CAD Standards, Part 1: Getting Started

12 Jun, 2007 By: Robert Green

You know that standards constitute an important element of your business, but you may have to convince upper management.

As promised in the last issue of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'm embarking on a multipart series on the topic of CAD standards. My intent is to break the concept of CAD standards into its core components and cover the topic from the beginning through implementation with an emphasis on helping CAD managers stay sane during the process. Along the way I encourage your feedback and questions via email.

So let’s start by looking at the entire process of implementing CAD standards and examining why we even need CAD standards in the first place.

Why Do We Need Standards?
I once attended a meeting with a staff CAD manager who was trying to make the case for AutoCAD standards to his senior management. When the question of why CAD standards were needed at all came up, here is what the CAD manager said:

“We need CAD standards because our users are continually putting geometry on the wrong layer, which causes the BYLAYER color relationships in our plotting scripts to produce plots with the wrong line weights. Further, many of our users routinely explode title blocks, which not only loses embedded attribute information but forces the underlying geometry back onto layer zero which further hampers our plot scripting routines.”

I understood what was said, and I’m sure you do, too, but the blank stares coming from the senior management staff made it obvious that they had no clue about what was said. Simply put, the CAD manager in question tried to explain the standards problem using AutoCAD-driven technical language that his senior managers didn’t speak or understand. And because they didn’t understand, the question of why CAD standards are required was never answered.

My Clarification
Seeing the blank stares and sensing that the situation was not moving along well, I jumped in and explained the situation like this:

“What your CAD manager is trying to say is that he has automated the plotting process to make things very efficient and save you labor on all your CAD jobs. When users don’t follow his standards, it often makes the plotting routines fail and costs a lot of time and money in rework. The reason you need CAD standards is to achieve consistency and save money.”

The positive looks I received from the senior management staff led to a detailed conversation about other ways in which CAD standards might generate savings for the company. Please note the following:

  • I positioned CAD standards as a business process.
  • I positioned CAD standards as something that can save money.
  • I positioned following CAD standards as a way to achieve the savings.

Believe me when I say that until your senior management understands that CAD standards make them money, they won’t see the value in them, nor will they help you enforce them. So before you do anything else on the topic of standards, you must make sure that your management understands why adhering to standards works to their advantage.

Making a List
Now that you’ve got a handle on how to explain the need for CAD standards, you need to list the things that should be addressed in your CAD standards. The first pass through creating the list is essentially a brainstorming session with high-level concepts, as in the following example:

  • Implement vendor CAD standards
  • Implement standardized block/detail libraries
  • Revise/implement title blocks to new standards

Now Expand the List
Now you simply expand your list to address the technical issues for each item like this:

  • Implement vendor CAD standards
    • CAD file versions and formats
    • Policy on use of object enablers for DWG products
    • Creation of template files for vendor usage
    • Define acceptable delivery formats
    • Implement standard transmittal letter forms for vendors

  • Implement standardized block/detail libraries
    • Organize paths
    • Create PDF documents with block pictures/names
    • Create tool palettes to insert standard blocks/details
    • Conduct user training

  • Revise/implement title blocks to new standards
    • Reformat for metric compliance
    • Relayer to allow for better visual control
    • Conduct user training

Selling the List
Now that you know what you need to standardize and what technical tasks must be performed, it’s time to think about explaining the concept to your senior management in the sort of financial terms I used in my initial example. Below are some examples you can use as a reference.

Implement vendor CAD standards. We need to make sure our vendors are sending us CAD information we can actually use. Right now we spend a lot of time reformatting CAD files from our vendors. This costs us a substantial amount of labor (an estimate of hours would be helpful here), thus robbing us of potential profit. By giving the vendors standards tools they can use, we’ll make it easy for them to use our standards and will give us the leverage we need to enforce the standards later if needed.

Implement standardized block/detail libraries. Right now our CAD users spend a lot of time (again, an estimate of hours would help) just trying to find the right details and symbology that our customers expect us to use. If you’ll allow me to get things organized and then briefly train our users on the new structure, we’ll save time and money while achieving more consistent drawing results.

Revise/implement title blocks to new standards. Since we’re now working with partner companies in the United Kingdom and Germany, metric compliance is a big issue, and we presently rework our drawings to fit on metric-style paper layouts. If you’ll allow me to rework our standards, we’ll be able to easily toggle from imperial to metric layouts and save our users lots of time and rework, thus saving our company money.

You're on Your Way
I hope you’re now moving forward on the path of making your senior management understand the real reason why CAD standards are so valuable. If you’ve created your standards lists as I’ve recommended, you should also be well on the way to really understanding what your standards will involve and how to sell those concepts to users and senior managers alike.

In the next installment of CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll expand on the concept of building a standards list by giving you a way to think about standards from a process point of view rather than technical jargon. I think you’ll find that focusing on process will allow you to make an even more profound connection with your senior management and engage your users at the same time. Until then.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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