CAD Manager Productivity Hints, Part 2

22 Feb, 2006 By: Robert Green

Arm yourself with these tips and tricks to ease standards enforcement

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In the last edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter (click here to view the archives), I began my productivity hints series by giving you some ideas on how to get yourself organized and maximize your personal effectiveness. I heard back from quite a few readers who said they were starting their own diaries in various electronic formats to facilitate greater personal efficiency. Bravo!

In this installment, I’ll pass along some tips and tricks you can use to ease the enforcement of standards. Here goes.

Tip 1: Document Your Standards Electronically

If you’re going to have CAD standards, you need to write them down at some point, right? Rather than printing them out in a book form that people can continue to ignore as they always have, why not create your standards in an electronic form that people can use?

Here are some examples to illustrate my point:

  • Don’t hand a user a memo that says AutoCAD dimensions need to go on layer Dims in the color White when you can give that user a template file or block that already has the layer defined.
  • Don’t use laborious manual instructions to describe CAD processes when you can create pull-down menus, toolbars and palettes that make it easy for users to utilize block libraries, title blocks and such.
  • Why not provide sample assemblies with standard parts and material types for solid-modeler users to assist them in creating new assemblies that comply with standards? You can use the same logic for architectural BIM setups or style setups for civil engineering software as well.

Sometimes users want to comply with your standards but don’t exactly know how and are afraid to ask. So don’t just tell people how to set up drawings, parts, assemblies and xrefs. Make your CAD installation standard -- and easy to follow -- by including standards in your actual system.

Conclusion: When people find it easier to follow standards than to violate them, you’re on your way to standards compliance!  

Tip 2: Deploy Your Standards via Web Site or Intranet

If you’re required to have a standards manual due to ISO or quality control within your company, why not post the manual on the corporate intranet, accessible via Web browser?After all, there are better things to do than keep track of printed manuals.

By keeping your standards on a company intranet, you set the tone that the latest information is available online and that users can always find the information they need there. When standards are online, users can search them electronically, drill down to the exact information they need, and make any required printouts immediately.

Conclusion: Get out of the paper-management business and deploy your standards information in an electronic medium.

Tip 3: Build a Vendor/Subcontractor Standards Kit

If you’ve taken the time to document your CAD standards in electronic files and deliver them via a company intranet, why not put all those resources on a CD or into a ZIP file that you can send directly to subcontractors or vendors? You want these people to follow your standards, so why not make it just as easy for them as you’ve done for in-house personnel?

My experience has shown that when you deliver an actual set of electronic files to vendors, they understand that you’re serious about using standards and there’s a much higher likelihood that they’ll be compelled to follow along.

Conclusion: Set the tone that standards are important and that subcontractors must get with the program!

Tip 4: Audit for Standards Adherence

What’s the point of having standards if they’re not followed? I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a CAD manager ask that question over the years. Of course, the answer is that if standards aren’t followed, there really is no point in having them. And the only way to know if standards are being followed is to actually audit and see who’s toeing the line and who isn’t. Let it be known to all that you’re checking!

You probably don’t have to audit 100% of the files that pass through your department, but you should audit every user periodically. For files submitted by vendors, you should audit some files from every batch. And for drawings you send to others, you should audit several drawings from each discipline or user. The goal is to catch mistakes early and before you have to spend money to fix the problem.

Hint: If you want to audit DWG files, whether created in AutoCAD or not, the Batch Standards Checker utility in AutoCAD will be of invaluable assistance!

Tip 5: Reject Junk!

If, through the process of your standards auditing, you discover work that doesn’t follow standards, you must reject it. Trust me when I say you won’t have to do this too often once people see you won’t tolerate nonstandard work.

If the violator is an employee, the first infraction should be handled tactfully, with the violator put on notice that future offenses will be noted in his or her employment record. If the violator is a subcontractor or vendor, your accounting department should withhold payment until the problem is resolved.

Conclusion: Rejecting junk is as much about attitude as it is good business logic. You must set the tone that you expect work to be done to standards and that you’re simply not willing to ignore the problem.

Summing Up

In my own CAD management work, I have used all these ideas to set up and enforce standards, so I know they work. You might not be able to use every tip, but I’ll bet you can use most of them. If you feel like I’ve missed a really good CAD standards productivity tip, please e-mail me at

In the next issue of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll wrap up my productivity hints series by sharing reader feedback and providing more tips and tricks in various categories of CAD management. Until then.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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