HP-Z Workstation

Four Disadvantages of Seat Sharing for CAD/CAE

With an uncertain economy and competitive environment, every company is focused on the bottom line. Publicly traded companies have the additional pressure from Wall Street to produce positive short term results.

One of the biggest victims of cost reduction is the acquisition of new and value added assets. Critical systems that are necessary are typically accounted for, but it can be more difficult to obtain funding for hardware or software that fulfills long term needs.

This is applicable to requests for up-to-date CAD software and engineering workstations. Developers who use this technology understand the need to make these investments. However, tight budgets may lead to resistance in upgrading; administrators see an expense they would rather avoid. This results in a lack of appropriate resources for developers to do their jobs.

As a compromise, a group of developers in a department would share a few machines to get their work done. This practice is known as seat sharing. In theory, this sounds like an efficient use of resources. However, in practice it can cause a number of problems for companies of any size. Here are four of them.

1. Diverted Resources

Sharing one or two machines is financially less costly than providing a workstation for each person in a department. What is left out of the equation when evaluating the cost to benefit ratio of buying additional hardware are soft expenses; coordinating how the resource will be shared becomes a new task. Conflicts will arise when multiple developers need to use the same machine. This diverts developers to become production schedulers when their time could be used more wisely.

2. Bottlenecks

Multiple developers wanting to use a machine at the same time creates a bottleneck; one developer has to wait while another finishes a task. For example, a developer may need a half an hour to execute a deformative model simulation. If another developer arrives at the workstation shortly after needing it, he or she must wait until the current process is complete. This downtime affects the overall schedule of a project as the next step of the design process is halted until the bottleneck is resolved. In a just-in-time design environment, these delays can have a serious impact on a business.

3. Loss of Productivity

In some cases, developers will resolve conflicts by stopping their jobs to allow another person to access a workstation. This not only stops the current workflow, but it may also interrupt a job in process that could result in a simulation being accidentally cancelled or crashed. This causes another hidden cost: rework. It is difficult to measure or track the impact that rework creates when an incident occurs.

4. Lowered Morale

Scheduling conflicts can be resolved by forcing developers to change shifts to spread out the demand on a workstation. This may seem like a reasonable solution to management, but asking people to work second and third shifts can cause resentment and a drop in morale. This may lead to developers leaving a job rather than work off-hour shifts.

There’s no question that businesses must be smart and creative when establishing their budgets. While seat sharing may look like a reasonable solution, the costs in productivity loss, rework, and lowered morale end up being more expensive than the lowered capital cost of purchasing less workstations. Taking this into account, seat sharing may not be the best choice.