Don’t Let CAD Standards Hold You Back

Don’t Let CAD Standards Hold You Back

It’s something, to me at least, that’s just stating the obvious, but so many firms seem to fail the test on many levels. This isn’t just about how standards are implemented, but having them in the first place. I find it hard to believe that in this day and age firms and senior staff are incapable of implementing even the most rudimentary of standards for a design office.

To kick things off, how hard is it really to set a standard project drive and a template of directories? It is inexcusable to have users working on project data in multiple locations and even on their local hard drive. From an admin point of view it is next to impossible to cater for the most basic of build standards in this case. As I experienced recently, when staff are fired on short notice, things go missing or are next to impossible to find.

Below is a snapshot I have used with a number of firms as a basic directory structure for disciplines. Built in with a client and project structure and you have a very easy system to implement. If I can set up this sort of project environment for working at home then it shouldn’t take much to set up in a company environment and WILL save you a LOT of time and stress.

A standard set of project directories is critical when it comes to automation of tasks and CAD build variables.

Before we go much further there is one important rule when it comes to company standards. At NO time should your CAD standards hinder you in using the full capability of ANY CAD package you use. Seems like a no brainer to me, but you’d be surprised how many CAD standards out there actually make life more difficult. For instance, for users of MicroStation, why on earth would you implement standard that negates the use of nested referencing? You’re standard should not only encourage you to use your packages to their fullest, but make it easier for you. Below is an example I’ve used that actually helps users work out what level of nested referencing is required. This naming method is also handy when it comes to automation as scripts can also work out nested level settings from the model name.

3D Model File Naming

The following conventions are applicable to all Master and Component model files. The model naming system is to be dependent primarily upon client or secondarily upon project system standards.

While we’re at it, if you’re a firm who farms out work to external firms, how about learning how to manage and handle reference files and models. The days of having to merge referenced data into a drawing should be long gone, but for many this still persists.

One of the biggest growth areas in the last 10 years, when it comes to client CAD builds, are the introduction of spec checking tools. These tools come in various forms, but are designed to allow the user to check if their drawing conforms to the CAD standards and, in many cases, watermarks the drawing if it passes. This has become important as firms will not accept drawings that fail the checks. OK, I’m all for standardisation, I really am, but any system that actually makes it harder for a firm to produce a drawing is NOT helpful and WILL cost you more to produce.

Case in point is one particular system that allows you to check for MicroStation cells and if the cells are not part of the build then the drawing is rejected. Are you serious? One of the single biggest advantages in MicroStation is the use of cells for common symbols, details and much more. Why on earth would you make it hard to use these? For a drawing to comply all non-build cells have to be dropped before a drawing can be conformed. It also means you have to make sure any 3D packages used to produce drawings don’t use cells in any way, such as the way AECOsim uses a form of cell in extractions. Yep, they fail the check as well.

A comprehensive build should make it easier for external firms to create drawings for you, not having to wait for a cell to be added to your build before it can be used to create a drawing. Or worse, have those symbols dropped back to lines making the drawing a nightmare to edit at a later date. I’m yet to see a build that properly caters for a full library of electrical, PFD and PID symbols and custom line styles.

OK, I’ve picked some extreme cases here, but the reality is these are the norm for many firms I have seen in some way or another. Armed with a little extra knowledge and the mantra ‘easier, not harder’ it should be clearer on what you need as a company CAD standard no matter what the system is you use. Make sure you get feedback from users, leads and if you don’t have one then get a good CAD administrator in who knows your system and how better to use it. Make what you have a pleasure to use and people will WANT to work for\with you instead of the opposite.

More soon.