TIPniques: Why Use CAD Standards?

September 30th, 2011

This is part one of a two-part series that emphasizes CAD Standards, what life is like without them, and why it's good to have them.  When asked the question, "Why should a company need to use CAD Standards?" the first thing that comes to mind is "Why Not?"  I can't think of any logical reason why a company should not need or use CAD Standards.  Let's look at what life might be like without standards in this office scenario.

Johnny is working on drafting a large hospital complex, saving files where ever he wants.  A month into working on the project Johnny decided to get another job. Suzy now has to pick up where Johnny left off.  With no standards for filing or naming, Suzy is clueless as to which files are which because Johnny just labeled the files as 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., and placed them who knows where.

Oh, and did I mention this project already has more than 100 files?  Let's stop and take a look at a few things at this point. 

1.  More than likely Johnny had more than one project going on.
2.  How is Suzy going to know for sure she has the correct files?
3.  How will she figure out what's what without having to open each file  individually?
4.  On top of item number 2, will Suzy be confident she has ALL the files she needs?  
5.  When she manages to find the files, will she know she has the "latest and greatest" set?

If I were Suzy, I would probably be close to a nervous breakdown...or quitting. 

Figure A: An example of a messy folder structure.  Take a close look.  It is extremely important to at least make sure each file has a file extension. How is a person to know what file type it is?

If all of these files were saved in a standards folder structure on the network with standard naming practices, hours of time would be saved already just by Suzy knowing what files were current and where to find them all. Not only that, the office morale increases by having happier employee.  Oh, and there is the concept of backing up work.  If the files are stored on your C drive, there is no automatic network back-up should your computer crash. Here are some practical tips. 

Filing and naming standards should be thorough and descriptive.  They should NOT be cumbersome, complicated, and difficult to remember.  For instance, more than likely there is a project number for a file you are working on.  A good start would be to include that project number at the beginning of each file pertinent to the project.  Why?  Have any of you been in Windows Explorer and accidentally dragged and dropped a folder only to have it start moving files on you?  Then you panic by hitting the cancel button only to find out half of your files are gone and somewhere out on the network?  Had the project number been put on each file, an easy search would find them and you could place them back into proper folder(s).  I consider myself to be cautious with files, but have "been there, done that" more than once.  Take that, times the number of people sharing the same server, and things could get messed up very quickly!!

File names can also have a letter descriptor in the name. Within my company, for example, we have different types of drawings for architects and manufacturing since our work is split between disciplines.  We have shop drawings we need to produce for architects/engineers, but we also have to produce production-based files for the plants.  To keep all these straight, we have a separate folder under each project for each type (drawings, tickets, and patterns). Each file gets the job number tacked to the front along with a "D" for Drawing, "P" for pattern and "T" for ticket.  Other pertinent information follows afterwards.  A person not familiar with the project will now know what project the files are for and what to expect when opening the file.  WAY EASY!!  If those files got moved, it wouldn't be hard to put them back.  Do your users have to think about how/what they want to name files or sometimes get frustrated because they are unsure?  Then implement standards to take the guesswork out of it! 

Figure B: 00-0000 equals the project number.  Specific project folders are also in a set standard structure so they are easy to find. Remember: projects can last anywhere from a day to years worth of work!

Start out small and keep it simple. Not everyone will be in total agreement on a standard.  Standards should be set yet flexible enough for users to be able to address all the "special" files and conditions that may show up in a project.  Do what seems generally logical and clear for your organization.  Get management to support your decision if need be.  Since there are so many positives that come from using filing and naming standards, in part two of this series we will look into this concept a little more and discuss a few more points on the importance of standards.

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About the Authors

Katie Miller

Katie Miller

Katie Miller currently holds the position of CAD Software Developer for Cold Spring Granite headquartered in Minnesota.  She has been with the company over 10 years.  Current duties include: policing standards, customization (mainly AutoCAD and Inventor), training, testing software, archiving projects, managing legacy programs, and occasional drafting.  She is proficient in AutoCAD and Autodesk Inventor and has experience with Revit, Navisworks, and Autodesk Vault.

She welcomes any comments and suggestions regarding her article.  Please visit her LinkedIn Public Profile:  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/katie-miller/27/b89/193 or She can be reached via email:  kmiller@coldspringgranite.com

 

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