Computer-aided design (CAD) joins the power of the computer with the creativity and skills of the engineer, architect, designer, and drafter. The National Science Foundation suggests that CAD "many represent the greatest increase in productivity since electricity." This article examines some of the applications of this technology, its implications for the workers who use it, and opportunities it may offer for jobs in the future.
Computer-aided design is not a new technology. The aerospace and automotive industries developed their own software packages to assist in product design and development over 20 years ago. And commercial CAD systems have been available since 1964. These early systems, however, used expensive mainframe computers that only the largest companies could afford. But recent advances in computer technology, particularly the introduction of mini-and microcomputers, have brought this technology within the reach of a host of potential users. The electronics industry, from computer makers to component manufacturers, is already a major user of CAD systems, and architectural, engineering, and construction firms are increasing their use of these systems to prepare designs, maps, and technical illustrations.
In the simpler forms of CAD, the drafter, working from an engineer's or architect's rough sketch, creates drawings on a computer screen. The pens, inks, compasses, and other tools used by drafters for generations are replaced by a keyboard, graphics tablet, digitizer, and light pen. Instead of a line of ink on paper, a line of glowing phosphorus appears on a video console. Through a series of programmed commands, the drafter can produce finished drawings in much less time and of a higher quality than those produced manually.
People frequently call CAD systems word processors for drafters. And, in fact, many of the word processor's advantages find counterparts in CAD systems. John Murray, an engineer with General Motors, jokes that, as with word processing equipment, "one of the things that works the best is the eraser." An error on the computer screen can easily be corrected with a few keystrokes. To correct a manual drawing takes much longer. To simplify this process still further, some of the more advanced CAD software packages are programmed to detect errors during the drafting process and inform the user that the data or design is incorrect.
Most CAD systems, irrespective of the particular industry for which they are developed, offer four basic functions that greatly enhance the productivity of the drafter or designer.
* Replication--the ability to take part of an image and use it in other areas when the design or drawing has repetitive features;
* Translation--the ability to transfer features from one part of the screen to another;
* Scaling--the ability to change the size of one part of the design in relation to another;
* Rotation--the ability to turn the design on the screen so that it can be examined from different angles and perspectives.
When drafters and designers do their work on a CAD system, the drawings are stored in a central data base. The advantages here are several. First, the handy reference to previous drawings enables the operator to recall and modify a design whose features closely resemble a present assignment rather than start from scratch. Secondly, the data base encourages communication between the designa and production staff. Working from the same data will greatly reduce the paper flow within a factory or office. Several sources interviewed for this article referred to the paperless factory of the future that CAD will permit. Thirdly, these stored designs serve as the basis for more complex applications of computer-aided design.
These applications generally fall under another acronym--CAE--or computer-aided engineering. Using the same hardware that is used to draft a design, engineers are able to subject these designs to a battery of tests and analyses. The computer enables the engineer to simulate a variety of conditions or stresses to which a product may be subjected. For example, a designer or drafter in the automotive industry may design an axle according to an engineer's rough sketch. The engineer, working at another computer work station, will subject the axle to varying combinations of simulated conditions and weights. These computer simulations can cut the time between design and production; under older technologies, an actual prototype of the product or part would be fabricated, tested, redesigned, and reproduced until the engineer was satisfied with its performance. This reduction in development time should decrease costs and increase productivity.
Another likely outcome is improved quality. Tom Gumbala, an engineer with Boeing Aerospace, says, "We will be able to build a better product because CAD gives us the opportunity to analyze the heck out of it."
Markets and Applications
The market for CAD hardware and software has experienced substantial growth since the early 1970's. The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) of the U.S. Congress states, "Between 1973 and 1981, the CAD system market grew from under $25 million in annual sales to over $1 billion," a fortyfold increase. The years ahead may be even more promising. The Yankee Group, a Boston-based market analysis firm, predicts that sales may reach $6.9 billion annually by 1987, with an average annual growth rate of over 40 percent.
At present, the principal mechanical for CAD are within the mechanical manufacturing industry. Aerospace and automotive companies are the heaviest users, but other segments of the industry, such as machine tool manufacturers, are incorporating CAD into their operations.
Within these enterprises, CAD is only one member of a family of computerbased technologies that is altering the nature of American manufacturing. Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) is usually mentioned in the same breath as computer-aided design. This juxtaposition, CAD/CAM, refers to the capability of systems to design a part or product, devise the essential production steps, and transmit this information electronically to manufacturing equipment, such as robots. These design and manufacturing tools may, inturn, be linked to management information systems (MIS), which enable managers to monitor closely all aspects of a company's operations.
While mechanical applications of CAD account for nearly one-half of the systems sold today, other industries recognize the benefits it affords. For the electronics industry, CAD offers considerable advantages, particularly in the design on printed circuit boards and integrated circuits. The design of these components can be tedious and time consuming. And so many lines and cross lines must be drawn that errors are not easily detected. CAD not only speeds up the drawing but detects errors as well.
