When and How to use Contract CAD

The title of the post is misleadingly simple. The topic of CAD contract work is bigger than just hiring someone to temporarily fill a chair and move a mouse. It also covers real design and problem solving, engineering, human factors, industrial design, even CAD admin issues. But all of that bickering about definitions I’ll leave for another day. I really want to talk about how and when you hire in temporary help to augment your CAD team.

First, why do you need a CAD gun for hire?
1) Maybe you’re just over capacity. You don’t have enough people to get the work done on time. The extra help you need might just be someone to help you do drawings, mass import of data, making PDFs, checking everything into PDM, or do renderings. That’s one level of CAD work. You can probably find this kind of help with temp agencies, or your local reseller.

2) Possibly you’ve lost a key player at a bad time and you have to hire in specific talent to fill the gap. This kind of hiring can be tricky, because when you get picky about who you’re hiring, the pool gets small very quickly. If you get the right person, maybe they will want to join the team permanently. But to find this person, you’ve got to cast a wide net. Headhunters may not have the knowledge of the engineering field to be able to recognize exceptional talent. You’ll probably find someone by word of mouth most easily. Specific skill sets don’t stay secret for long, so word gets around if someone with mad plastic skills shows up at a user group meeting, or maybe at a reseller roll out event. Keep involved in your local CAD community and keep your ear to the ground with other users to find these hidden gems.

3) Maybe you need a skill set that’s just out of range for your current team. I’ve been hired in several situations where a CAD admin wanted to get a project done and also train their staff in specific skills at the same time. It can be tricky to finish a project on time and train several folks at the same time, but you’ve got to pick the right project for this kind of thing. Transferring skills for work like, say, surfacing is one thing. Knowing what types of tools exist, how they work, how to trouble shoot, and the available options takes some time to get under your belt, but the real difficulty is probably more related to the decision making process. Why do you choose this over that. That’s the kind of thing you might want to hir.e in a specialist for.

4) Maybe what you need is really permanent help, but you need a low-risk way of testing the candidate to see if they actually have the skills they claim. Sure, a CAD certification is one way to get some assurance, but honestly, I’ve seen CAD certification tests where you don’t need to even be using the software to take the test. Hiring temporarily on contract is one way to observe the skills close up without a commitment to funding a relocation, or without the possibility of needing to terminate the new hire if they only have 50% of the claimed skills.

5) As a manager, you’re faced with an impossible deadline under the current bureaucracy, and you’re forced to “go rogue” to get the project done on time and with the specific requirements. Maybe someone in the office is just interested in playing political games and you need to short circuit all of that. Maybe your local talent has a specific way they want to do the work, but you know it needs to happen another way (locals can only work in solids, and you know this project will take mad surfacing skills). There’s no better time to hire someone from outside the loop to get it done properly. Maybe you’re trying to make the case to upper management that you need additional skills or training in your CAD group, and the only way to demonstrate that is to bring in a sample of the needed talent.

6) Assemblies and surfacing aren’t the only skills that you can hire in. CAD admin knowledge can be hard to come by. You don’t really get a course on how to be a CAD administrator at your company, and the requirements for the position are different at each company. You obviously have to be a CAD expert and IT wizard, but also a technical writer to write requirements for technical docs, as well as a first class political maneuverer because you’re constantly underfunded. You have to be the local repository of tribal knowledge for CAD and document standards, master trainer, tech support, parent, psychologist, etc…

As the type of work you want to get from a contractor increases in difficulty, you can expect to pay a little more for the contractor’s time, and that person may become harder to find.

Verbal contracts are great, and if you feel like you know your contractor well enough to just use a verbal contract, more power to you. But not everyone is 100% reliable. You really need to lay out the expectations. Is this at your facility or remote? If you have a crazy policy like paying net 60 or even 90, you need to state that right up front, and get acknowledgement that the contractor accepts these terms.

There have been several great jobs I’ve turned down because of crazy terms they wanted me to agree to. 90 day terms I will reject at every opportunity. The expectation that payment will not be made until the “project is complete” without any definition of “complete” will be rejected. Asking me to work a month in Olathe Kansas, for example, will probably not entice me to sign. Remember that contractors don’t have to accept your terms, and if you try to pull a fast one with small print or undisclosed expectations, your relationship will be a short one. The best contractors don’t have time to mess around, and are not likely to put up with onerous terms.

If you find a good contractor, let others know. The contractor will appreciate that, and will probably be more willing to work with you in the future. Also recognize that at the same time you’re saving money by not taking on another full-time employee, the contractor probably has to work with several companies to make the money he/she needs to keep things going. You should expect professional response from contractors, but please also be a little patient because they have several customers like you.

Come back for the next post, which will be about how to make a living as a CAD contractor.

2 Replies to “When and How to use Contract CAD”

  1. Great post Matt; covering CAD contracting from several perspectives.

    Another hidden perspective is that of the temptation of a contractor becoming a permanent employee.
    Although I haven’t been through this but in one of the companies I worked for I saw a majority of the employees in the CAD and related departments were former contract workers.

    How do you see this?
    Is it easy to overcome the temptation of permanent employment and continue working perpetually as a CAD contractor ?
    What would be some benefits or promise that working as a contract holds?

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