CAD Housekeeping Tips

24 Oct, 2006 By: Robert Green

Clean up your network and send a message about standards enforcement in one fell swoop.

Over the past few months I’ve received a number of reader requests for strategies to use in keeping the CAD environment clean, efficient and standard. Therefore I’ve decided to put together a “tips and tricks” issue of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter to address reader concerns. I hope you find some of my CAD housekeeping tips useful in your environment. Here goes.

Let the Cleanup Begin

First you must find your pain points, so you know which problems to tackle first. I’ll start the list with the most common issues I see in the CAD environments where I work, followed by the impact that each problem has on the organization (parenthetically):

  • Files not in correct directories (causing needless searching)
  • Redundant files copied to multiple locations (causing parallel revisioning and yet more needless searching for the right version)
  • All sorts of ZIP and temporary files in any number of nonstandard directories (causing needless labor to examine the files)
  • Key files located on users’ C: drives (which aren’t backed up and thus are at risk of data loss)
  • Use of nonstandard configurations or installations of CAD tools (which only increases the amount of CAD management labor to resolve problems)

How many of these problems did you have on your list? My bet is several, at least. So even though you’ve labored long and hard to implement standards for filing, xrefs, backups and more, you still have problems -- because your standards aren’t being followed!

So I ask rhetorically: Do you have a standards problem or an enforcement problem? You know the answer!

Backup, Delete, React

Start by using the Backup, Delete, React methodology of CAD housekeeping, or what I like to call the “delete the junk and see who yells about it” phase. Follow these steps:

  • Tell your management what you’re doing, and why, so they won’t be surprised by user complaints.
  • Sweep through network directories and target what you think is junk. (Take special note to find MP3 or WMA audio files, for a reason that I’ll note later!)
  • Copy the junk files to a portable hard drive or DVD so you’ll have ready access to the files later. Do notrely on backup tapes run by the IT department, because it will take way longer to recover deleted files from multiple backup tapes.
  • Verify your backup copies.
  • Delete the junk files from the network.
  • Keep your backup drive or DVD handy for the inevitable complaint from some user who is now missing data.

Teaching While Tidying

Let me point out a few conclusions I’ve drawn over the years about the Backup, Delete, React methodology of CAD housekeeping. What you’ll notice is that while I’m cleaning up the work environment, I’m also sending powerful messages about standardization and proper work practices.

First: If you delete some data and nobody comes forward to claim it, then either it really was junk, or the user who “owns” it knows they weren’t following standards and doesn’t want to admit it. Rejoice because you’ve now got a cleaner work environment at worst or, at best, you’ve also got a user who knows you’re actively monitoring adherence to standards!

Second: Delete all MP3 and WMA files, and you set the tone for compliance early. Nobody is going to miss a work deadline because their space-consuming CD collection is no longer on the network, so there’s no legitimate downside to deleting these files. More importantly, by deleting what are obviously not work-related files from your network, you drive home the point that you are watching and that you won’t tolerate nonstandard practices.

The ongoing challenge now is to delete junk as you find it, hopefully modifying the bad filing habits of the guilty parties as you go along. I can report from experience that this methodology works! I’d also like to point out that the “delete the junk and see who yells about it” approach doesn’t bother those people who’ve correctly filed their information -- yet it punishes those who don’t.

Documenting the Problems

As you’ve cleaned up your CAD environment, you’ve no doubt noticed the types of violations encountered. The key to future success is to communicate the results of your CAD housekeeping to everyone; doing so shows users that you know where the problems are, and copying your management on this communication lets them know that you actually have a problem.

I recommend using a short report or e-mail with the statistics of what you found, the corrective actions taken and which filing standards were violated. The goal is not to place blame but simply to illustrate where the problems were found and document them for all to see. Don’t back down from issuing this report, because everyone needs to understand the problems caused by lack of adherence to standards.

After you’ve issued your report you should find that it will become obvious who created the mess, and that those who manage them may be a little perturbed about the fact that standard practices weren’t followed. In this scenario you are not the bad guy, you’re simply the person who’s fixed things! You can now relax and let the violators suffer the consequences of their actions.

Keeping Things Clean via Standards

Now that you’ve got things cleaned up and everybody understands why you did it, you can keep things clean by getting everyone to follow your filing standards. The question quickly becomes: How do you get the authority you need to impose and enforce the standards that will keep things clean? The quick answer: Get your management to give it to you!

Here are a few discussion starters you can use to get your management on board:

  • Highlight what it has cost in hours (and therefore dollars) to clean up the mess. Do they want to spend this type of money again and again?
  • Stress that the symptoms of bad CAD housekeeping (losing files, improper version control, etc.) are a direct result of noncompliance with standards.
  • When management asks you why there was such a big mess in the first place, calmly explain that people feel free to violate standards because you don’t have the authority to enforce standards or to punish those who violate them.
  • Make your final pitch using this statement: “I can save us money by getting control of our CAD housekeeping problem if I can have the authority to do so. It is critical that my management team back me up and help me enforce the rules, because people will only change their behavior if they know management is serious about fixing the issue.”

If this approach doesn't work, then I'd bet your company has a culture of disorganization that emanates from upper management. However, I have yet to meet a senior manager who doesn’t want to reduce costs! I believe that if you can focus this issue on saving the company money, you’ll garner the support and authority you need to get the job done.

Summing Up

You should now be on your way toward devising a CAD cleanup strategy that is composed of equal parts cleaning and organizational changes to prevent future messes. I encourage you to begin formulating your own plan and getting your management involved to begin building the organizational clout you’ll need to clean up your CAD department and keep it that way!

In the next issue of the CAD Manager’s NewsletterI’ll give you more ideas for optimizing your CAD filing environment via backup and archive control. And be sure to catch the December edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter for expanded results from my CAD Manager's Survey 2006. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

For Mold Designers! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the mold design professional. Sponsored by Siemens NX.  Visit the Equipped Mold Designer here!

For Architects! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the building design professional. Sponsored by HP.  Visit the Equipped Architect here!