Standardizing Your Company – Part 1: Why Standardize?

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time trying, and now finally succeeding at standardizing engineering firms.  A few years ago I decided to teach an AU class about what I’ve learned and this year will be the third appearance of “Evolution Not Revolution: The Key to Successful CAD Standards”.  Now I’ve got the opportunity to use to spread the word and I just couldn’t resist.

So, over the next several months (or however long it takes), I’ll be making a weekly post to “Standardizing Your Company”.  Hopefully lots of folks will tune in and I’ll be able to help get their firms on the right track to standardization.  Some of the material will be based on the AU class and some will not, as is the case with this first installment.  Also, I plan to hone the material to be specific to Civil 3D users (the AU class is for all disciplines).

Why Standardize?

Standards can make any process, engineering or otherwise, more efficient.  Do you organize your sock drawer by color?  Do you always put your car keys in the same place?  Do certain things go in certain places in your kitchen cabinets?  If you answered yes, to any of these questions then you’ve standardized a process.  If you’ve answered “no” to all of these questions then you’ve probably worn brown socks with black pants, been late to many appointments, and bought something at the grocery store that you already had in the cupboard.  One way of thinking about standards is that they are a way of pre-choosing and organizing things so that what we do with those things can be done better and more efficiently.  Without standards, you make mistakes (brown socks), take longer to do things (looking for your keys) and there is waste (that 3rd can of Crisco).  There are other factors but I’m out of household analogies (whew!)

So any process, anyone, any company can benefit from standards.  Now add to that your company’s need to implement Civil 3D and standards now become a requirement.

Civil 3D Styles are awesome!  You can build in virtually any aspect of your company standards so that when you create something, it automatically looks like your company thinks it should.  But what if your company doesn’t know what it wants?  What if each individual user has his/her own idea about what he/she wants?  Well you have two choices:  Train every person in your company to be an expert in Civil 3D style creation or standardize your company. 

From a business standpoint, the first choice will require thousands in training and will be a recurring cost with each new employee.  Not to mention, it’s an unattainable goal.  Style creation is not for the faint of heart.  It takes an expert to build styles on a grand scale and many users would be staring out the window after the first 5 minutes of Styles 101.  Plus, your company will not be yielding any of the benefits of standardization.  Lost keys become missed deadlines, brown socks become pipe conflicts, and that 3rd can of Crisco becomes 30,000 yds of excess fill material (thought I was done with the analogies, didn’t you).

Standardization makes much more business sense.  Although it will take an investment of time and money, whether you do it yourself or hire a consultant: once it’s done, it’s done.  Your staff will work more efficiently, make fewer mistakes,  and produce better quality.  And…your staff can all use the same set of styles and everyone’s stuff will look great.  Style-building itself becomes a snap.  Just e-mail your standards to a consultant and let them do the work (I know this is a shameless plug, but its true).  Trust me, you don’t want to do it yourself.

So…think your company’s already standardized?  Chances are…think again.  If it isn’t you’ll find out in a very painful way when you first try to get your staff to use your Civil 3D company style set.  And by the way, having a standards manual does not mean your company is standardized…do you religiously read and adhere to your car’s owners manual?

In next week’s installment, I’ll discuss how to determine just how effective your standards really are.  I may break your heart, but tune in anyway.


  1. My company is currently in the process of “assessing” our C3D Styles. I can tell you it’s been a month and we are crawling literally through this process. It is hard to explain to management the time requirements involved, and then justify it. Between actual workload and the measly 2 hours a week I dedicate to this, I project we will be complete with our Styles Standardization by 2014 (j/k). I just wish ADSK had a little more of a generic styles config when you purchase the app. Literally EVERY style defaults to 0 Layer! Arrgghhh!!! Thanks for letting me vent.

  2. Scott Salas says:

    Ditto on the timeline. We might get to mars before our styles are set. I can’t wait to hear about Cad Manuals, as we are attempting to get that in place.

  3. mike hooker says:

    I have been using C3D since the 04 version and our standards are still a work in progress. What has been done up to this point has definately streamlined our process. When’s that trip to mars?

  4. Joshua Reese says:

    I fully agree that once things are set up it definitely does make things easier all around the table but I think the standards setup is a never ending thing.

    We have been on Civil3D since 2007 and we are definitely still working on getting things standardized as they were previously in Land Development but I feel we have a pretty good setup right now. However, we have been wanting to put together a nice “standards manual/guide” since we started using Civil3D, but I don’t even know where to start.

  5. Totally agree on standards being an ongoing thing. But I’d add that you can get about 90% of them straightened out in your first effort, and then spend the rest of eternity tweaking the remaining 10% based on changing needs, software changes, etc.