CAD Manager's Newsletter (#268)

14 Sep, 2011 By: Robert Green

:: From Order to CAD Chaos, Part 2

Has your company's disregard for standards become pervasive? Try these tips to get back to an orderly, productive workplace.

In the previous installment of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I began exploring what happens when a company allows its CAD management protocols to lapse and descends from order into chaos. In this edition I'll conclude my examination by pointing out more warning signs, corrective actions, and management communication tips you can use, in hopes that you can prevent these problems from happening to your company — or at least reverse them once they do occur. Here goes.

Root Causes

Last time, I explained that the symptoms of chaos usually included the following:

  • "Just get it done" trumps "do it right"
  • Basic file management problems proliferate
  • Standards are disregarded
  • Software configurations devolve
  • Pre-project coordination is lacking
  • It's more difficult to generate output plots, PDFs, etc.
  • Processes that used to "just work" no longer do.


The first three issues — which I discussed previously — usually surface first; they are typically the root causes of chaos I see in the companies I work with. The remaining four issues usually take a little longer to appear, since they arise as a result of the first three. So to examine the latter four, we'll assume that chaos has set in, and now you're trying to stop the chaos and reverse the damage.

A Potpourri of Software Configurations

When users are permitted to "just get it done," they will often rearrange their CAD software's desktop look and feel and craft their own time-saving shortcuts by creating their own libraries (of details, parts, components, families, etc.). I have also observed that many users create plotting standards that bear little to no resemblance to how other users work. In short, users set things up in a way that makes sense to them, with no thought as to how these ad hoc changes will impact other users.

If you've ever received a vendor DWG file with nonstandard layers, a subcontractor's mechanical assembly with a nonstandard coordinate system setup, or an architect's BIM project that uses nonstandard families, you know it takes countless hours to rectify those files before you can work with them. Now, think about what happens when this level of chaos permeates your organization to the extent that your departments can't even communicate with each other. The mental picture that emerges isn't pretty. Read more »


:: CAD Manager's Toolbox: Learning 3D Is No Cakewalk — and I Can Prove It

It's easy to speculate about how long it will take users to transition from 2D to 3D, but how can you be sure?

A few months ago I had a chance to speak with a group of senior managers who theorized that it would be easy for their CAD department to go to 3D mechanical CAD. They reasoned that learning curves would be short and everyone could get up to speed quickly because the software was so easy to use — after all, that's what the product literature said. They also reasoned that almost all the design errors they were accustomed to seeing would disappear, because 3D is so much more accurate than 2D.

I alternated between laughing and crying as I tried to convince them of how wrong their perceptions were, but no matter what I said, it fell upon deaf ears. Then it struck me: a way to definitively prove that transitioning from 2D to 3D CAD takes time, training, and patience. See what you think about the approach I recommended: Read more »

Do you have a question or tip for the CAD Manager's Newsletter? Send it to me at; if I use it in the newsletter you'll receive a cool Cadalyst prize!

:: Resources

Océ Whitepaper Offers Tips for Wide-Format PDF Printing
Océ, a provider of digital document management technology and services, has published a whitepaper titled "How to Avoid Wide-Format PDF Printing Problems" to help users understand the PDF Preflight tool, which can address common PDF printing problems such as missing fonts or images. Registered users can download the paper from the Océ web site.

:: Events

CADWorx & Analysis University 2011
September 19–21, 2011
Houston, Texas
CAU2011 is a global user-oriented plant design and engineering conference now expanded to include Intergraph CADWorx, CAESAR II, and PV Elite. The agenda will include classes, hands-on labs, user presentations, and attendee interaction. Read more »

AutoCAD Sneak Peek: Web and Mobile
September 22–October 5, 2011
Various cities
The AutoCAD User Experience Team is hosting these free, half-day events, which offer hands-on experience, demonstrate in-progress features, and funnel users' suggestions and feedback directly to the team designing those features. Would-be attendees can complete a survey to help determine their eligibility. Read more »

AutoCAD Sneak Peek: Model Documentation
September 23–30, 2011
Various cities
This sneak peek is geared toward people in the Mechanical/Manufacturing industry who use AutoCAD, AutoCAD Mechanical, or/and Inventor, and who create and annotate model views (such as section, detail, and projected views) of 3D models (mechanical parts, components). Would-be attendees can complete a survey to help determine their eligibility. Read more »


For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to

:: What's New at

IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: Create Product Documentation with Inventor Publisher 2012
Even though you may refuse to read the instructions sometimes, they are important — and the latest release of Publisher includes new tools to help you create them. Read more »

Thinkbox's Render Management Solution Helps CGI Studio Burn Rubber
Burrows CGI processes massive vehicle visualization files in less time with Deadline software. Read more »

Circles and Lines Tutorial: Everyday Improvements in AutoCAD 2012
They might not be showy, but these important features will save you time and reduce tedium. Read more »

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

Add comment

Note: Comments are moderated and will appear live after approval by the site moderator.

AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

In her easy-to-follow, friendly style, long-time Cadalyst contributing editor Lynn Allen guides you through a new feature or time-saving trick in every episode of her popular AutoCAD Video Tips. Subscribe to the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter, and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!

Follow Lynn on TwitterFollow Lynn on Twitter

Do you use social media — such as Facebook or Twitter updates, YouTube videos, or discussion forums — for work-related purposes?
Yes, I regularly use such resources for work-related purposes.
Yes, but on a limited or infrequent basis.
No, because my employer frowns upon or prohibits doing so.
No, because I don’t have the time or interest.
Submit Vote

Download Cadalyst Magazine Special Edition