Cad Standards and the Corporate Bottom Line


The Perceived Value of CAD Standards


CAD standards have historically been an overhead expense in any corporate culture. The work related to standards and implementation has rarely been assigned a billable job number anywhere I have worked.


The tasks that keep CAD users moving forward consistently have lower visible ROI (return on investment) than design work. However, these efforts' success or failure is tied directly to the company’s bottom line. Management needs to realize the importance of consistency and product quality to their brand and their bottom line. A profitable environment will more likely see management invest in non-design areas. As money gets tighter unnecessary (read CAD standards), tasks are the first to be eliminated.


This article will examine the relationship between C-level management and CAD design output. The effectiveness of CAD standards implementation will be driven directly by what value the company sees in accurate and consistent documents.  Documentation must be seen as a viable product to promote the corporate brand further and its willingness to invest in such.


What are CAD Standards, and How Do They Affect Corporate ROI ?


CAD standards are guidelines for creating drawings to support a product or process while encompassing corporate-driven parameters established by management. The monitoring of CAD design activity must be hands-on and at a CAD operator level. Without this level of engagement, no standard will be adequate or produce viable results.


Challenges to defining and establishing CAD standards


 “CAD standards” is a term that can make you a hero or a villain. The value of CAD standards to C-level management will decide which you become when starting down the road to creating and maintaining a corporate CAD standard.





How to Develop an Acceptable and Profitable CAD Standard


The development of practical CAD standards is a tricky road to travel. The process will require input from people at all levels within an organization. The key word here is people. Ultimately, what you develop will be used by coworkers and put under a microscope by management; all are people. Failing to take into account the interests of everyone will lead to the unacceptance of your work by someone. This is a recipe for failure, even before you get started.


Any standard you try to implement must have the support of CAD staff, as well as the financial support of management. This means talking to CAD operators and learning about their issues and pain points firsthand. Setting up standards must be based on your co-workers’ working environment, not on a formula from a book about someone else’s experience.


Developing standards that are too cumbersome or intrusive to a CAD operator’s activities will fail. Your efforts will also fail if a standard is only based on management ideals or an infrastructure that is not well maintained.


My recent work experiences have shed much light on this. The current push to improve documentation and standardize products has led me to dive deeper into what needs to change and the impact on actual job hours and timelines.


In any office with multiple CAD personnel, there will always be a mix of experience levels and interest levels concerning core CAD work and the value of creating a consistent product. One of the main issues that I have seen recently comes down to CAD users being given confusing directions on what follows the standard, even what is the standard.




I have spent many days cleaning up a job, reformatting, and fixing drawings because the original work needed to be done to a current standard. Often, people will not even be made aware of a standard’s existence. This adds time and expense to a job. The core problem is that CAD design is not on management’s radar and is an “unknown issue” to them. When rework is done, the time can be hard to justify to management.


As I have made (or attempted to make) the involved players aware of this usually ignored yet genuine issue, I have not been popular when doing so. I have found that the CAD-level people will first be defensive in many cases, noting that they did what they were instructed to do. This is not a CAD operator’s issue; they were doing what they do. As you dig deeper, it becomes evident that John or Susie did as asked. It is not informing people involved about existing standards and protocols that caused the issue with the work.


The next issue CAD users will bring up is that there is no efficient way to access company-standard drawings or required data. This is a deeper issue that will involve IT and the existing infrastructure within the organization. A whole new can of worms, which, when opened, will get you on several peoples’ radar, and not in a good way.


Getting management to realize there is an issue worth looking into will be another hurdle. Too often, managers are spread too thin (especially in today’s world). As I have found, discussions about standards and current concerns with them are not in their interest. That is, until the bean counters look at job-related costs. When a manager did not budget for Joe CAD operator to spend two days fixing CAD work, and they are over budget, it gets their attention.


The attempt to show that management issues are causing a problem will not make you any friends. Yet, usually, this is the reality. Walking the fine line between their world and yours is an art—one which I am attempting to do.


As a Cad manager (wannabe anyway), I have seen this issue as my daily world. Getting management to understand CAD standards from a non-management perspective takes a bit of salesmanship. They must know the value of your concerns (what is my ROI) in their role.


Final thoughts


As a last thought, I leave you with this; CAD standards come down to the people you work with. Some will follow quickly, some not so. Your corporate CAD standard must be a living effort. It will evolve with the working environment and your co-workers. Feel free to fail, usually multiple times. You get better by learning from mistakes and not giving up when things do not go as planned.

Management, seeing the fundamental issue of not having or enforcing CAD standards, will be your most important goal. When they are aware of the potential for your efforts to improve their brand and industry presence (as well as save $$$), they will start to look into your concerns seriously.

I am currently pushing to establish CAD standards in our office. I will continue writing about my journey down this road in future articles. If anyone is interested in the topic and would like to discuss it, feel free to contact me.