“That guy looks relaxed. what made his life so easy?” – He just implemented SolidWorks and knew how to do it.

Becoming familiar with a CAD system can be a source of frustration and stress. That’s what turns people into bitter old people. We don’t want that. While some may find switching to SolidWorks from AutoCAD or another system a little easier than others, every little bit to make the transition easier is gonna help. That’s where a dash of what-to-expect can prevent heartache and a firm plan can make the process smooth. SolidWorks should make life easier, but where do you start? Here’s how you can ease the tenderness of and make your SolidWorks implementation successful.

Jump in, but watch for rocks
It’s going to feel like some deep water at times, but relax and you’ll find you’re only waist deep in 3D goodness and there’s good ground underneath. You’ll probably want to tear the monitor out of the wall at times. Don’t bother; skin takes a while to re-grow. Call your reseller or go back to your plan. Plan!? Yep, let’s split it into to parts, Process and Implementation.

Start New Processes
You could try to stick a square peg in a round hole, but you’ll pinch a few nerves trying. Your processes, procedures, formats, numbering systems, etc. may be in need of an overhaul. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen is trying to get procedures used for 2D implemented into 3D. It takes just as much time, if not more, as creating new ones. You don’t need to start from scratch. Here are some best practice guidelines.

  • Evaluate old process
  • Keep numbering simple
  • Main number for drawing (ex. 0000X000)
  • Dash numbers for parts and assemblies. (ex. 000X000-001)
  • Make list of common Parts, Assemblies, formats, blocks, notes
  • Determine how to handle revisions
  • Determine how to manage files
  • Discuss new processes
  • Establish implementation period (see below)
  • Task appropriate people to set-up new processes

Have an implementation period
Does the above sound impossible with your schedule? It would be very difficult to make a switch the very next day. You will typically want to factor in time for training, installation, impact studies, implementation, meetings, IT support, manufacturing connection, vendor compatibility, and libraries. Some of those would need to be started before deciding to move to SolidWorks, and you know what is most important from your companies perspective.

Make the implementation easy. Start by scheduling a week for each major task. Shift it if you need to. It’s very feasible you can be up and running in 8-12 weeks depending on the size of your group. Splitting it in phases may work even better, especially if you have a lot of legacy data you would like to transfer over. A simple implementation plan to start off with may look something like this.

Phase 1: Impact (1-4 weeks)
Phase 2: Initial Test Installation (1 week)
Phase 3: Initial Process Development (1 week)
Phase 4: Training (1-4 weeks)
Phase 5: Legacy import and Standards Development (4 -12 weeks)
Phase 6: Process Finalization (1-2 weeks)
Phase 7: Department Installation (1 week)
Phase 8: Implementation Review (1 week)

Set things up for how you work
This isn’t going against the first point. There are minor similarities in CAD systems. You can usually set up you keyboard shortcuts and toolbars to get a similar approach to how you sketch or model. I guarantee it though. After you get more comfortable with a program like SolidWorks and develop some methodology, you’ll adjust how you use it.

Always have a plan
You don’t need a 50 tier Microsoft Project file with every task and detail. Start with some items on a sheet of paper and take the next step to meet them. Adjust where required. Just having a sheet up in front of you to remind you where you’re at and what is next can alleviate a lot of question from management. If people know what you’re doing, it can keep you from getting sidetracked with other work they think you’re responsible for.

Keep it simple
The above guidelines may seem pretty simple. You may have more or less in your processes or implementation list. The point of this is to get you started and give you some direction into what to expect. Should it be this simple though? What do you think?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.