Spring into Standards, Part 4: Sell, Train, Audit, and Enforce to Make Standards Work!

8 May, 2018 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: The work of CAD standards doesn’t end with implementation — you must stay vigilant as you enter “maintenance mode.”


Audit: Perform Regular Checkups

After all you’ve done to design, implement, and train your standards, are there still people who don’t use them? You bet! Why would people not do things the fast, easy, standard way? That’s a question for a psychologist, not a technologist, but I can offer the following advice to flushing out the stubborn holdouts:

  • Do periodic checks. Tell all users that you’ll regularly check a sample of files for standards compliance. This puts everybody on notice. And once a week, follow though on this promise!
  • Use peer review. Have some of your trusted power users take turns auditing CAD files for standards compliance. By doing so, you’ll send a powerful message that you’re watching, and that you’re not going to accept non-compliance. Admittedly, this is a heavier-handed approach, but one that really does work.
  • Act on trends. Are you seeing the same kind of standards problems pop up repeatedly? That may mean your standard is missing something, or that you should have a quick training session. Do not let these types of issues fester — take prompt action as soon as you spot them.

  • Inform. Users who have troubles using the new standards should now be approached – calmly, politely, and privately – about the problems you’ve observed. Ask the user what is needed to help them use the standards, and chart a corrective action plan for those users.

Enforce: The Power of Dollars

If you’re a CAD manager, you’ve probably already encountered violators who won’t embrace standards, no matter how much you try to reason with them. What’s the best way to enforce the rules on a user who simply won’t comply? Here’s how I do it:

  • Tally wasted time (WT). How much time have you spent talking, training, auditing, and creating an action plan to fix the user’s lack of standards compliance?
  • Tally rework time (RT). How many hours were spent by all parties involved to correct the issues caused by the user’s lack of standards compliance?

  • Convert to money ($). Use this equation to translate this waste to dollars: (WT + RT) x Labor Rate in $/hour = $

You can now state lack of standards compliance as a loss of money, so upper management will see it as a financial issue rather than a technical one. Let’s see how.

An Enforcement Example

I once encountered a user we’ll call “Al” at a client firm, and he ignored all AutoCAD standards having to do with layers, polylines, and associative dimensions. No matter how much I tried to explain that the laser cutter needed geometry on certain layers, it needed polylines for continuous cuts, and associative dimensions allowed us to do quick checking on geometry, Al simply wouldn’t follow the standards. His comment was, “I like to work with everything in white so I explode all of it to Layer 0.”

I tallied up the number of hours I’d spent talking to Al about this issue during a month, and it was 6. I multiplied that time by 2 because both my time and his was being wasted.

      TW = 2 x 6 = 12 hours

Each drawing Al messed up had to be reworked by “Craig,” a laser tool operator who had a very high rate of compensation. During a typical month, Craig fixed roughly 20 of Al’s parts at an average time of 45 minutes (0.75 hours) due to reconstruction of polyline data and relayering large files. Craig’s boss knew that Al was causing problems, but he had no clue it was this bad:

      RW = 20 x 0.75 = 15 hours/month

The labor cost (when averaged between Al’s rate and Craig’s rate) was $65/hour, which leads me to:

      $ = (12 + 15) x 65 = $1,755/month

I was now able the make the argument that the company was spending $1,755 a month ($21,060 per year) just because Al likes to have everything on his screen in white and on one layer. Once Craig’s boss understood this, he had a conversation with Al’s boss, and guess what happened? Al learned to draw on the correct layers without exploding polylines for the first time ever.

What to Expect with STAE

When implementing standards, you will find yourself using the STAE principles over and over, just as I do with my clients. Here are my conclusions after a couple decades of experience:

  1. Really sharp users will adopt standards promptly, if they can become more efficient by doing so.
  2. The majority of users will comply with standards, provided you spend enough time in the selling and training steps of the STAE process.
  3. Some users may require auditing as a gentle reminder to follow the standards.
  4. Dealing with problem users, like Al, requires hard-core enforcement that involves senior management.
  5. Making standards work well requires dedication to making things work better for everybody.

And, finally, understand that "STAE with it" also means persistence is required. At first you may need to monitor how things are going daily, but then you can transition to a more weekly/biweekly format that isn’t as time-consuming for you. If standards are ignored for any length of time, however, users can wind up going back to bad habits — so be ready for a process of vigilance.

Summing Up

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Spring into Standards series, and that you’ve found useful approaches for all stages of your standards implementation. Standards require persistence, so make sure you STAE with it, and you’ll see big improvements in your operational efficiency.

Would you like to share your experiences or comments related to standards? Please send me your thoughts at Until next time.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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