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CAD Standards - The Process is as valuable as the Product

I have spoken to many CAD Managers who have asked me if I had a Standard they could use at their firm.  They want to have something that is well thought out and has a proven track record.  They want something that they can just put in place and move on.  They often say that they don't want to waste time, or don't have the time, to develop their own. 

When I hear these kind of comments - I cringe to think that they would take someone else CAD Standard and slam it on Users desks and expect them to follow it. 

Sometimes I have found a great benefit in taking people through the process of developing the CAD Standard (or reviewing it).  It needs to be done as a group.  It is when you struggle with the issue together that you all benefit from the discussions.

Do not underestimate the value of the interactive process of developing your CAD Standard.

Let's say I just develop what I believed to be the perfect CAD Standard.  I cover all of the needed topics.  I create a nice book and get it printed up and place it on everyone's desk.  They open it up, give it a couple of quick glances and place it back down on the desk and return to work.  They never really read it.  They never fully understand it.  So they never really comply with it. 

The problem was not with my creating it, but it was the fact that it was created apart from my Users that caused the disconnect.  They had no ownership in it.  They had no say in what was included.  They did not work through the issues and come to a unified perspective.  They we not involved.

I have told people in the past that I do not care what you have as a Standard, as long as it was consistently followed.  It is not that I don't really care at all, but that the specific layer names or colors or pen weights are not the defining issue of a Standard.  It is the fact that the Users know it, follow it and get others to comply.

CAD Standard = Teamwork

From start to finish, it should be a collaborative effort.  Include as many people as possible.  This does not mean that every person in your office or firm should be directly involved.  I work through teams of people.  Gather your teams if you do not have them in place already.  Some firms already have teams of people dedicated to this process.  Use them if you have them.  Let's assume you have no team or teams.  Check out my list of teams.

The Management Team

Start with upper management.  Pull them together and tell them how the process will work.  Tell them why you need a standard.  Give them some form of timeline.  Have them assign someone to a team to develop it.  If you know who you would like to have on the development team, then suggest those persons and get approval.

Development Team

This is the group that actually works through the standard.  It should be made up of the best Users in your firm.  Those that have worked on a ton of projects and have been using the software for some time.  These should also be longer term employees.  They are not new comers to the firm.  They have a long history of know what the firm expects to produce in CAD.  You may have one new hire in the mix, or maybe even a non-CAD user>  The former can generate new ideas and the latter can keep an overall business focus and not get myopically focused on CAD alone.

The Process

Work through every issue one at a time.  Take as much time as needed to allow everyone to contribute and understand the issues.  Once it is in the book everyone will be expected to follow it.  Make sure that they all understand that all of them will be following what is in the Standard.  They better contribute and be willing to comply.

The Product

When you create the Standards book include the names of those that helped create it.  This serves two purposes: It recognizes the contributions of those that worked hard in the process and it also creates a sense of ownership.  If they built it - they will use it.