Building a CAD Committee

No sleep til’ Christmas!  Last week it was Autodesk University in Las Vegas, this week marks the start of our Layer Standard implementation.  Getting to this milestone is incredibly exciting, as this implementation is the culmination of about a year of planning.  You may be wandering – what took so long?  After all it’s just a layer standard.

Our approach has been one coined by my co-worker Eric Chappell; Evolution not Revolution.  Just to shed some light onto my firm.  We are full-service civil engineering & GIS technology firm with about 350 professionals throughout 10 offices.  Among our strengths as a firm is the fact we offer a diverse array of services in-house; transportation, utilities, site development, residential, environmental, survey, etc.  At the start of our standardization initiative, this very strength posed itself as an innate challenge.  The challenge wasn’t that our CAD users we not following a standard, it was the fact each department, and even office had their own standard.  These numerous standards were not necessarily the result of renegade users, but rather a series of custom tailored solutions directed towards the review agencies each group submitted plans to.  Right out of the gate, it seemed like an impossible task to somehow combine all of these standards into a single company standard.  So how did we do it?

The short answer is time, patience, and persistence.  Working through the needs of so many departments, and so many review agencies will undoubtedly take time.  To fast track this process is much like filling an airplanes tank halfway, and hoping you will be able to land before you run out of gas.  Fill your tanks now, it’s going to be a long ride!

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AU 2007 – The Training Trinity

imageMine included, it seems that many of the AU Unplugged sessions had a lighter turn out than expected.  Even with the limited attendance, I must say my session provided a great platform for some discussion I am certainly bringing home with me.  The concept of a Training Trinity is one I have not seen much (if anything published on).

About a month ago I made a post centered on “Starting a CAD Standard“.  I’ll paraphrase for those of you who may not have read that post.  My “Starting a CAD Standard” post focused on the idea that the most important element to a CAD Standard is not the awesome DWT you have set up, it’s not the documentation (directly), not even the automated routine you may have programmed.  Instead what makes of breaks a CAD Standard is the unspoken (and undocumented element).  When starting a CAD Standard one must have a clear and concise goal, a mission statement even. 

Different elements of your CAD Standard shouldn’t be established as islands.  I can assure constructing bridges between your islands is not an option.  Instead each element of your CAD Standard must compliment the other elements of your CAD Standard.  While I have always aired on the side of defining procedures outside of the CAD Standard, your standard will certainly imply numerous procedures.  For instance if your file management standard is set up to have model files and sheet files, you are implying a workflow in which sheets are generated by xrefing model drawings. 

So what does all of this have to do with training?

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Free Tools for the CAD Manager/User

Those who read my last post, “Inserting DWG’s into MS Word or PowerPoint” may recall the mention I made about PDF Creator.  Since it seems many of you were interested in that tool, I thought it may be appropriate to share some other tools that I have used and/or know about.  If you’re a big web surfer you have likely read a number of Top 100 Free Utility lists.  It’s not my intention to litter this post with so much excess baggage.  Instead I have tried to keep this list as concise, and as relevant to CAD users as possible.  Even to that end, I know there are probably many more free tools than included on my list which a CAD user may find helpful.  If you would like to share such utilities, please do so by leaving a comment on this post.

PDF Creation

  • PDF Creator – I have found this tool to be one of the most versatile free PDF creators.  A couple things which stand out to me is the ability not only to create PDF’s but also PNG, JPG, TIFF, BMP, PCX, PS, and EPS.  Better still is the way you can plot to a logical sheet size like Arch D as opposed to some pixel resolution.  Another interesting feature is the way you can combine multiple PDF’s into a single PDF.
  • CutePDF Writer – If all you need to do is create PDF’s than this tool is second to none.  It’s both quick, lightweight, and FREE for both personal and commercial use.

Online Meetings and Web Conferencing

  • Yugma – This is an awesome alternative to services such as GoToMeeting or MS Live Meeting.  If all you need is a basic online conference room this tool is perfect.  For the audio portion they have recently teamed up with skype, and they also provide a free conference line (non 1-800 number though). More advanced features are available through their reasonably priced paid plans starting at $9.95/month.

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Starting a CAD Standard

A special thanks to Lynn Allen for her presentation to the Richmond AutoCAD Manifest (RAM) Thursday night. After Lynn’s presentation I along with some other RAM members had a chance to chat with her. Numerous topics came up during the course of conversation. Oddly enough of all the topics we discussed, files seemed to be the most entertaining – don’t ask. Although not in the same context, the topic of files leads me into a common question about CAD Standardization. How does one start a CAD Standard?

