Author Topic: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk  (Read 24435 times)

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nivuahc

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Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« on: February 04, 2010, 09:19:20 AM »
Okay, I just need to get this off my chest... and be forewarned; a ginormous wall-o-text follows.

When I started the project that I'm currently working on, a few months ago, I was given a handful of CAD files from our customer with instructions to make our drawings "look just like these". That was what I had to go on. I asked if I could, possibly, speak with their CAD Manager only to be told that they didn't have one.

Unfortunately, the "go by" drawings were not consistent. At all. So I asked for a list of CAD Standards. What I got was an Excel file with a list of colors and pen weights.

My plan of action, at that point, was to take the drawings that I had and use the largest number of consistencies and consider those "standard". In other words, even though some of the drawings showed a different dimension style than the others, the dimension style I chose was the one that was used most often. Same thing for text styles, callouts, etc. And, to be frank, they were ugly. Really nasty. Stuff that just didn't make any sense. But the main function of our design/drafting team is to mimic what our customer is doing. Like it or not, we had to follow their "standard".

I wrote a few lisp routines to create those standards, created some palettes with "standard" blocks, created a profile using all of that information, and loaded that palette on the few machines we had in the office at the time. Due to the large number of drawings, and the way that the project is broken up, I decided it would be best to setup Sheet Sets for each individual area. I setup the provided border with fields to update automagically, figuring that the least amount of time that each person spent doing things, like updating information in the border, the better. Shockingly (to me, anyway) I had to teach everyone on our team about Sheet Set Manager. I had to teach all of them about Fields. And, to be honest, some of them still have difficulty with both from time to time.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and our design/drafting team has doubled in size. And the customer sends us some more "go by" drawings which essentially negate the path I'd taken previously. Now the majority of these "go by" drawings showed a slightly different set of "majority rules" standards. Easy enough to implement, not so easy on the designers and drafters who had gotten used to doing it a certain way. Again, I asked if we could have a copy of whatever documentation they were using to create their drawings. I got nothing in return.

Fast forward another week or so and, essentially, we get the same thing happening all over again. Again, our team had doubled in size and, again, our customer sent us more drawings as well as mark-ups of drawings that we'd submitted to them, which meant changing some of those standards around. Again, I ask for something... anything... that would provide me with a little insight, other than these "go by" drawings and, again, I got nothing.

Fast forward a few weeks and, lo and behold, we get a completely different set of drawings from the client. Nearly every thing about this set of drawings is different from what we'd done so far. But, get this... they looked great! "Make all of your drawings look like this" was what we were told and, to be honest, I was extremely happy about that. Decent looking blocks, decent looking dimensions, decent looking everything. And, if that weren't good enough I got word that we'd been sent some bonafide CAD Standards.

Well the CAD Standards consisted of a couple of pages out of a larger document concerning file names. And drawing names. And how they had to be a certain way and how the information in the border needed to reflect different data than we'd originally been lead to believe. Talk about a huge PITA. That meant going back through all of the existing work that we'd done and changing the Sheet Sets for each area and then replacing the block of attributes in the border with an updated version. Simple enough but a PITA nonetheless.

But the cloud above my head over that bit o' crap was out-shined by the fact that we could now start producing drawings that, in my opinion, actually looked good. I even wrote a couple of routines to change any existing drawings to incorporate those changes, once they were opened by anyone. Replace all of those ugly symbols with the new stuff, update those text and dimension styles to the new and improved stuff, and take care of any little things (within reason) to eliminate a lot of extra work on the teams part.

About two weeks later I get emailed to me a 20+ page document titled "CAD Standards" from the client. It's dated August of 2007 but, guess what... it confirmed a lot of the things that I'd implemented on our end, and it didn't change things so much that it was going to make my head asplode. I start working on a revised edition of the CAD Standard, updating the things that I know have changed, and making the whole thing usable for our office.

And everything was (finally) right in the world.

Or so I thought. :(

About a week ago I get an email asking me to contact the CAD Manager for our client, along with a phone number and email address. :O

So I did, and it was an enlightening conversation. Evidently he's been kept in the dark about what, exactly, we were doing and why. He had only recently (within the past couple of days) learned that we were doing the work that we were doing. And he was, understandably, a little miffed about that. I had a nice long conversation with him and, much to my relief, he actually "gets it" when it comes to standards. When it comes to how drawings should look, we seem to be on the same exact page. And then he dropped a small bomb on me that almost made me drop the phone.

