CAD Management: CAD Border Patrol

I have seen many CAD environments where the firm may not have defined its company border file and users are left to find something or create something on their own.  So often, the user just grabs the border file from the last project, changes a few pieces of text, and moves forward. 

Just like nations secure their borders by patrolling them and having checkpoints for travel, a good CAD environment must check the borders and stay vigilant in efforts to get them right.

The Border File is one that is used on every sheet file and every project you have. Getting it right shows that you really have your act together. Getting it wrong can tell others that your level of quality is slipping. I have been in meetings and have seen the clients name spelled wrong on the border and have it show up on every sheet. I have seen mistakes in people’s name, titles, locations, addresses, project numbers, and more.

Project Managers and those that interact with the client take the brunt of these discussions. They are in the meetings with the clients and owners. If the client is the one that catches these mistakes – it makes the firm look pretty bad. You don’t want to have that happen very often, actually not ever. They can come back from meetings with a very sour attitude.  I have seen some PM’s chewing out their teams for this kind of slip up.

Reviewing Your Border
Take the time needed to fully define and refine your border files.

If you have a standard company border that is used on every project, get it perfect. Review the look and feel issues first. Does it have all the info needed? Does it reflect the current locations of your firm’s offices? Does it look like it was created in 1950? Is it time to change the graphic? Does it reflect the current format of other collateral that your firm uses, like letterhead layout, logos, fonts, etc.?  Make it look great.

Now that the look is defined, review the layers you are using. Keep them as simple as you can. Reduce the layers that you use to the most minimal that get the job done.  Layers are needed to turn things off and on.  If you have a bunch of layers that are always on, consider combining them.  Use color to your advantage. If you are using CTB for plotting, don’t let the layer colors stray from something simple. If you are using STB, then make the colors pleasing to the eye.

Reduce the fonts and linetypes used. Does it use non-AutoCAD standard fonts? Are you using TrueType fonts that may not reproduce on other’s plotters and screens? Consider using PLINE for thickness and not color. Consider gapping CONTINUOUS lines in place of line styles, which can be impacted by someone changing LTSCALE.

Is your Logo an Image? Most CAD packages can handle images, but what if the file is converted to PDF or exported to another platform. I would consider redrawing your company logo in CAD and not using an image file or any fancy fonts. The image files are usually externally referenced into the files and can be accidentally left behind when transmitting the deliverables.

Cleaning It Up
Now that you have reviewed and perfected the look and layers, clean the file up. Leaving artifacts from unused data clutters the file. Take an extended time to get all the junk out of the file. PURGE the file to death. WBLOCK it out to another file. Check REGAPPS. Check residual fonts, layers and more. Check it, Check it, Check it. Clean it, Clean it, Clean it.

Test It Out
After you have a clean file, export it to other packages and see what happens.  Open it in other CAD packages or into a BIM package.  Convert it to PDF or even JPG and TIFF to see what happens.  Fix any junk that may appear.  Plot it, print it in-house, and also send it out to a plotting service to see what you get back.  Contact a buddy at another firm and have them print it out.   Check the hardcopy output for problems and fix them.  Compare the differing hardcopies from several sources to verify integrity.

Lock It Down
Once it is clean (you did clean it – right?), put it into a central location and lock it down. Do not let users fiddle with the standard file. They may copy it into their project location, but they should not adjust any of the standard border graphics or data.

Getting the Border file correct, stable and secure will provide a foundation of good habits that spread to all areas of CAD.

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