Oftentimes when one thinks about CAD Standardization, the first thing that comes to mind is graphical standards. While graphical standards are incredibly important to standardizing a company, is it the best place to start? Some would argue that a layer standard is the most important part of a complete CAD Standard. But is your layer standard them most important element of a CAD Standard?

Before I answer that, let’s think for a moment why we create CAD Standards. The simple answer here is to make it so each of our projects share a common foundation. Consistency = Efficiency. Thus, classifying your layer standard to be the most important element of your CAD Standard is like saying one foundation block is more important than another.

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Expert CAD Management: The Complete Guide Review

image Books, magazines, and even blogs about CAD Management oftentimes scare me. They scare me in the message they broadcast, even if not intentional, that after reading such and such title I can create a CAD Standard in 30 days and be a world-renowned CAD Manager. While the timeframe may be a bit of an exaggeration, the fact readers oftentimes go away with false hope is not.

As anyone who has worn the hat of a CAD Manager if only for a day knows, CAD Management and Standardization is not an overnight process. Under that premise I have come to respect a number of authors who are especially diligent in what they write as not to convey a false message. At the top of that list is Robert Green who is arguably the most well known and well respected individuals in the CAD Management industry. Robert’s notoriety comes with good reason, as he is one of the most versed individuals in nearly every industry that uses CAD. His packs a large portion of that knowledge into his latest book “Expert CAD Management: The Complete Guide“.

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Upgrading to AutoCAD 2008

Alas – my firm has finished our AutoCAD 2008 upgrade. In the timeframe of about a month we upgraded a little more than 250 users in our 7 engineering offices. Some would call the mere thought of upgrading that many users in such a short timeframe crazy, but even still we did it. Thankfully we have two individuals (including myself) dedicated as full-time CAD Managers, and an awesome IT helpdesk and infrastructure staff to back us. Each year as the new release of AutoCAD nears; bloggers and columnists such as me begin building quite a hype for the upcoming release. Oftentimes such articles and such are written using beta releases of the software. To be frankly honest the articles almost always celebrate everything about the software, consequently making users drool for that cool new feature such as Sheet Set Manager, or in 2008 Annotative Scaling.

The superstitious AutoCAD users out there will not upgrade to an odd numbered release of AutoCAD. That superstition likely stems back to Release 13 which was not an overly celebrated release in industry. To make things interesting Autodesk has changed the way they market their AutoCAD releases. We now refer to things as AutoCAD 200_, not AutoCAD Release _ _. Thus depending on how you count; AutoCAD 2008 could be considered both an even and odd release. The year 2008 is of course even, but its official release is 17.1 which is odd.

As anyone who has used AutoCAD for some time now knows, pre-release demos, and post-release deployments and real-world usage are two totally different things. Those of us in the Civil field know that feeling all too well, as Autodesk Civil 3D 2004 was the greatest thing had an incredible WOW factor associated with it. Of course as we got our hands on the product and started using it, we soon discovered the product was not yet mature enough to sustain real-world design. Thankfully Civil 3D has come a long way since then, maturing to the point where real-world design is now possible. Even still a bigger question remains, what’s up with AutoCAD 2008?

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The Truth About Deploying Civil 3D

So I must confess, this post was born as a response to an e-mail I recently received from one of my readers. As I began writing my response it became overly apparent to me that my response was one that could benefit more than just one reader, and thus the moment I decided to make it a blog post rather than an e-mail response. The e-mail I received was in many ways a classic illustration of the toils which lie ahead for most firms wanting to implement Civil 3D. Some may argue that toil is too strong of a word to describe the implementation of Civil 3D, but to be frankly honest it’s the truth.

To provide some background, the e-mail I received was from a rather respected firm. Currently they are running an older version of Land Development Desktop, and well things “work” for them but they know there’s new technology out there. A relative newcomer to the firm has convinced his boss to at least consider migrating to Civil 3D. The employee has been tasked with preparing a proposal to get training for 8 technicians. Understanding there is more to implementing Civil 3D than simply sending a handful of people to training for a few days, this individual is seeking some sort of guidance as to the physical implementation of Civil 3D. Of course as luck would have it, the company doesn’t have much of a real CAD Standard.

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