It seems that our drawings are confusing his users. For some reason, we put a "block or something" in place of the text in the border and "they don't know how to edit that".

After I picked my jaw up off of my desk, I explained to him that those were attributes with fields that get updated automagically via information stored in Sheet Set Manager. Based on the silence coming over the phone, I proceeded to give a brief overview of Sheet Set Manager and Fields. "Wow" was his response and "you guys really have it setup right down there" followed shortly thereafter with "I wish we had ours setup like that but I know my users wouldn't be able to figure it all out". I volunteered to write up some easy to understand documentation. I volunteered to setup sheet sets for all of his drawings and teach anyone at their office that needed to know, how to use it. My offer was greeted with "sure, you can do that if you want... but it's just going to slow our guys down so I doubt we'll use it."

And then he tells me that he'd like us to change the way we're saving our drawings. He'd like these very large areas of work to all be setup as separate layouts in a single drawing so that it's easier for his users to navigate through their folders. Yeah, okay, I can understand why he thinks that that's the simplest solution... but I've currently got our group working in teams, each of them tackling a different area at a time, all of them working on adjoining sheets for the area, seeing each others work with overlaid xrefs. And just one type of drawing that we're producing, as an example, might be as many as 8 sheets. Putting all 8 sheets in one drawing file means that only one person can work on the drawing at a time. The other option is to have some users working on read-only files, or locally stored files, and copy-pasting their work at the end of the day.

Part of the reason that I setup Sheet sets in the first place was to keep the users from doing any file management on the network. I don't want users poking around on the network, deleting drawings or moving them, if I can help it. And another reason that I chose to utilize Sheet Set Manager is because I don't want the users to have to navigate their way around the network trying to find their drawings.

My frustration level is higher, right now, than it has been in a long time. Here's the thing; they are the customer. They are the ones who write the checks. They are the ones who get to say how things should be. Without some very crafty convincing on my part, it looks like I'm going to have to change the way our team of 25 people does things. It took a little while for my users to get accustomed to Sheet Set Manager and, now that they've gotten used to it, they're a little spoiled by it. Essentially, it looks like I'm going to have to take away a good bit of the usefulness of Sheet Set Manager now and, quite honestly, it's enough to make me want a stiff drink.  :ugly:

mjfarrell

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2010, 09:29:02 AM »
I feel you're pain....

I once did some temp work on a job....

everytime I asked what 'their' standard was for something I couldn't figure out, I was told what the standard was....only to be immediately followed by "but we didn't do it that way on that job" :ugly:

...sooooo

what's the point of having standards IF you know they are NOT being followed?
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Bob Wahr

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2010, 09:29:25 AM »
Kind of a PITF but have two sets of files, one for production, the other submittals.  Work in the serparated drawings, then update the others to submit.

Mark

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2010, 10:04:35 AM »
Quote
It seems that our drawings are confusing his users. For some reason, we put a "block or something" in place of the text in the border and "they don't know how to edit that".
LOL

I know its not funny for you but for me .... *giggle*

been there done that!
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Chuck Gabriel

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2010, 10:42:26 AM »
I'm with Bob on this one.  It might be a pain, but not as much as changing your entire workflow AGAIN.  You could probably automate a lot of the work needed to create your submittal package, and your team could keep right on doing things the way you trained them to.

Birdy

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2010, 10:57:23 AM »
...it's enough to make me want a stiff drink.  :ugly:
Glad to hear things are improving!!! :-)

nivuahc

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2010, 11:12:29 AM »
I'm with Bob on this one.  It might be a pain, but not as much as changing your entire workflow AGAIN.  You could probably automate a lot of the work needed to create your submittal package, and your team could keep right on doing things the way you trained them to.

