Survey Update Confirms Strong Interest in CAD Data Management

The 2016 edition of the Business Advantage Annual CAD Trends Survey is out, and there are few real surprises in this year’s results. CAD-using businesses are watching the newer technologies, but only a small percentage of potential users are deploying. Meanwhile, technologies that have been around longer are the most trusted. But with the exception of the CAD tools themselves, most technologies used by design and engineering professions have plenty of room to grow.

Four of the top five technology trends, based on both usage and ranked importance, are the same as last year. 2D Drafting tops the charts as a deployed technology, followed close by 3D modeling CAD (which is given a higher ranking of importance by users). Far from becoming the Windows 95 of engineering, 2D drafting continues to be essential. Based on asking the same questions over and over for years whenever I talk to CAD managers, I believe there are 2.5 seats of 2D drafting CAD used in manufacturing for every seat of 3D modeling CAD. In AEC the ratio is more like 5 to 1.


The Business Advantage Quadrant, ranking engineering technologies into four categories based on the results of survey data. (Source: Business Advantage)

The next two most deployed and most highly rated technologies also were in the top five last year. Simulation (#3) has seen remarkable gains in the past year, riding the twin trends of more powerful computers and rising interest in upfront simulation (also known as simulation-based design). The workhorse in the number four position, product data management (PDM), is also no surprise. Companies that use PDM tools rate them of high importance and high usage. The only surprise here is that, according to Business Advantage’s data, less than 30% of all CAD-using firms are also using PDM. It is one of only four technologies to make the BA “Leading” quadrant, yet so few companies use it.

Coming in at number five is CAM (computer-aided milling), which like simulation has seen remarkable growth in recent years due to more powerful computers and friendlier software. Business Advantage says CAM use increased 37% in 2015 from the year before.

Four of the five leading technologies in design/engineering have one thing in common: they create data. Which makes it all the more important to have PDM in place. Engineering data is complex, and growing by leaps in businesses of all sizes.  Business Advantage also uncovered an interesting related trend: Nearly 60% of CAD users are downloading 3D CAD models at least once a month.

Other information about PDM from the Business Advantage survey:

  • PDM has significantly higher use in the Americas (36%) than EMEA (24%) or APAC (20%);
  • PDM use in AEC is still low (15%);
  • PDM use is highest in large companies (37%);
  • Only 16% of small companies are currently using PDM.

To read the full Business Advantage report, visit their website.

Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. More information is available at

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