CAD Standards, Part 2: Process Focus

26 Jun, 2007 By: Robert Green

Put yourself in your users' place when explaining the necessity of standards.

In the June 13 issue of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I began a series on CAD standards. I outlined how you can get the standards process started within your company. I hope you've had a chance to prepare your standards list and are ready to have a talk with your management teams about the needs for standards. If you haven't had a chance to read the last installment, I recommend doing so now so you'll have the proper context for this discussion.

This time I want to talk about viewing standards from a process point of view rather than a technical CAD point of view so you can better communicate what you're trying to standardize and why it makes sense. Here goes.

Why Are We Changing?
When most CAD managers think of standards, they immediately think of the technical issues involved with standards, such as layers, fonts, format, and appearance of printed documents, colors, etc. We then get very involved in specifying these technical parameters to our users, assuming that everyone understands why we're doing what we're doing. My observation is that, until you explain to people what you're standardizing and why, they aren't particularly motivated to follow along with you.

Think for a moment about being given an instruction, which you then question. Will you respond better to a "because I said so" response or a reasoned explanation of the benefits? Now consider telling your users to follow CAD standards with no explanation of why and you'll start to understand their mindset. Until you explain the reasons for your CAD standards, you won't get much support.

Explaining the Process
Now that you understand that getting standards in place will take some explanation and marketing on your part, let's look at a couple of examples to demonstrate how a process-based rationale for CAD standards can work. Of course these specific examples may not be applicable in your environment, but I think you'll see the points I'm trying to illustrate.

Example one: Layers, colors, and plot styles. Let's say that you're trying to develop some automated routines that will speed up plotting for your AutoCAD users. In the past your company has always used a color-dependent plotting scheme to control plotted lineweights, so you'll have to develop a new standard that will ensure that all the color-dependent characteristics that you need to build your routines will work. Obviously, before your routines can function, users will have to start following the new standards, which will require them to draw on certain layers that will use certain plot styles and certain page setups to route output to the correct plotting devices.

The first thing I'd point out is that many of your users, and all of your power users, should be able to follow the explanation I just ran through. There's no reason not to share this information with all your users so they'll at least know why you're making changes to your standards. Now explain the benefits: more consistent plotting with fewer reworks, which means they'll get their plotting done faster. Finally, you'll need to explain how you'll implement the changes to the standards (new templates, custom routines, scripts, etc.) and give them some sort of user's guide so they'll know what to expect in terms of layering and plot style changes.

Please note that I took the time to build the case for this change in standards with my users by showing them how their plotting chores would be completed faster and with less stress if they followed the standard. Taking the time to explain the process of what would change allowed me to segue into the technical changes that would be required.

Example two: Dealing with file exchange and transmittals. Let's say that you've become very frustrated with receiving and inspecting drawings from vendors who've historically used a mishmash of CDs, email attachments, and even low-density disks to submit files. A more thorough examination of the problem reveals that project managers within your company don't have a standard methodology for receiving vendor files, nor is there any standard language in your company's contracts. With this state of disorganization and lack of technical leadership, you realize that you'll have to become involved in crafting a better process.

This example is very different from the first case because you're no longer dealing with users but, rather, contract specifiers, project managers, and lawyers. The good news is that you can make all the above understand the value and cost savings that arise from well-specified processes. The key to your success in this case will be stressing the following key issues with the appropriate personnel:

  • lowering rework cost (with your project managers)
  • lowering liability risk (with your lawyers)
  • lowering vendor costs because they'll now have a standard to work with (your vendors)

Now the trick will be to craft a standard that will use intelligent network technologies to submit files, or even the lowly FTP drop box. Any solution will require some degree of IT involvement, so you'll need to make sure that whatever solution you come up with will be approved by your IT department. And if IT becomes a stumbling block, you'll need to fall back on the key points you made in the section above to break the gridlock.

Please note that in this case the process you're trying to define is everything and the technical support required from IT will be the only technical issue you'll need to solve. Solving this CAD standards problem really isn't a CAD problem at all, but it is a problem that CAD managers really should take the lead on. This is a prime example of getting outside your CAD comfort zone to perform functions that provide a real service to your company, so don't shrink from these types of tasks!

Practice What You've Learned
I hope you're now able to make concrete progress on convincing your users and your management about the process-driven need for CAD standards. If you take the time to do the prework and use the approach I've described in these two installments of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I think you'll find much less resistance to change and much more support from your users and management alike. And we all know that when users and management support what you're trying to do, your job becomes a lot more enjoyable.

In the next issue of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll talk about some ways to actually create standards documents and deploy them via a variety of written and video methodologies. After all, what good are standards if they're too hard to understand? Until then.

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!