Any business or project employing teams of people benefits from sound management. CAD work within a design company or on a construction project is no different. But what exactly does a CAD manager do?
At a high level, CAD managers are responsible for ensuring the delivery of quality, on-time CAD work from their team(s) of designers and drafters. This role includes the following functions and more:
- Implement CAD design standards
- Procure optimal CAD software
- Hire, train, and organize teams of drafters and designers
- Oversee the quality of CAD work
- Plan and schedule CAD work with other project team members
The combination of CAD design and hands-on industry experience is a strong asset for a CAD manager. He or she must act as the intermediary between the contractors, engineers, owners, and project managers on one side and the designers and drafters who create the models and construction on the other.
Effective CAD management creates an environment where accurate designs and documentation are produced on time, reducing errors and uncertainties throughout the project life cycle.
What Are CAD Standards?
Creating and enforcing drafting and design standards is a primary function of CAD management. Many components of CAD work, such as line styles and weights, have an industry standard that is best to be adopted and followed. This decreases the likelihood of errors and inconsistencies when working with different teams and companies. At the same time, it ensures the designs are communicated effectively to contractors, engineers, and trades who expect these standards to be followed when reviewing documents and drawings.
In other areas of CAD work in the construction industry, the CAD manager develops a standard to be followed, but it is best to not stray far from industry norms. This includes things like annotation and dimension styles, drawing naming and numbering, title-block information, and organization/style of legends, notes, and tables.
Implementation of these standards is vital to ensure the clarity and communication of design documents. When contractors, subs, and engineers easily understand these documents and require clarification less often, this speeds up everyone’s work and reduces the frequency of errors that result from a lack of standardized documentation. Adhering to such standards drives efficiency within a project and over the long term, as having a reliable and repeatable process for producing these crucial documents will continue to result in efficient project completion.
Choosing the Right CAD Software
Choosing and procuring the proper software is an essential responsibility of the CAD manager. Depending on the type of work at hand, there are always a number of programs to choose from, and making the right decision isn’t always an easy task. Often, several must be employed as a package to produce all the required deliverables, and different designers will require access to different programs. Some software is ideal for producing visually attractive, data-rich 3D models, while others are more efficient at producing traditional 2D drawings with clean annotation.
Another important factor is the price point. Software costs vary widely, and it is not always necessary to have the latest and most powerful programs for all applications. The successful CAD manager will weigh all of these inputs and select a cost-efficient suite of software that produces all deliverables required by project stakeholders and team members.
Hiring and Organizing CAD Designers
A team of competent, motivated CAD designers and drafters working with a common set of standards is a strong driver of project efficiency. Hiring the right group of people to operate in the company’s framework with the aforementioned standards and tools is another important part of effective CAD management. This is where the “manager” in CAD manager is really put to the test. CAD work, especially in the construction industry, requires rigorous attention to detail. The manager must be able to find candidates who have this capacity.
Training the successful candidate is equally as important as finding the right type of person. Effective CAD management includes designing repeatable and efficient training programs that evolve directly out of the combination of industry- and company-specific standards to be followed and the suite of CAD software employed by the company. These training programs should ingrain the applicable standards and norms into the hire through repetition of practical and common design exercises and supervised work on real projects using the appropriate software.
CAD Quality Control
The CAD manager verifies drawings and documents submitted by the design team, and ensures the submissions follow standards and are of acceptable design quality. Of course, the manager cannot pick over every single piece of documentation produced. This is why the previously-mentioned implementation of standards, software selection, and organizing of teams are an important part of the manager’s quality assurance program. However, the CAD manager, being the medium between the CAD designers and the project stakeholders, contractors, PMs, and engineers, continually checks in with both sides to ensure designs are being communicated properly.
It is the CAD manager’s responsibility to ensure that the contractors and their subs are working off of drawings and documents that are easily understood and contain as few errors and inconsistencies as possible. As delays and re-works due to these types of errors are some of the greatest hindrances for both time and cost for a project, tightly controlling the quality of delivered design work is a crucial piece of keeping projects on time and within budget.
How Project Planning and Scheduling Relate to CAD Management
CAD management also ties into the planning and scheduling processes for a project, with project complexity increasing the strength of that relationship. It is desirable to reduce the length of the design stage as much as possible, so it is a strong asset to have systems in place that produce quality documents in a timely manner. When performing several design iterations, the ability to produce the associated drawings and schematics efficiently speeds up the timeline considerably. Acquiring permits is often a time-consuming process as well, and so submitting quality documents as soon as possible reduces this lag and the likelihood changes will be needed for permit approval. In the planning and scheduling of the entire project, efficient and repeatable processes for producing design documents is a strong asset. With predictable and accurate expectations of documentation lead times, project planners and managers create more accurate schedules and plans.
The Value of the CAD Manager
The success and efficiency of a construction project relies greatly on the quality and timelines of CAD work. Every project requires designs and documents produced from CAD software. Having systems in place to deliver them according to standards is paramount. As the liaison between CAD designers and project contributors who base their work on the design team’s deliverables, the CAD manager serves as an invaluable team member. The person(s) in this role greatly benefits from having experience in both CAD and construction while acting as the bridge between the two sides. He or she uses that combined skill-set to drive efficient communication and teamwork during the project.