I'm inclined to agree. Hell, I'll even take care of combining the drawings after-the-fact myself... but one of the first things that he and I agreed upon was that, in order to keep things running as smoothly as possible, it would be in everyone's best interest if we replicated their network file/folder structure over here so that drawing interchange could be (virtually) seamless. If they needed to work on our drawings, no problem, and, likewise, if we needed to work on theirs, wouldn't want to create any issues. He and I are (at this point, anyhow) going to take it upon ourselves to update the shared FTP site with our work on a daily basis. So, yeah, there's that.

JCTER

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2010, 11:13:29 AM »
That sounds like a cluster bomb of disaster waiting to happen.

nivuahc

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2010, 11:17:01 AM »
That sounds like a cluster bomb of disaster waiting to happen.

Doesn't it? But here's the thing... if they have to work on our drawings he's (supposedly) going to let me know ahead of time and, under normal circumstances, they'd only ever be working on drawings that we'd submitted some time back (i.e. we aren't working on any longer). And same thing on our end.

So, under normal circumstances, it shouldn't be an issue. But I'm figuring out that his definition of "normal" and mine... maybe they don't mean the same thing.

JCTER

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2010, 11:31:31 AM »
I get very scared when I think about having multiple versions of the same drawing, with nothing but the "saved by" and "last modified" dates to indicate so :\

I ended up on that road once and it still hurts, thinking about it.

If they're only working on drawing you guys -are- done with and -have- issued finals of, then it may not be a problem, and maybe Bob's idea will still work just fine... just run the routine to mutate the drawing sets before uploading to the FTP site.  Just like you were doing an issued set... just more often.  I know some people who have to bind (and explode once) all their xref's for their submitted drawings, but still work with xref's in house for obvious benefits. 

Good luck with it all.  Sounds like you got it all under control to get it done the best way.

nivuahc

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2010, 11:44:46 AM »
I know some people who have to bind (and explode once) all their xref's for their submitted drawings, but still work with xref's in house for obvious benefits.

At the moment... that'd be us.

And that's part of what I'm trying to eliminate.

It was only two weeks ago that I convinced them to allow me to submit drawings in something other than 2004 format.





Seriously. :|

They are running 2009 and 2010. They don't even have a copy of an earlier version of AutoCAD in the office. The Engineer previously in charge (he took another position at a different company half-way across the country, and now another guy is in charge) insisted that we submit our drawings that way (as well as submitting DWF's of the same drawings) for whatever reason (that I can't figure out).

M-dub

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2010, 12:10:36 PM »
I too, feel your pain.
It's one of those jobs where you so badly want to do it right, but "Right" is not how the client wants it done.  You just have to turn your brain off and do it.  I always hate putting my initials in those drawings... it's like you're telling future CAD folks that you had a hand in making that mess.

Chuck Gabriel

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2010, 12:12:12 PM »
It sounds to me like "right" doesn't even exist (at least not for more than a week or so at a time).

nivuahc

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2010, 12:22:11 PM »
It sounds to me like "right" doesn't even exist (at least not for more than a week or so at a time).

Pretty much. The way we refer to it in the office is that the client "keeps moving the goal posts". I'd love to say that these sort of shenanigans are limited to drawing standards but, sadly, the whole project has been this way from day 1. The materials that we're getting our information from to create our drawings (P&ID's, Spreadsheets, Riser Diagrams) get changed, we don't get notified about it, we get b*tched at for having wrong information on our drawings.  :ugly:

In fact, our Project Manager flew out there yesterday and, today, he is in a meeting with the project engineering staff up there, explaining why not giving us up-to-date information is dumb.

JohnK

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Re: Tales from the CAD Manager's desk
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2010, 12:35:46 PM »
<snip>
 one of the first things that he and I agreed upon was that, in order to keep things running as smoothly as possible, it would be in everyone's best interest if we replicated their network file/folder structure over here so that drawing interchange could be (virtually) seamless. If they needed to work on our drawings, no problem, and, likewise, if we needed to work on theirs, wouldn't want to create any issues. He and I are (at this point, anyhow) going to take it upon ourselves to update the shared FTP site with our work on a daily basis. So, yeah, there's that.

Just completed one of those jobs. Small PITA, but defiantly do-able.

The biggest tip(s) i will offer is to use a batch script for downloading and uploading your drawings to the ftp server. And to use network standards not local ones. Provide your people with TOOLS (palettes, dashboard, stuff) not blocks and word documents.
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