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Transformation – Part 8

August 14, 2017

It has been a while since our last Transformation post! We miss being with you!

In the past few weeks, we worked on something that is a little different. This post include writing about a real Transformation in the CAD Department which is part of what we wanted to communicate with you from the beginning of our CAD Department Development story. Time has finally made it!

Drawing Templates & the Title-Block Update Feature

You might have gotten a phone call or a voicemail message. You could have received an email or had a formal letter mailed to your address. Perhaps, you had a friendly conversation with an acquaintance or close relative that ended up with a job offer. Either way, it would not have made any difference. The end result is: “Congrats! You’ve got the job!”

Wednesday is your first day to start the new job. Are you ready? Sure, you are. We all get very excited when we get a new position, and we all feel so ready for the new work that we usually look forward to our starting day. One of the things we still need to consider as new employees, however, is probably a short-training time that familiarizes us with our new responsibilities along with the company’s standards and work atmosphere.

It is very common for CAD drafters to go through a training period when they start a new drafting position. Regardless of the fact that they are expected to be skillful and knowledgeable of their work, CAD drafters still can’t apply much of their knowledge until they learn about the company’s CAD drafting standards.

During my short-time training as a CAD drafter at Quad Plus, I was told about the CAD Department development that was initiated two years before I started working for the company. I learned about the time and frustration the development saved Quad Plus’s CAD drafters as they applied their new skills to their CAD work.

I was happy and surely felt lucky to have started at such a time when I did not have to deal with the old ways of doing certain things. At the same time, I was curious to take a look at what happened in the past and how things were handled differently.

Here is what I was told as I started preparing for my first schematic drawing set; “Creating project drawing templates and updating the project sheets’ title block were among the most time saving features our CAD department developed.”

Since we introduced a little about creating project templates and the title-block update feature in Transformation-Part 7, let’s tell you more about them.

Imagine the following:

It is one of the Monday mornings (before the development had started in 2014). You are notified by the project engineer that the Bill of Material (BOM) has been developed and saved in the project job folder for your review. After studying the (BOM) and learning about the project’s requirements, you discuss a few details with the project engineer and the shop manager, then you estimate the project may need about 600 CAD drawings. It is a big project and those sheets are most likely needed in order to complete both the schematic and the mechanical parts of the project. This estimated number of drawings would probably increase, but rarely decrease.

Upon figuring out your initial project sheets and what each drawing should include, you sit in your cubical and start creating the project’s drawing set.

FYI: Creating an electrical project CAD drawing requires opening either an empty AutoCAD drawing template or a drawing from a similar project and then saving it as a new drawing in the new job folder. Drawings are usually saved under the new job number plus the drawing sheet count number within the project sheets.

Project drawings will always share the general project and company information, but will have their individual drawing descriptions that are modified or added according to the new project sheet count requirements.

Don’t forget that for each sheet (CAD drawing), you need to include previous and next sheet numbers, and for most drawings, location codes. To do this, you need to spend time typing all the above-mentioned items. At times, you may want to speed up the process by copying and pasting some of the repeated information that applies similarly to all sheets in the project.

To feel the real pain of creating a project drawing set, close your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself doing the same thing five or six hundred times. Imagine making spelling mistakes or messing up drawing numbers. The entire day would pass with you still sitting in your cubical trying to check errors and getting things done professionally and error free.

You know what… forget the possibility of making any mistakes. Pretend everything is going nicely & smoothly. Just think of the process and how much time it would take you to create the entire set. Oh boy, this is really tiring. Don’t you think?

You literally had to open each drawing individually and type its information, save it, close it, and open another one to do the same thing over and over again. You had to repeat the process as many times as needed to complete the number of the drawings needed for the project. That was, undoubtedly, an unpleasant experience and a very time-consuming process.

The above was only a brief description of what Quad Plus’s CAD drafters went through in order to prepare for a project before the development took place.

Well, time has passed. It is the time in the year 2014 when the development idea has come into play. The CAD team has taken some time to learn about the available AutoCAD software features. They found out about the different ways of accomplishing the same work with much ease and amazingly less time.

Using the AutoCAD Project Manager feature, Quad Plus’s CAD team created a general project template set that could be used for all Quad Plus’s electrical projects. The drawing template set has a reasonable number of drawings that includes sheet count, common drawing descriptions, and project information that can be changed for each new project as required.

The good news is: the above part of the CAD Department Development has provided Quad Plus great help.

How is that so? The answer is simply, “Efficiency is the key to a great production!” Let’s expand our imagination a bit to help with the initial work of preparing for a new electrical project. This project is taking place during or shortly after the development was agreed on. BOM is received. The CAD drafter does not need to make a sheet count estimate. Instead, he or she copies the available drawing template set using the “Copy Project” CAD feature. It takes about five minutes for the drawing set to be created. Project title-block general information is filled out using the “Description” option available in the Project Manager CAD feature.

In a little amount of time such as 10 minutes, the CAD drafter is able to prepare the complete project sheet set and have it ready to start the schematic and mechanical project CAD drawings. Saying so, let’s take a look at this: after reading the above description about the old verses the new methods of creating drawing templates and the updating the title block, you could probably guess what we were referring to when we said the process would not take more than 10 minutes with the new development. Um… Okay, never mind! We will help you get this. We basically meant that the CAD Department had saved between 9 and 14-hour work on each project. This is aside from the boredom and frustration that was part of the old method. Not only that, but this time estimate was based on the actual work needed regardless of any errors and/or spelling mistakes might have taken place along the way. It would be realistic, however, to add a couple of hours to check for errors and correct any mistakes. At the end, we could easily say that this part of the development has easily reached a saving of TWO FULL 8-HOUR DAYS of work.

HURRAH to the great CAD Department development!

By the way, when it comes to filling out the individual drawing descriptions, things get even more interesting. The CAD team found out about the import/export Data CAD feature.

Wow! This is a great feature to learn about and add to the development. It allows CAD drafters to export all drawing information to an Excel Spreadsheet. In the Spreadsheet, aside from AutoCAD, drawing descriptions get filled out as needed for all drawings. The modified Excel Spreadsheet is then imported back into the drawing set. With one simple step after importing the Spreadsheet back into CAD, all drawing descriptions are updated throughout the entire project.

Are you curious to know how long this entire process now takes? It doesn’t even take 10 or 15 minutes for the longest projects we’ve had. Isn’t that outstanding?

Overall, we can see that this part of the development saved a considerable amount of time for all involved in the project. It made working with electrical project templates easier and more interesting due to increased proficiency and guaranteed accuracy.

More importantly, the efficient methods that Quad Plus’s CAD drafters developed and Implemented into their standards allowed Quad Plus’s management to oversee the productivity which in the end results in a higher return on investment.

It is true that our CAD team spent time and effort to learn about the software. It is also true that Quad Plus management spent time and effort to support the team, but the time spent and the support that was given resulted in great accomplishments. It is again, the combination of the employer and employee as they collaborate to achieve great results.