CAD management has been around as long as CAD. In fact as soon as the second person in a firm started using CAD on the same project, there was CAD management. It may have been an informal agreement between two users regarding the name of a layer, where to store files, how to print, or the format for the deliverables. As soon as multiple people get involved in working on the same files, models, and projects, there needs to be management of the effort. This management takes time, which costs money.
No one was selected to be the CAD Manager; CAD was just managed by the people doing the work. Some firms still work that way. No single person is designated as CAD Manager. It is just assumed that people will do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. Some firms operate this way and get the job done very well. But it is rare, and the larger the firm the more rare it becomes. When the attitude is “We don’t need a CAD Manager” or “CAD Management is everyone’s job” then the CAD production flow and dependability quickly devolves into a state of disrepair.
But is there a hidden cost of CAD management that companies think they are saving by either not having a CAD Manager or eliminating the position? What areas are impacted when no one is minding the store? What is the cost of just having everyone take care of their own stuff?
The Impact of Lost Productivity
Here is a list of things that might be impacted by not having responsibility for CAD management shouldered by an individual.
I always start with this topic because it is so valuable when done right and so damaging when done wrong. Several things can happen if no one is responsible for this area. CAD standards fall into a dysfunctional state so quickly that most are outdated even when someone does have the job of overseeing them. When no one is watching, CAD standards are not followed. They are not updated. They are not understood and grasped by all users.
CAD methods become inconsistent. Everyone may think they are doing the right thing, but they are all doing something different. When a new staffer is added to a project, there is no consistent approach used that bridges the span between their last project and this one. No one tips them off as to how this project is being created.
CAD presentation is not consistent. Here is a list of things that may not be defined in a standard, but impact a set of drawings or model:
- Detail sheet layout and presentation
- Level of detail that is used in the model
- Title block text, abbreviations, and wording
- Graphic element locations (Key map, North Arrow, Graphic Scale)
- Logos (company and client)
- Dates and names (I have seen client names misspelled)
- Title of the submittal (Plan Check, Client Review)
- Cross reference numbers are correct
- Legibility of the drawings
- Project title block presentation and layout
- Use of 3D detail breakouts
The Impact of Lost Progress
Other items may impact your production if no one is tasked with managing the CAD environment.
Printing – Someone who has not worked on the project files will have trouble printing them. They have trouble getting the right look and feel. They have trouble printing a complete set and may not even notice that something is missing on a print or a project set.
System upgrades – Both hardware and software tend to age as staff is focused on getting project work done and not managing the CAD environment. IT staff may understand the general demands of CAD, but most do not track the nuanced needs for hardware or the software compatibility of third-party apps.
Customization – Software is not customized to support the users’ efforts or standards. Some of the users may grab little routines and utilities off the web and apply them to the project with negative results. Or they create tools or pen tables that link to files on a local machine. When someone on another machine tries to work with the files, they fail.
Training – User training is never done unless someone is pushing for it to happen. Individual voices get drowned out so that nothing happens or random training of individuals never makes a global impact.
Project archives – They seldom happen unless someone on the project team requires it. The CAD Manager usually has a project archiving scheme that is done for internal longevity. If there is no CAD Manager, these tend to fall by the wayside.
Symbol libraries – They become cluttered with useless items. Things that worked for one project, but not another. Items that are not to code, require adjustment, use the wrong layers or standards, and some that don’t work at all.
The Impact of Lost Personnel Time
In the absence of a CAD Manager, everyone has a hand in managing (or trying to manage) the systems. Project staff starts to expend hours managing the CAD process at the expense of the design process. Professional design staff is pulled into managing CAD issues and trying to fix CAD problems. The divided focus causes a downturn in design efforts that result in poor standards of quality and creativity. Users are annoyed with having to do management functions and troubleshooting. Fixing CAD corruptions and failures depletes their stamina and saps their energy.
IT staff may focus time on this effort, but long-term focus is usually lost as technology issues from other areas call staffers away from the CAD environment. Quick fixes replace long-term planning and a reactive support team soon causes a buildup of tech troubles that soon derails production.
The biggest hidden impact is in lost man-hours. By not having a full-time person focused on keeping the CAD train on the rails, you end up spending the same hours divided among several people. Splitting the hours means corrective actions may become uncoordinated and unplanned. Nothing is documented (not my job), nothing is uniform (not my trouble), and nothing is shared between projects and offices (I am not paid to help others).
The time spent is the same and the cost might actually be more if the professional level senior staff (those making more money) are called to fix CAD areas at a higher dollar cost per hour than a dedicated CAD Manager (not that CAD Managers should make less).
So we have seen the impact of not having a CAD Manager in place, and the outcomes that might take place in your firm without this kind of person on board. Keep your eyes open and see if what I have mentioned is happening at your office. What might you do to help focus management efforts for this critical design arena?