We are debating outsourcing shop drawings. I'm looking for input or firms that deal with this type of work.
From contributor Y:
Outsourcing can be a great solution for your drawing needs. But it can also become a huge problem if the process is not handled correctly. When outsourcing drawings you need to evaluate the needs and the strengths you have in your company.
I am talking from experience. I used to work for a company pushing about 2.5 million in high end casework. As the company grew, the need came to outsource some of our drawings. I used about 5 different outside guys to do drawings in different stages of our production. That time I was the head of Product Development so everything had to go through me prior to the shop. When it came through my hands it was just not consistent, sometimes very discouraging. Every individual draws whatever he believes is correct. I had some people with no experience in cabinetry doing shop drawings just because they knew how to draw lines in AutoCAD. The majority of CAD users out there go through some four month technical course in drafting and they get a job the next day because of the demand. If you can find a good draftsman who in the previous life was a cabinetmaker, that is the perfect scenario (not too many of them around).
Your company has to step up to make the process easy for everyone (you and the drafter). You need to create (if you do not already have) drawing standards. If you have a full time drafter in your company, sit down and talk about creating a library of cabinets (mainly sections and details). Also the drawing sheets can be in a standard layout and order that everybody can read and follow. If you are successful creating these standards, you will see an increase in drawing output from your in-house staff. When the moment comes you need to outsource, give these standards (with an agreement) to your outside draftsmen to use as a guide so all the drawings you receive at least match what you have in house. Also check and double check whatever you receive.
We have had this come up before and some of it ended up in the Knowledge Base article below. Take what was said here and in the link and you will have a really good basis to go from!
Contributor Y, nice to see that said from the other side (I am in the outsourcing business). Far too few companies really have a good grasp of standards.
SOP for Outsourcing Shop Drawings
I'm currently facing these problems in the company I'm working for. Company is fairly new with CNC and is going through this difficult learning process. It is not easy to make 4 draftsmen change their habits, developed through many years.
Many times, approved drawings are trashed, and reworked, just to comply with requirements derived from new technologies. In my opinion, not outsourcing is the best option, if you have good draftsman in house. You may get lucky, and find good draftsman to outsource to, but it is very hard to find somebody who was a cabinetmaker in their previous life and is a good draftsperson in the present life.
I can keep talking about this forever, because this is one of the biggest issues that many woodworking companies are facing. I'm currently fighting for standards and "properization" of drafting in the company I'm working in.
The challenge for both sides is how to convey both the need for actual drawings and convey the information and standards required. We are far beyond "we use applied backs on our cabinets" and really we need to include info like "standard 32mm European system hinges," routing depths, laminate thickness, CNC capabilities, post processing software requirements, etc. Hard to do when people can't even decide to draw on anything except the zero layer and still explode dimensions!
We have been spending a lot of R&D time trying to figure out where the industry is really going regarding this, and it's not clear cut at all. There is some good software out there as well as some bad, and I have seen companies do well or badly with either - it's a crapshoot, so to speak.
We are getting to the point where to make the drawings well, you need people who are really power users in the CAD package they use as well as accomplished in millwork engineering. Good luck really finding that combination; it's very rare. We are one of the largest outsourcers out there and we are constantly on the lookout for them. We pay well and have good benefits, but getting people who can actually bring it to the table are rare. Usually we have to spend at least a year or two getting them up to speed where they can run projects on their own, which is quite an investment. And that's just for the millwork engineering end. The CAD end of it is even more of a challenge.
In short, I feel your pain! There is no easy answer or software package that can solve that issue either; it takes training and constant oversight to make it work. I think that's why, other than that we have such a relaxed office atmosphere to compensate a bit for that.
I feel bad for some of the independent guys providing drawing services, though. We have multiple people who spend a large fraction of time just developing standards and software solutions to try and stay ahead of the curve. That's got to be hard for an independent to do. When I have seen some of the work others have done for our clients, it's really scary where they are as far as CAD skills go; some are stuck back in the AutoCAD 14 mindset, and few are even up to the challenge of making the drawings "real." Some are very good (we would never see their work to fix, after all), but finding them must be a challenge.
Maybe it's time we outsourcing folks got together and came up with some overall standards. I suspect there is enough work for all of us and if we all could provide some consistency in product, more might outsource and everyone would win. Any thoughts?
If I may, I'd like to get all your opinions on the liability issues. Believe me, I have my opinions, but want to know what you think when, say, I provide shop drawings, cutlists, and g-code to a client, and they start cutting material, and whoops... there's a problem. Who's responsible for that $150.00/sheet veneer? Me? (My work has to be 100% perfect.) Them? They should double check everything, shouldn't they?
If you do this right (drawings, bom's, g-code), you add huge value to the shop process, right? See where I'm heading?
And only one teeny-weenie issue with what you said, contributor J (although I do get your meaning). You said: "I do not think you are asking enough of your drafts people. You should ask for a complete drafting/engineering service." Point being, they're much, much more than just drafts people. Aren't they?
For companies looking into outsourcing, always ask for sample drawings and test someone prior, rather than just giving them a huge project, because the job can go down south rather quick. When you find the right person or company, stick with them, even if they get slow once in a while (that usually means they know what they are doing).