CAD Management: CAD Right Sizing

Getting things done requires setting some form of gauge on the level of effort and application of manpower to accomplish the tasks. I have seen several processes and projects with too many people involved and too many trying to define the outcome. Getting the right size team or the right amount of customizing or the right amount of standardizing is crucial to making the best use of your efforts. Here are a few rules of thumb that I use to get the sizes right on several items.

According to Michael Quinion’s website World Wide Words, "The expression rule of thumb has been recorded since 1692 and probably wasn't new then. It meant then what it means now — some method or procedure that comes from practice or experience, without any formal basis. Some have tried to link it with brewing; in the days before thermometers, brewers were said to have gauged the temperature of the fermenting liquor with the thumb (just as mothers for generations have tested the temperature of the baby’s bath water with their elbows). This seems unlikely, as the thumb is not that sensitive and the range of temperatures for fermentation between too cool and too warm is quite small.

"It is much more likely that it comes from the ancient use of bits of the body to make measurements. There were once many of these: the unit of the foot comes from pacing out dimensions; the distance from the tip of the nose to the outstretched fingers is about one yard; horse heights are still measured in hands (the width of the palm and closed thumb, now fixed at four inches); and so on."

This confirms what I have always done. I like to think that it comes from the fact the I know that when I stretch out my hand so that the end of my pinky is farthest from my thumb, the distance is nine inches. I have used this for quite some time to gauge distances of things. But I digress...

CAD Support Teams

How do you right size your support staff? How many support staff members are enough for your firm? How many is too many? How many is too few?

My Rule of Thumb is 40 to 1. For every forty users there should be one support person. So for a firm of 50 people, there should be one support person. An 80-person firm should think of adding a second person. But if there are 200 people, then should you have five supporting staff members? Once you get past 100 people then the number could go down to 50 to 1 or even more. If all 200 people are in one building then 3 may work just fine. If they are split between four offices then you might need one support person in each office.

Most who are looking for this kind of information are looking for justification to make the jump into a CAD or BIM Manager role and needed some guidelines for getting their firms to move forward.

Your firm needs to realize that 1 to 40 equals about one hour per person per week of support. Some will need more and some less, but it averages out to one hour per person. This is time spent even if you do not have someone devoted to support. Each user is spending at least one hour of unproductive time per week chasing down some CAD or BIM issue that is not creating or progressing the design. It just happens. So rather than scattering those hours over the entire 40 people, you are just collecting them up under one person.


How much should you standardize? Is a 10-page book too little? Is 50 pages too much? What should it cover? When should I stop?

These are common questions related to the level of effort and concern around developing and maintaining a standard. My Rule of Thumb: Do as little as you have to and as much as you need to. Does that sound funny coming from one who is so devoted to Standards as I am? Let me expound.

There are 10 essential things that all standards need to address. Here is a brief list of the major topics that should be covered by every basic AutoCAD Standard.

10 Essentials

The list below is what I consider the bottom line. These issues need to be fully defined and articulated. Go to whatever lengths to get these outlined completely to provide efficiency for your firm.

  1. Standard folders – names, locations, relationships, contents
  2. Project names – numbering, names
  3. File names – complete definition, how they are created, what folder they go in
  4. Layer names, line styles, pen weights
  5. Pen tables and plotting guidelines – CTB, STB
  6. Lettering fonts and sizes – when used, fonts, style names
  7. Dimension styles – exact names, all terms defined
  8. Drafting symbols – your basic symbology
  9. Xref Usage – naming, content, attachment method
  10. Layout tabs – names, format, page setup

This is just a start, but a good one. Going past this you should include those areas that cause you trouble. If everyone is doing great in one area, you can cover less, but if there is an area that is of great concern go into more depth.

You should review your standard from time to time to see what needs to be included. Add more details where needed and don't be afraid to remove information or requirements that are cumbersome and don't deliver productivity.

By using some of these common sense Rule of Thumb ideas, you can improve your situation and save yourself some time.

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