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Cadtest provides a way to measure standards nationwide. With 40 per cent of CAD users scoring below average, training could pay dividends

With inefficiency costing the construction industry £3 billion in 2004, and rising, it is not surprising pressure is coming from Government and major clients to improve performance. It would seem there are four key areas to master on the road to improved performance:

laccurately 'measuring and benchmarking performance';

lsetting 'clear and measurable objectives';

linvesting in training - 'training and quality are inextricably interlinked';

ldeveloping a culture of 'continuous improvement'.

With so much focus on the front-end design process, and particularly on inefficient CAD productivity, forward-thinking practices have already started to take action and apply these principles.

To measure and continuously improve their CAD performance, many are adopting cadtest. This is a software tool, developed for - and with - some of the UK's leading practices, that can assess a CAD operator's aptitude automatically, by analysing speed, accuracy and the ability to follow instructions during a live drawing exercise. May 2004 sees the release of the latest version of the software, cadtest v4.

Cadtest encompasses the four principles for improved performance outlined above, and also addresses several other issues:

lthat CAD skills and standards vary greatly across the industry;

lthe absence of an industry standard for comparisons;

lthe difficulty of assessing CAD ability accurately;

lthe element of risk involved in the recruitment of unproven CAD personnel;

lthe difficulty of developing guidelines for an effective training strategy.

The advent of lobbyist organisations such as the Clients' Round Table and Clients' Charter means that standing still is not an option. More than £15 billion in tenders over the next five years are at stake. Three of the four main areas in which these organisations want to see improvement reflect what cadtest has illustrated:

lreporting of performance and demonstration of continuous improvement;

lneed for measurement and training;

lraising performance.

The current national average score of 72 per cent shows there is plenty of scope for improvement.With 75 per cent of work produced on CAD, and 40 per cent of CAD users being below average on even basic skills, this improvement should have a dramatic effect.

The research has been done; the mechanism to deliver is available.Clients are telling us what they want and are backing their words with action. For more information contact your preferred reseller (details overleaf) or go to www. cadtest. com.

How does the test work?

The latest v4 software is compatible with all AutoCAD releases from 2002 to 2005, including ADT 4 and LT.A Microstation version is planned for later this year.

The test is straightforward. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes and questions the key basic AutoCAD commands in 10 live drawing exercises. These can be varied to ensure a person should never sit the same test twice.

lExercise 1: Lines lExercise 2: Sheet set-up / Xrefs lExercise 3: Circles lExercise 4: Text lExercise 5: Blocks lExercise 6: Dimensions lExercise 7: Integration lExercise 8: Layers lExercise 9: Variables lExercise 10: UCS The cadtest benchmark Once an operator has completed the test, a certificate shows their performance in each of the 10 areas.

Results are collated automatically to produce the national benchmark, which creates the industry standard. By comparing individual results against the national average, meaningful objectives can be put into effect to increase standards and productivity. The national benchmark is hosted by The Architects' Journal at www. ajplus. co. uk/benchmark.

Because cadtest makes it possible to gain an accurate assessment of CAD productivity, we can then calculate the effect this will have on the bottom line. It is easy to show that a mere 1 per cent increase in performance will add 2.4 days productivity per person per year!

For the first time - through cadtest's detailed feedback report - an organisation can have access to a full overview of its entire CAD team, including an accurate assessment of where strengths and weaknesses lie (see below).

June sees the introduction of a webenabled facility, called mycadtest, that allows an organisation to view immediately the performances of its CAD team members - and how they improve over time. Multioffice comparisons are possible, together with detailed year on year summaries of how the company has performed (see chart below).

Making use of measurement Having all this information is fine, but how do you use it to maximise your performance?

Together with leading training partners, cadtest offers a simple process to help a business develop its CAD skills through a continuous improvement system. We call the system 'act': assess, compare and train.

Assess Use cadtest to assess your CAD staff. Identify specific strengths and weaknesses both individually and across the company.

Compare Set meaningful improvement objectives by comparing the results against a number of key performance indicators:

lHow efficient are you on CAD - above or below the national average?

lHow do you compare to your competition?

lIs your company offering best value to your clients?

lDo you need to raise your standards?

lHow much have you improved since your last assessment?

Train Having identified your objectives, you can target the most productive and cost-effective training. You can measure improvements accurately by using cadtest's ReTest facility, post training.

Remember that just a 1 per cent improvement in performance adds 2.4 days productivity per person per year. With targeted training, you can typically increase performance by more than 10 per cent.

This means that with a team of 10, you could increase productivity by more than 200 days per year, equivalent to employing one additional person.

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