Project Management 101: Tools for the Trade

CAD and BIM managers have long since been the go-to gurus for CAD and BIM users.  In B.C. times (before CAD) we had Drafting Managers and the like.  Regardless if you draw (drew) on a board with a T-square, use CAD or are part of a BIM team, everyone has to manage something during the design process.  Management isn’t just for the managers.  That’s the way it should be.  Imagine if a designer didn’t manage the design?  Imagine if you didn’t manage your tools.  You are managing your tools aren’t you?  AutoCAD has many Management tools built into it; even project management tools.  In this article we are going to take a look at some of them.

AutoCAD is a Project Management Tool

AutoCAD, or whatever design software you use, is your main project management tool.  With AutoCAD you open and save files.  Those files contain drawings.  Those drawings contain lines and text.  Those lines and text are nothing more than a collection of geometric and alpha-numeric data bases that depict a design.  The user has to manage that data.  The drafter, the CAD operator, the designer, the BIM artist, the technician, the, you get the point.

Along with the data you have layers.  Layers manage the display settings for your line data.  Make sure they will work with other team member’s layers and especially with the company standards.  And please…always draw your objects set to BYLAYER.  There are also Page Setups.  When drawing on the board, some of the first things to do were to place the titleblock and place your north arrow.  In CAD, establish your page setup.  Do this right away.  It should be there in the template file you are using so make sure to set it to the correct one. 

Manage Your Standards

There are many ways the typical CAD user can become a manager.  The first and arguably the best thing to do is to make sure you are following company standards.  Manage your work so that other team members can work with you.  Everyone’s work situation is different and everyone has their own way of getting things done.  But you never know when you will need help.  You never know when schedules will change.  You never know when surprises will happen.   People quit their jobs, or are fired and nobody knows that it is going to happen.  Be prepared to share your data with your coworkers or with your clients.  If a deadline is bumped up you may need some help.  If you have created and arranged your data (your drawings) in a unique way then help could be difficult to find.  You will have to take more time getting your helpers up to speed than if you had followed company standards. 

Another reason is to make sure you don’t look like a fool.  Imagine that you work on a project and do a fantastic job.  However to do scheduling needs you are now working on a different project and coworker is now managing your data.  If what you did was not standard then the new manager may have difficulty dealing with your data.  Is it more likely that the new manager will admit they can’t do the work or will they prefer to blame you for doing things in a bad way?  I bet they will at least lean towards protecting themselves and use you as the scapegoat.  Your boss doesn’t want to hear that you don’t work well with others nor does the boss want to hear you aren’t following standards.  Protect yourself.  Follow standards.

File Naming

An important part to managing your own data is in file naming.  Follow your company’s file naming standards and procedures.  If you don’t have one established make one.  Discuss it with your coworkers and vet out any issues that might arise.  Write it down and follow it.  It may not be company established but once enough people use it, it more or less will be company standard.  Never name a file “new” or “old”.  Once a base file is established don’t rename it. 

Avoid file names containing “revision 1” or the like.  If a revision is to be made make a copy of the file and keep the current working file the same name.  Rename the copied file “version 1” or something similar.  That way everyone will know that the current file to use is the one with the standard name.  The files with the revisions in the name are the older version of our file.  This also makes sure that file references will still work.  When a major revision or change is going to happen to a file make sure to keep an archive.  Just this week I had a CAD Tech make a major design change only to have the client change his mind (again) and want to go back to the “old” drawing.  We couldn’t because nobody saved an older version.  That was poor management of the drawing.

Project Management Starts with You

We all have bosses or managers that we have to deal with.  If you are the owner of a design firm you have to answer to the clients.  You are also responsible for your employees.  The point is that you are never free of responsibility.  It only changes forms and amounts.  The “lowly” CAD Tech is responsible for the drawings worked on.  For the linework and designs that are created.  Project management does not rest solely on the shoulders of the project manager. 

The most basic yet most important project management tool is you.  Whatever role you play in the company or on any specific project, you and you alone will be managing some part of it.  Do it wisely, efficiently and with pride.  Do not rest on your ability to blame the project manager.  Accept that you will make mistakes and expect to improve upon them.  Just Manage.

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