Schedule Tables in AutoCAD MEP
Hello, fellow AUGI members. Over the past few issues of AUGIWorld, I have written a series of articles starting with something basic and building from there. We started by building a block-based MVPart, next we associated Property Set Definitions to that part, and now I’ll show you how to utilize that information. In the May 2013 issue, I wrote about taking our block-based MVPart and associating Property Set Definitions [PSD] to the part. At that time, I didn’t fully expand on how we can use the PSD information, just how to insert and manage the information. This time I will show you how to put all of that information together, using fully customizable Schedules.
Before we begin, I’d like to talk a little bit about why and how this information can be so useful. At the basic level, as a CAD drafter or similar position, we often have to track quantities/locations/information about objects in our drawings. By utilizing the PSD/MVPart tool we have set ourselves up to easily do this whenever needed. We can pull information from our MVParts with PSD using a schedule that we custom make to our needs. At a basic level, we can use this to track objects/devices/components as we are drawing.
But maybe we want to take this a step or two further. Let’s look at the design and development stage of a project. What if we could start with an accurate count of every device, cable tray, conduit, mechanical pipe, HVAC Duct, Door? This can certainly be done using our simple process; make an MVPart corresponding to a device, assign PSD information, then generate a schedule of values showing exactly what we want. Or we can generate a schedule pulling information from the already existing information in the AutoCAD® MEP catalogs, lengths, sizes, bends—anything that exists in the PSD for those objects. Maybe we’ve already started a project and we need to perform start-up and accurately and quickly estimate quantities for ordering. Again, we can do this utilizing the process I’ve described in previous articles.
One last hidden gem that we can utilize is “zones” or “spaces” within AutoCAD. We can use AutoCAD to define zones in a drawing, then we can number and count devices by that zone. This can really help if we’re trying to assist on building/updating a project schedule and need to know, by area, what we have to install.
The theme that these last couple articles have tried to bring together is that we can work smarter, faster, and help more people in our Project Management team than most people thought was impossible. From the Design and Development stage to construction to as-built/record drawings, we’ll have information that is usable at every stage.
All that being said, let’s begin building a sample schedule from our Fire Alarm Speaker from the May article. Let’s start with locating the Schedules button located on the Annotate Tab (Figure 1). Here you can see that there are a few options for different types of schedules. Now I’m working in the Electrical workspace so what you’re seeing is the default electrical schedules, but there are default schedules for each type of workspace. Now I’m going to utilize AutoCAD’s ability to generate a default table. That way I can pick-and-choose what information I want to pull from my PSDs (Figure 2). As you can see it generated a very generic table. But there are a lot of good values we can modify to make our schedule show what we want.
We’ll start by going to the Manage tab and opening Style Manager. Our drawing should show up on the left hand tree with different objects listed under it. We’ll want to select the Documentation Objects tab, then the Schedule Tables tab (Figure 3). Now we can see that the default Electrical Device Schedule was created. First we’ll start at the General tab and rename the schedule to the device that we’re working with; in this case it’ll be Speaker Schedule. The next table we will modify is the Applies To tab. We’ll need to select Multi-View Part on the left. Then on the right, under Classification, we’ll select the classification under which our device falls—here it will be Junction Box (Figure 4).
Next we’ll jump to the Columns tab. Here you can see that there’s a ton of information that we don’t need, at least for this case. With that being said, I’m going to delete it all and start fresh. Now that we have a clean slate to start with, I’m going to hit the Add Column button (Figure 5). We’ll start by using the Mark Abbreviation information from the PSD for the Speaker, and then changing the Header to Device Type (Figure 6). Click OK and you’ll now have a column labeled Device Type, showing information from the PSD. You’ll also notice right above the “Add….” buttons, an Include Quantity Column option. We can select this box to automatically add the quantity of the selected objects to our table (Figure 7). Let’s also go to the Layout Tab and change the title of the schedule to Device Schedule.
Let’s stop here and go back and update our table into which we input information earlier, and see how/what we’ve done. Click OK and close the Style Manager. We’ll be brought back to model space and we can see our newly updated table (Figure 8). This first table isn’t much to look at, but it’s a very basic example as to how to begin to create your own schedules.
I’d like to continue to another slightly more complex example that involves cable tray. In this example we’ll set up our schedule to track a few things:
- Length of cable tray in the drawing
- Type of bend or connection
- Quantity of those bends or connections
We’ll start with a simple layout showing a handful of T-Sections, some bends and straight lengths (Figure 9). Again, we’ll start by using the built-in MEP scheduling table and modify it. Under the Annotate tab there is the Schedules button. We’ll select the drop-down menu and select the Conduit & Fittings Schedule (Figure 10). Now, I know that this isn’t what we want for this instance, but it’ll give us a place to start. It will ask us to select some objects, which in this case do not exist. Just click OK and insert the empty table. This generates a table in the Style Manager that we can modify. Now we go to the Manage tab and select Style Manager. With the Style Manager open, we go to the Documentation Objects and expand the Schedule Table Styles. I’m using the same drawing I used for the last example, so you’ll see that I have a Speaker Schedule, Conduit and Fitting Schedule, and a Standard Schedule. (Figure 11).
Let’s start by selecting the Conduit and Fitting Schedule. We’ll start at the General tab and modify the information as we see fit. I changed the schedule title to Cable Tray and Fitting Schedule. Next we can jump to the Applies To tab where we will select the objects that we want the table to look for in the drawing. Here I’ve selected a cable tray and a cable tray fitting. The last tab to change will be the Columns tab. Here is where we decide what information we want to display and how. After deleting and adding some columns like in the example before, I end up with something like Figure 12.
We are looking for the quantity of each type of object, what type of object it is, how long (if applicable) and the style. We click Apply and then OK at the bottom of the Style Manager dialog box and we’re back at the drawing. We can select the table we previously inserted, and on the tab bar we’ll see a handful of options. We will want to start with Add Scheduled Objects. This will automatically update our table with the information that we entered in the Style Manager (Figure 13). And that’s pretty much it!
As you can see, the schedule table has pulled information from the existing PSD from the cable tray parts. It’s showing the quantity of each piece, the type of object it is, its length (in inches as set from primary), and then the actual description of the object that we assign. We just easily figured out the footage of cable tray for a whole level, how many bends and Ts and what size tray to buy. And it’s 100 percent accurate (as long as the information in the model is correct). See Figure 14.
What I’ve been trying to show in this article series is that AutoCAD MEP is so much more powerful than many people know. It has so many built-in intelligent tools that can help a CAD operator/designer, BMI Detailer, or similar professional work faster and smarter, and allows them to assist an engineer, estimator, or project manager with many different aspects of the job beyond just drawing. Imagine if you’re an electrical designer and you made an MVPart of a wall receptacle and a light switch, including the back-box, fittings, conduit, stub out, etc. Now you can simply insert those in any location as a pre-made assembly. Not only is it fast and more efficient, but you can assign PSD to the MVPart and create a schedule of material needed. This is extremely helpful—saving time, reducing cost and manpower, essentially wasting less, and adding more information. I hope that this series has been helpful to you and your firm, and at the very least gave you something to think about!
Bruce Sims, of Alterman Electric in San Antonio, TX contributed technical information for this article.