TIPniques: Why Use CAD Standards? Part 2

Last month in part one of this series, I pointed out what life might be like without CAD standards with regard to filing and naming.  We then walked through some tips for setting up standard folder structures and file names.  In this part we will continue on the concept of filing and naming, but take it to another level. 

Does your company practice Lean or 5S principals?  Filing and folder structures can help you out.  In part one I suggested keeping things "standard yet flexible."  Today, with so many file formats and increased file sharing, you could make yourself "silly" trying to set standards for all of them. 

Say, for instance, your company saves all its projects for "X" number of years.  There are definitely files in those folders you don't need to keep.  Standardize naming/filing for files you are going to keep and make a separate folder for "no holds barred, anything goes" with the understanding that anything in this folder gets deleted when the job is done and the project can be "laid to rest."  Your IT people will thank you for keeping clean folder structures as well as not wasting disk/server space. 

Our company's "anything goes folder" is the Misc folder.  Anything can be put under this folder and named anything, however the entire folder will get deleted once the job is done and ready for archiving.  A lot of files that go under here are copies of pdf files sent or internal type forms that are not required to be kept.

I could go on and on about filing and naming standards.  But this is only the tip of the iceberg.  I didn't even mention application standards such as layers, title blocks, page setups, customization locations or blocks/tool palettes. 

On another note, think about your customers.  Put yourself in their shoes when working on or reviewing your files.  Your customers don't have to be people outside of your company; it could be internal staff in another department.  Production personnel may need to access or read your files/drawings in order to make parts.  They will definitely be grateful when looking up files to have a good idea of where to look and what to expect.  This is the same for external customers.  Happy customers are repeat customers and that is always a good thing. 

As CAD manager, your customers are also the people you deal with directly on a day-to-day basis—the drafting staff.  With all these standards to follow, things could seem overwhelming.  That is why it's important to document all your standards.  You don't have to go all out with special software or presentations.  A simple Word program would be sufficient.  I also recommend a screen capture software.  I personally use Snagit ( almost every day; it’s reasonably priced and easy to use.  If there is no budget for this, use the print screen button on the keyboard to copy a desktop image into the clipboard.  Then paste and edit it in Word. However, this is not as user friendly as other methods. A helpful tip: Alt + Print Screen (this may be abbreviated on your keyboard) captures just the active window and not the rest of the screen. 

Once items are documented, find a standard location to place these on a server.  In the figure below you can see a sample of this.

This is a portion of our documented CAD Standards in regards to filing and naming.  Having images of a folder structure with explanations as well as a file that shows examples of accepted and non-accepted naming standards would be a good start.

Make sure everyone knows where these are located.  Or better yet, put a shortcut on their desktop for them.  If there are only a couple of people in the office and you don't have a server, make a paper copy of the standards.  I personally would do this only as a last resort due to the fact that it is important to keep things up to date.  So in this case someone would need to remember to update the paper manual and all copies (if more than one). 

If you don't have time to document all the standards at once, at least start to do some.  Working on them as you get time is better than not at all.  Better yet, have the other drafting staff give you a hand and write them when they are free or in between projects.  Just make sure to review them before posting or add screen images for them.  The more documentation, the more free time you will have by reducing the number of interruptions or questions from users.  

With standards in place you can go a bit further with your career and try dabbling in programming or automating tasks for your users to help free up some of their time.  Saving time saves $$ and I can't think of anyone who isn't trying to do that these days.

On another note, standards should be checked frequently right after implementation.  They then should be periodically spot checked to make sure they are followed and understood by the users.  If something is not followed, ask why.  If there is a logical explanation then maybe a standard needs to get added or modified. 

As far as naming and filing standards go, depending on the situation they can be a little flexible, but make sure to straighten out files before jobs get archived or are "officially" finished.  It may seem cumbersome but the few times you have to go back to those projects 1, 5, 10 or even 50 years from the finish date you will be relieved they are straightened out while projects are still somewhat fresh in people's minds, let alone the people still working for the company. 

All this talk about CAD Standards and hardly any specific instructions as to how to do any of this in AutoCAD.  Why?  CAD standards are not software-specific.  It's good to have general departmental standards implemented.  Then create application specific standards to help follow the general standards, whether in AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor, or any other program.  Hopefully some of the points made will motivate you to go back and look at your current processes.  You may have a good set of standards already in place that just needs a little fine tuning.

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