivity—and that’s tied to the bottom line.
Consider the opportunity cost of downtime. This is a critical concern and is not merely caused by latency issues. It can also be caused by an engineer who gathers data in the field and then must wait until they get back to the office to input it. That can add days to a project or even result in lost data.
Instead, data can get uploaded securely and continuously using a centralized data center CAD solution. Any opportunity to keep information and processes organized for remote AEC designers is an investment in setting them up for success.
Effective, secure and intuitive remote CAD work is a challenge in need of a solution. What steps can leaders take to work toward that solution? Here are a few strategies leaders can implement right away.
1. Use the right data center computer
Understand a remote CAD solution that operates in a private data center-based computer provides one critical benefit: the opportunity to improve collaboration. That’s because with all data and workflows centralized, sharing files internally and externally is streamlined, seamless and secure.
However, because all remote users will depend on this computer, don’t set it up as an afterthought. Make it the centerpiece by choosing a highly available, full-motion, non-virtualized, data center-based computer with a CAD-certified graphics card. When things are set up properly, drawing edits sync automatically across the team and users can integrate with AutoCAD.
2. Acquire efficiently deployed storage
Ensure staff can access unlimited storage, so it has use of all computing and data from centralized data centers regardless of file size or quantity. This will be accessible to all workers via a simplified server infrastructure.
In turn, users can forego redundant replication servers at each site and standardize LAN equipment. With this solution, the company avoids creating duplicate data or contending with thorny replication or syncing problems.
Such “data center workstations” are increasingly popular—and for good reason. End workers can be logged in from their own computers but use the GPUs on the centralized workstation. There’s no need to manage hardware deployed over many employees.
3. Be forward-looking
Celebrate the victory of implementing an effective remote CAD system, but keep thinking about the future of this technology. When you consider how CAD software has changed over the years, it’s clear that the current situation will also change. Companies must be ready to evolve right along with it.
One way to avoid falling behind is to refuse to take it all on yourself. A DIY model might have charms, but it likely won’t be kept up to date in the same way as when integrating the system with the wider world of solutions.
4. Prioritize security
Whether the team is working away from the office out of necessity or productivity, know this: Whatever tech they’re using needs to give leadership peace of mind. CAD software and the system in which it operates need to be secure, so the team can work from wherever they choose.
Making cybersecurity a priority can take on many forms. It can start at the human level by educating users on certain dos and don’ts. Instruct employees to only share externally through secure file-sharing systems. Alert them to special permissions they should know. Put policies in place that discourage the team from putting precious data on unsecured devices (e.g., thumb drives) and instead advise them on how to collect their findings safely.
Remote CAD work encourages teams to get off-site and work in environments that encourage focus and productivity. Now, it’s critical to make sure they have the security they need to make that happen. A comprehensive cloud approach isn’t a cure-all to that issue, but it can give the company the necessary infrastructure to help bring the vision to fruition. Build an up-to-date system used by informed employees, so the remote setup doesn’t leave the company vulnerable.