Architecture, engineering, and construction applications offer the greatest potential for growth in sales, according to a recent industry survey. Although the construction and electronics industries each represent about 16 percent of the CAD market now, the penetration is far less extensive. However, both simple drafting applications and more complex design and analysis are evident within the industry. Architectural drafters will be able to complete drawings of a higher quality in much less time. Architects and engineers will be able to submit their designs to more exhaustive structural and stress analyses. Piping and electrical layouts will be made easier and the design and allocation of interior space will be facilitated as well. As a management tool, the data base created during the project will provide an effective means of inventory control enabling contractors not only to speed construction but to reduce costs.
CAD is also having an impact upon cartography. Geographers use CAD systems to help them draft maps used for environmental impact analysis and land use planning and for charting landfill contours for strip mining. Some software packages are available that aid in extraterrestrial mapping.
Process industries, such as oil and gas refineries and chemical manufacturers, as well as power and utility companies, must plan, construct, operate, and maintain electrical grid and pipeline networks. CAD makes these complex tasks easier. CAD even has applications in landscape design, interior design, andd fashion design. Some high fashion couturiers use CAD systems to lay out patterns on expensive fabrics as a way to minimize waste.
Implications for Employment
Technological innovations invariably prompt questions as to how these changes will affect employment. Implicit in many of these questions is the notion that the introduction of new technologies will lead to the elimination of certain jobs or at least to significant changes in the way these jobs will be performed. Among those occupations directly affected by CAD, concerns focus upon drafting and design jobs.
Drafting shops are traditionally a bottleneck in many industries. Pen and ink drawings take a long time to produce. Once complete, the drawings must be presented to the engineer or architect for review and analysis. The ability of CAD systems to produce drawings much faster than manual techniques would seem to reduce the need for drafters in the long run. Dr. Donald Hecht, president of the California College of Technology in Anaheim, a technical school that trains students in computer-aided design and drafting, urges a more cautious appraisal. "I hesitate to make such straight-line predictions," he says, "particularly when dealing with computer-based technologies." Hecht believes that the reduction in drafting time and the consequent increases in productivity that CAD affords may foster a greater emphasis upon new product design and development. "I see CAD giving us the opportunity to create more and better products, perhaps even new industries which today we cannot even imagine."
The possibility has also been raised that CAD will enable engineers to take over the entire design process, from initial concept to final drawings, thereby eliminating the need for drafting and design staff. This contention is not widely supported by industry sources. Don Manor, manager of computer graphics for John Deere, says doing away with drafters would be an ineffective use of engineers. "it's the engineer's job to provide the concepts while the drafter or designer produces the documentation. This division should not change."
That CAD will increase productivity is not in question. But its effect on creativity is an issue raised in discussions of CAD's impact upon the labor force. Some people suggest that, as the technology matures, a point may be reached where software packages programmed with artificial intelligence will diminish the opportunity for individual creativity in design. John Duvalle, an engineer with CALMA, a major manufacturer of CAD systems involved in training operators in CAD techniques, rejects this thesis. Rather than seeing CAD as a replacement technology, Duvalle views it as an enhancement technology, a powerful new tool that will enable the drafter or designer to do more creative work.
This appraisal is shared by manufacturers who have installed CAD sytems. Jerry Licht is Director of Management Information Services for Lamb-Technicon Corporation, a Michigan machine tool manufacturer. "CAD is an intelligence amplififer," says Licht. "The talents and skills of a capable designer or drafter can only be enhanced by CAD." Reiterating a theme raised by many familiar with the technology, Licht emphasizes that CAD is simply a powerful new tool that can provide positive results when in the hands of a capable operator.
Some studies examining the impact of office automation on clerical staffs have focused attention on the increased incidence of stress attributable to the use of video display terminals. The OTA study addressed this issue and found that the possibility may exist, but increased stress is much less likely in situations where workers retain autonomy and make their own decisions. Those who assert that CAD acts as a stimulus to creativity believe that stress-related maladies would be less likely to occur among these operators than among other workers.
But the question of autonomy is an important one, particularly as it relates to engineers. Some evidence from cases studied by OTA suggests that jobs will be broader and more challenging at early stages in the design process, but that, farther along, jobs will be less flexible. OTA quotes the director of a CAD/CAM transition team in one of the companies studied, "Once the system is in place, most of the decisions are made. Whoever's involved downstream is working in a much more controlled environment."
The computer's ability to monitor workers also affects autonomy. Monitoring is not a new issue, at least for hourly workers, but it is for professionals. Computer-based systems that enable managers to supervise their operators more closely may alos be used for monitoring the amount of time spent at terminals by each engineer.
New Jobs and Opportunities
Enthusiasm runs high among CAD manufacturers and users, reflecting the advantages of the technology. But, like Dr. Hecht, others urge caution in making straight-line predictions. Tom Lazear of T&W Systems, a California manufacturer of CAD, believes that an increase in CAD sales depends to a large extent on what happens in the economy as a whole. During periods of slow growth, less design work is undertaken.
Nevertheless, the increased use of CAD systems will generate new occupations. Some companies that have incorporated CAD into their operations have begun hiring "CAD operators" to run this equipment. Lazear suggests that the need for these operators may reach 100,000 by 1990, a projection based upon the number of CAD work stations expected to be in use by that year.
