CAD Manager's Newsletter (#445)

13 May, 2020 By: Robert Green

Support Better Workflows with CAD Standards 3.0

CAD managers who get bogged down in bits and bytes without seeing the larger workflow picture will always struggle. To achieve the best project outcomes as efficiently as possible, you must standardize workflows.

In the previous edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, we continued our discussion of CAD standards in the age of CAD Management 3.0 by refocusing on the most basic standards there are: filing standards. After all, if you can't secure and store the design files your users produce, then what's the point of standards at all? But what about moving beyond these basic standards into a more advanced discussion — and how might we approach that from a communications and psychology standpoint?

This time around, I'll provide some strategies for building your standards program by talking about workflows rather than just CAD standards. As we go along, I think you'll see how this simple shift in how to approach standards can greatly increase your chance of success. Here goes.

What Are Workflows?

The definition of a workflow seems to vary, but for our purposes, let's define a workflow as a process by which work moves, or flows, into or out of an office/department. Pretty generic, right? Well, yes, but we'll make it CAD-specific by considering how CAD tools are used to receive, process, and send out design content.

So given this definition, let's consider the following questions:

•  How do we receive CAD work from customers, vendors, and other departments?
•  How do we keep track of everything we receive?
•  How do we manipulate/edit the work to document our designs?
•  How do we send out this information?
•  How do we keep track of what has gone out?

As you can already imagine, there are CAD standards lurking in the answers to these questions. For example, "How do we receive CAD work?" can involve software products, versions, file types, and transmission methods.

Better Workflows Inform Standards

Now consider your workflows from the standpoint of what could be better, and what is broken in your current environment. For example, you can think of the first question,

How do we receive CAD work from customers, vendors, other departments?


How can we best receive CAD work?


What causes the most problems with receiving CAD work today?

Now you're starting to think about making your workflows better by critically examining what's broken (so you can fix it), and what can be done better (so you can optimize it). This critical thought process will lead to better workflows and will transform how you approach standards.

Why? Because you're now thinking about standards in the right way: as small parts of workflows that make it simpler, easier, and cheaper to get work done. Now you've made the creative leap into what standards should really be about! Now you're thinking about workflow standards.

Not Just Standards — Workflow Standards

The goal of creating any workflow is to get things done optimally, right? So doesn't it stand to reason that anything you do to define a workflow should result in processes that use the fewest steps, least labor, and lowest possible rate of error to achieve a work outcome?

Does this whole concept sound a lot like standards? Yes it does! So why not just call it standards then? Several reasons:

• A single workflow can contain many standards. A workflow for designing a building in a building information modeling (BIM) tool, for example, could contain standards for wall compositions, plumbing components, windows, doors, etc. CAD standards tend to only define a narrow band of parameters for each part of the workflow.
• A single workflow can aggregate many work disciplines. Designing a building in BIM requires architects, tradesmen, estimators, etc. to all work in concert. CAD standards do little or nothing to control how these disciplines interact.
• A workflow is all about sequencing. Designing a building in BIM requires activities to be completed in a phased order; CAD standards, in contrast, define how to perform a specific task without considering when it happens.

Think about how your job is really to manage CAD workflows, and how CAD standards are a part of that process. CAD managers who realize that they need to standardize workflows to achieve the best project outcomes as efficiently as possible are on the right track. CAD managers who get bogged down in bits and bytes without seeing the larger workflow picture will always struggle. Read more »

Tools and Resources

ASCENT Announces 2021 Autodesk Courseware Roadmap
ASCENT — Center for Technical Knowledge, a publisher and developer of Autodesk curricula, has released learning materials for core Autodesk 2021 software titles including AutoCAD, Autodesk Civil 3D, Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk Revit for Architecture, and Autodesk Revit for MEP. In total, the company plans to publish more than 50 new titles for Autodesk 2021 software, including self-paced eLearning courses.

What's New at

While Revitalizing a Roadway, Foth Team Honed Collaboration Processes That Ease Remote Work
During the University Avenue project in Iowa, the Foth team learned lessons about sharing 3D models and engineering data that are now helping employees stay productive during the pandemic. Read more »

Pandemic Spotlights 3D Printing's Potential to Change Product Development Status Quo, Stratasys Says
The launch of the full-color, office-oriented J55 3D printer comes at a moment of exceptional supply chain disruption, which increases the appeal of in-house part and prototype creation. Read more »

Sponsored: The Importance of Interoperability in Structural Engineering
If data types and software products are not interoperable, software tools and engineering data become part of the problem instead of the solution. Read more »

CAD Manager Column: Step Up Standards to Fend Off File-Management Disasters
In the age of CAD Management 3.0, are you struggling with a patchwork of legacy and modern file-management systems? Start improving your situation by considering your company environment. Read more »

Latest Revamp of Revit Adds Generative Design Capabilities
Autodesk has announced the new Generative Design in Revit feature, which can create design alternatives based on user-defined goals and constraints. Read more »


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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