Standardizing Your Company – Part 13: Making the Right Way the Easy Way

In last week’s post we talked about doing everything possible on the PR side to maximize adherence and acceptance of your changes to the standards.  As promised, this time we’ll talk about what you can do on the technical side.  If you work in a company where you are the full-time CAD Manager and the end users do everything you say to the letter, then read no further.  As for the remaining 99.99% of you, what are some things you can do on the technical side to help improve adherence?  Find out after the jump.

I’m a very strong believer that the best ways to ensure adherence to your standards is to make them the path of least resistance.  This can be done one of two ways:  obstruct the other paths, or clear the new/right path, pave it, and make it well lit.  The latter takes a lot more work but is much more well-received and will keep your approval rating much higher.  With the ability to customize AutoCAD either through its own interface, 3rd party apps, or through your own programming, you’ve got lots of clearing, paving, and lighting tools at your disposal.  The goal should be to completely eliminate the end users’ dependency on the “book” version of the standards and have all the tools they need, right in front of their faces.

This is probably every CAD Manager’s favorite part of the standardization effort…the technical implementation.  Like children on Christmas Eve, you lie in bed with visions of tool palettes and VBA code dancing in your head.  It’s a great opportunity to flex those intellectual muscles.  Just keep in mind who you’re doing this for.  At the end of the day, your tools need to be simple, easy to use, and they must work…all the time.

Begin with the built-in tools like tool palettes, CUI, templates, etc.  If after that you feel that there is still room for improvement, then look to customization through third-party apps.  EE ProPack, for instance, has some great layer and style tools that are designed to make life easier for you and your users.  Finally, if third-party apps don’t offer what you need, then put your coding hat on.  Many techies like myself really have to resist the urge to jump right to the code window, but it really is better to take advantage of someone else’s hundreds of man-hours of coding and QA/QC rather than reinvent the wheel.  If you do write your own code, make sure it’s well tested.  Your uses are going to become dependent on your tools (that’s what you want) and if they go down, the company goes down.

So what kinds of things can you do to automate your standards?  Here are some ideas.  Keep in mind, these are just ideas and not necessarily good ones for every company, and this list is certainly not all-inclusive.

  • Create template(s) that store standard layers, text styles, dim styles, etc. (duh!)
  • Create tool palettes that serve up standard blocks
  • Create tool palettes that integrate standards into basic commands.
  • Use an enterprise CUI to standardize the user interface
  • Use ProPack to serve up standard C3D styles from a company template
  • Use ProPack to guide users in creating layers as per the NCS
  • Create a master legend drawing file where uses can drag and drop samples of objects into their drawings
  • Create a project template that contains the standard folder structure for your projects
  • Write a utility that guides the users in naming and locating files according to your file mgmt standards
  • Create a template drawing with pre-configured layouts for all the sheet sizes your company uses

As I said, this is just a couple of ideas to begin sparking some of your own.

Finally, once all your tools are in place, write a tutorial on how to use them and include it in your CAD Manual.  Include a training segment in your Rollout Meeting with the users that shows the tools and how to use them.  Let them know that the best way to adhere to the standards is to simply use the tools that been provided.  If you truly have made it easier than any other path, adherence will be a snap for most users.

As an added bonus, training for new employees on the standards will amount to: “See these tools right here, use them.”

Good luck!  And remember…writing your own program is a lot more fun than supporting it!  🙂

Next week we’ll take a look at what to do after the rollout.

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