Women and minorities are entering this field in greater numbers. Educators who run CAD training programs and engineers who hire workers affirm this trend. Ron Krimper, who oversees the drafting and design program at Fullerton Community College in Fullerton, California, says that one-third of the nearly 700 CAD operators who have been trained in the last few years at Fullerton have been women. A third of those presently enrolled are from minority groups. Rockwell International, the aerospace giant, is a heavy user of CAD. Robert McKechnie, a Rockwell engineer who heads a department in electrical design, employs several women on his staff.
Computer-aided design presents some heartening prospects for the handicapped. Where their physical disabilities may have prevented them from mastering the manual skills necessary for drafter or designer positions, CAD may open the door to these opportunities. In the spring of 1985, a pilot project for the training of paraplegics will be initiated at San Jacinto Community College in Pasadena, Texas. Dr. Steve Horton, Chairman of the Engineering and Drafting Technology Department at the college, believes that CAD offers the chance for intellectually challenging employment for th disabled. "With a firm grounding in drafting and design theory and training in CAD techniques, a handicapped person can be as productive as any other drafter or designer," says Horton.
Education and Training
How quickly a person achieves proficiency in these new tools depends upon personal capabilities, the type of system involved, and its particular applications. Increases in productivity are noticed in a relatively short period. An article in the November 1983 issue of IEEE Computer Graphics Applications affirms this. The initial assumptions of a CAD training program at a midwestern tool manufacturer were that, after 24 weeks, students would be as productive as drafters working with manual techniques. Parity was actually reached after only 4 weeks. Within 32 weeks, the CAD operator was three times as productive as the manual drafter.
For these productivity gains to be realized, operators must receive the proper training. A number of avenues for this training are available.
As with other computer-based technologies, instructional programs are offered by manufacturers or vendors. Vendor training is generally included as part of the package when a system is purchased. Usually, two or three workers receive instruction; they then train their fellow employees. These vedor programs, however, will probably be unable to meet the ned for trained operators; they are also unavailable to students preparing to enter the market. Therefore, schools at all levels, from junior high schools to universities, are incorporating CAD into their curriculums.
At the university level, nearly all engineering and architectural schools offer some courses in computer graphics, and many computer science departments offer electives in CAD. However, only one major university, Brigham Young, offers a bachelor's degree in design technology. Schools in regions where CAD has become a major industrial tool--the automotive centers in Michigan and the high-tech bases in TExas and California--offer the widest variety of instruction. Many community colleges and technical/vocational schools, the traditional training ground for drafters, have begun to offer CAD instruction.
Although each school takes it own approach to training, some general comments can be made regarding those schools which have initiated CAD training. Students are eligible to study CAD only after obtaining a solid base in design and drafting fundamentals. As with any advanced tool, an understanding of basic concepts is essential. It's good job training as well. Over 90 percent of drafting is still done manually, and, while more and more of the work will be done on CAD systems, manual skills will still be in demand.
After a student has successfully completed introductory courses in drafting and design, the next step is specialization in such fields as electrical or architectural drafting. The introduction to CAD comes once these prerequisites are fulfilled.
While a drafting or design background is essential for CAD studies, computer literacy is not. Most CAD systems on the market are "user friendly" and can be understood by those with no background in computers. For persons involved in more complex applications, some familiarity with computers would be helpful.
In some school districts, particularly those in regions where CAD is extensively used, instruction is moving along steadily. The Oakland County Community School District, located in the heart of the automotive industry in Pontiac, Michigan, has budgeted over $300,000 to purchase CA/CAM equipment. Dr. James Hannemann, director of vocational education, says, "CAD is generating as much excitement as robotics, with interest growing by leaps and bounds." The district offers CAD instruction as part of the drafting courses at two of its four vocational education centers.
Litchfield, Minnesota, is another community that makes CAD instruction available to public school students. Industrial arts education is mandated by State law for all students in Minnesota, as is home economics. CAD will be incorporated into the vocational curriculum. Sid Herrick, coordinator of the pilot program, is excited. "It's important that we introduce that kids to what's being done in industry. I feel our program is really going to take off."
Many schools are confronted with the same obstacles that business and industry encounter when considering the purchase of CAD systems--money. Some avenues may be available to counter this difficulty. One is time sharing with local businesses and industries that have the equipment. Time sharing offers advantages to both parties. The students gain familiarity with business and industrial settings, handson experience, and the chance to meet possible employers. The participating companies contribute to the community and enhance their public image.
At the university level, several foundations have made funds available to schools for the development of computer graphics laboratories. Other possible sources of funding or equipment are CAD manufacturers. A recent survey conducted by Computer Graphics World magazine found that approximately one-third of computer graphics companies have contributed hardware or software to university-level programs.
Industry sources say that computeraided design systems have penetrated only 10 percent of their potential market. This percentage is certain to grow because CAD has proven its value as a tool, both in design and analysis. But all tools, from the simple to the complex, need skilled hands to use them effectively and creatively.
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|Title Annotation:||employment outlook|
|Publication:||Occupational Outlook Quarterly|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1985|
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