Republished from my article in AUGI Hot News for November 2006
Many companies have not grabbed firmly onto the need for CAD Standards or for keeping them current. I was looking through some boxes of CAD Standards I have. Yes, that’s “Boxes,” plural. I have collected CAD Standards over the years and have seen just about everything from War and Peace-sized volumes to one-page standards. I have seen some of the best and many of the worst standards in the business over the years.
So, who needs CAD Standards? Everyone!
Here are a few reasons why you need a CAD standard and why you need to keep it up to date.
- Unify output
No one likes to work through a set of files in which one is done a little differently—Xrefs that are set up in a variety of ways or layer names that are “creative” and varied. Working with a diverse set of plans is no fun. Plotting, on the other hand, is unified bacause everyone is using the same CTB or STB. No longer do you have to search around for the file. No longer do you discover that you are unable to reproduce a plot because someone made some special CTB on their local machine.
- Automate routine efforts
If the files are not the same then routine efforts cannot be automated. If I need to grab entities by layer name, then the layer names need to be the same on every file, every project. Having a project setup template or procedure will smooth out the front-end of a job.
- Reduce CAD Users’ stress levels
Working with chaotic files drive people up a wall. They grind their teeth and bang their fists. Then they start fixing things to get the files to work right—what a waste of time. I’ve been there; you’ve been there. It is so frustrating to try to get something done when the files are twisted into knots. You end up using Match Properties on existing linework and just pass the problem on.
- Protect future projects
A solid CAD Standard reduces the number of errors in projects and it allows for sharing of data between projects. We have all gone back to a previous project to grab some old data such as a detail or a schedule. If the data is created correctly, then our files are still okay, but if that old data is badly constructed, it infects our new project and the cycle just keeps on going.
- Automate production routines
Batch processing is out the window if the files are not standardized. You cannot get a blind batch process to produce consistent results in an inconsistent world.
- Get new employees up to speed faster
When things are done one way, new users can quickly catch on. How many times have you been asked, “What is the standard?” because a new employee, or someone new to the project, cannot figure out what to do because each drawing is different.
- Get predictable sub-consultant files
If you cannot get your own house in order, what do you think the subs are going to do? Maybe their files will actually be better than yours, but from what I have seen they usually are worse. This is because you have not told them what you want. And just maybe that is because you don’t have a consistent answer as to what you want.
- Increase client satisfaction
Clients are in no mood to get bad files. Many of them may not know or care, but the ones who do will soon let you know about it. Have you ever had a Project Manager come back from a client meeting and “bark” about the client comments? The PM is not happy when the client complains.
Standards drive the unification of producing files. They also drive the automation of creating data. Of course, they don’t guarantee that the data will be technically correct or interpreted correctly, but that is the job of your designers.
I think standards allow us to share project development better through unified methods, layers, processes, and production shortcuts. We can automate the way something is produced but we cannot always make sure that the data input is correct. If an engineer types in the wrong beam size in vanilla AutoCAD, then the wrong size will be purchased and installed.
So CAD Standards are not a panacea for every CAD ailment, but they do alleviate most of them.