Managers Meddling with CAD

Besides the waste of time, it's risky to let non-tech personnel play around with important CAD files. September 24, 2006

I work in the engineering department at a store fixture and retail space design company. We use both AutoCAD and SolidWorks in our department. My job is to engineer and value engineer the items that our creative department designs. I am qualified to do space planning and things like drop notes or graphic callouts or fixture icon “blocks” into drawings but as an employee it is not to the companies’ benefit or best interest to use me or any other member of my department to do these tasks as our skill set, expertise and billable rate just do not make sense to be used for the task. In my opinion this is more or a CAD operators job. Please do not take me the wrong way. I am not saying I or any other member of my team is too good for this task; it just is a misuse of our skills.

Lately we have had requests from Project Managers and or Account Executives requesting that I work with IT to get such and such an individual the AutoCAD and the little bit of instruction it would take for them to be able to do these things. These individuals are not CAD operators. They are project managers and have plenty to do without taking on the tasks of being involved in what they think will be a little bit of CAD work. I have already had numerous encounters with one of the individuals requesting this. I have shown, taught, and explained to him many times how to open an existing drawing and print. He refuses to take notes and just does not retain the information.

Now realize that what would happen if outside sources draw existing site plans. There would be different companies, different drawing techniques, different layers, different, fonts, different setups and formatting, different plot settings, and different CTB and STB settings. Some would be using XREFs and some using model space and some using paper space. The biggest issue I see with doing this is that I feel that these folks internally with no CAD experience are going to struggle with things like differences mentioned above. Do you think these things would be an issue or am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Keep in mind, the people here internally who would be using these other AutoCAD files have zero AutoCAD experience. Am I correct in thinking that this really needs to be handled by a group or department, whatever the skill set, or are these and other unmentioned stumbling blocks legitimate issues?

Another question - is there software that could use these existing AuotCAD files regardless of layer, scale, font, etc and convert them to some other format that could be easily manipulated by our already overloaded, non CAD proficient project managers?

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From contributor A:
This is so wrong in so many ways. I am a detailer/engineer in a huge custom shop. I build the job as it will eventually leave the shop. I would never let sales, support, or whatever, modify anything I'm building. They have no business going into the cads. If I'm responsible for the job, you don't get to mess with it. It would be so easy for an inexperienced person to destroy the profit margin on the job - even if it is just wasting time struggling with the cad, and not wasting the cad.

From contributor B:
If I understand you correctly, you and your department are too expensive to be doing those things. If the user you are tapped to train can't cut it, point it out to management. Require a proficiency test or something like that. Make sure that repeated failures of proficiency exams show up in his personnel record. Either way, it seems like you're going have to find someone who understands it or do it yourself. Hire someone who's cheap, but knows CAD enough to not screw things up. They should be under your supervision, too. Non CAD users (read: Project Managers, Account Executives, IT) just typically don't get it. Ask them for access to their project database, accounting spreadsheets, admin access to the network - all with full privileges. Tell them you just want to fiddle around a little, and won't mess anything up and see what they say.

Design and Engineering software (which is what we all use) is among the most powerful and difficult software to master. We're talking cabinets, so the engineering is pretty simple. But the software and proper use of it isn't simple.

From contributor C:
I agree completely. Let's take this a step further. Once those prints are accepted by the customer they become legal documents. Ask any lawyer if it is okay for you to go into his/her legal documents and change some wording. Sadly, the company I am with lets the project managers play with the prints and the results have cost the company tens of thousands and management is lost as to what to do, which is even sadder. The confusion is overwhelming from project management to field installations. Estimating stays out of it because they see the mess and enjoy the ability to close their door and keep quiet. Yes, after years with this company, I am looking for employment elsewhere. 35 years in this business and this is a scenario I have not encountered before. It doesn't work.