CAD Housekeeping Tips - Part 2

8 Nov, 2006 By: Robert Green

Combine cleanup with archiving to establish a regular housecleaning schedule.

In the last issue of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I doled out a few CAD housekeeping tips to help you control the digital clutter that accumulates in CAD environments. I received a good bit of e-mail feedback on those tips that I'd like to share with you. Below are some reader responses, which seemed to fall into two main categories, along with some follow-up comments for each.

Reader Feedback: Issue warnings to the offenders before the cleanup begins.

A number of readers recommended that, since they already knew who was creating most of the CAD mess, those users should be sternly warned before cleanup efforts begin, giving them a chance to straighten out their own messes. It seems that the trend was to say, "I'll give you one chance to clean it up and follow standards or I will turn you in." I see no problem with this approach, and if it works for you in your environment, that's great. The only concern I'd point out is that if you issue the ultimatum, you'd better be ready to turn the violators in if they don't comply.

Reader Feedback: I like the approach to CAD housekeeping, but I can't get my project managers to let me enforce the rules.

The only way I know of to make management see the value of keeping things clean is to track the support time you spend resolving messes. Try writing down all the time you've spent restoring backups, resolving incorrect revision issues, figuring out what drawing went where and why, etc. Only by making CAD housekeeping a money issue can you ever hope to change things.

Uniting Cleanup and Archiving

In the last issue I promised to pass along some ideas that should help you keep the CAD house clean while achieving some backup and archiving tasks that you probably are responsible for anyway. And if you're not worried about keeping archives of your CAD data, you should be!

The method to my madness is to use a data management task (archiving) to draw attention to the value of managing CAD data. Once the value of managing the data is established, you use that value to highlight how critical it is to maintain a clean CAD house. And by focusing on value, security and data access, you'll have a great segue into discussing the issues with your management and IT department -- a true win-win scenario.

Archiving, Not Backing Up

Allow me to make the case for why archives are so important and how they differ from the backups your IT department probably runs already. Backups have the following characteristics and limitations:

  • Files are backed up only when changed.
  • Backups are typically captured on digital tapes, which have slow access speeds, making restoration from backups a long process.
  • Since files can be backed up on a variety of tapes, finding files can lead to extended searches.
  • Backups don't capture work from users' hard drives, thus leaving user data at risk.

Archives, on the other hand:

  • Are captured at periodic intervals during a project's lifetime.
  • Are typically captured on local media like CDs or writable DVDs, making retrieval fast and local to the CAD manager's desk.
  • Since all project files are captured at once, they reside on a single set of CDs or DVDs, making searching easy.
  • Users can be prompted to place work from their hard drives into an archive directory for inclusion in archive sets.

As you can see, archiving puts project data under your control (rather than IT's) and organizes that data in logical sets instead of a randomized collection of disparate backup sets. And when you add in the advantage of fast media options like CD/DVDs, the advantage of maintaining your own archives becomes obvious.

The Cleanup Connection

You'll recall from Part 1 that I recommend a "delete the junk and see who yells about it" approach to CAD housecleaning. Yet, to achieve this cleanup function you typically have to wait for a really bad mess to build up, raise a fuss about it and then perform the cleanup. Is there a better way?

By using a regular archiving schedule you've given yourself the perfect reason to clean up project files every time you archive! After all, who's going to argue with the logic behind archiving, and anything that's misfiled or garbage is simply going to make the archiving process harder, right? What you now have is a classic productivity-versus-disorganization argument that you can win! Set up the argument like this:

  • We need to have proper archives to secure our project data.
  • In order to have proper archives, I need to know that everything is where it should be and that no garbage is stacking up in our project directories.
  • Therefore, whenever an archive is performed, I will delete all the garbage and send out a report of what was deleted to the entire project team.

Now whenever somebody refuses to follow filing standards or creates a digital mess, they are impeding good project data control and archiving. I know it may seem a little heavy-handed to do things this way, but it is the only way I've found to make everyone understand the value of proper data control.

Get Started

I assume that you have a CD/DVD writer available to you. If not, get one so that you can create your own archive sets without depending on anyone else to do it for you. Next, perform the following steps:

  • Distribute a list to all project personnel of the jobs you'll archive, and approximately when you'll do so.
  • Publish a refresher memo on proper filing standards so everyone knows exactly how to have their files in place for archiving.
  • Set aside a specific time each week to perform your archiving chores. I've found 11:30 on Fridays works well, because you can organize the files and start the recording process just before heading out the door for your lunch break.
  • Record everything to the archives based on your master schedule.
  • After verifying the proper recording of your archives, delete any garbage from the network (you already archived it on your CD/DVD anyway), then practice the "delete the junk and see who yells about it" approach to flushing out offenders.
  • Keep a log of all your archives and cleanup operations. At a minimum, track the job names/numbers and descriptions of the data being backed up. And keep these logs in an electronic format to facilitate electronic searching for key files later.

Now you've got a periodically scheduled excuse to keep things cleaned up and a notification/logging methodology to keep track of the violators. It won't take long for repeat offenders to get the message!

Sell the Value

Every so often you should remind users and management teams about the value of archives to the company. Assure them that by organizing data and keeping things clean, the company is much less likely to lose money or time to data management problems like file loss. When you set the tone and remind people why your archiving/cleaning is so important, they'll start to enforce the procedure for you. Try it; it really does work.

You should now have a unified game plan for controlling your archives/backups in the context of keeping the CAD house clean. Keep working the issue by using periodic cleanups and keeping your management in the loop, and it will get better. You will need patience, however, because changing user behavior always takes some time.

In the next issue of CAD Manager's Newsletter I'll share some interesting information from the 2006 CAD Manager's Survey. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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