3 Steps to successfully plan your AutoCAD Drawings
Some people think that AutoCAD files don’t have a value. They are just bits and bytes on a computer, aren’t they? I’m guessing that your Boss doesn’t see it that way!
Your company pays you good money to create drawings. Each drawing you create is worth your hourly rate x the number of hours is takes you to complete your drawing.
If your company is willing to invest that amount of money in you, don’t you need to give some thought on how to spend it wisely?
No matter how big or small the project, even a day spent drawing deserves 20 minutes of our time spent planning.
‘Really? But I don’t have the time to plan – I must hurry!’
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There is nothing guaranteed to waste more time than running off before you found out where you are going!
How to plan a drawing
1. Make sure your goals are clear
Don’t you just hate it when you complete a drawing only to find that it isn’t what your line manager or customer wanted?
If you don’t start out with a clear brief of what you need to achieve, you are doomed to fail before you start!
Let’s start our preparation before we even have a briefing. Make a list of the things that you will need to know in order to create a successful drawing.
You might include:
- Deadline – Naturally!
- Milestones – This might include internal reviews and the submittal date (including time for plotting and preparing transmittals)
- Content – This is the bit you probably know ;)
- Customers – Who is going to use this drawing?
- Response – why are we issuing this drawing? What response do we hope to get from the person that’s going to receive it?
- Resources – Who is going to help you with this task? Whom do you need information from?
- Alternatives – What’s going to happen if we don’t get the work done in time?
(Do you have more on your list? Leave your suggestions in the comments)
Don’t let the person who is commissioning the drawings go until you are completely sure that you understand their expectations.
2. Planning your Deadlines, Milestones & Reporting
Everybody worries about deadlines. It’s important that we do. But we aren’t always able to meet our deadline. It’s key that we recognise this early so that we can deal with it and make the best out of the situation.
Make sure that you note the key milestones in your process that you’ll need to hit in order to deliver on time. Put some time against the tasks to help you plan.
Be as detailed as you can in breaking down the steps, but don’t worry about guessing the time precisely at this stage – just go with your gut feeling for now.
Example to do list:
- Planning – 20 minutes
- Customer research – 1 Hour (Internal or external customers)
- Technical research – 1 Hour
- Modelling – 3 Hours
- Design Review – 30 minutes
- Drawings – 3 Hours
- Production Review – 30 minutes
- Updates – 1 hour
- Preparing a submittal pack – 30 minutes
- Reporting – 1 Hour (across the job)
Now look at the time you have until your deadline. Do you have enough time to complete the tasks? Have you factored in your previous commitments? If not, call in your Boss now!
Next – look at those tasks that require help from others. They will really appreciate it if you let them know that you will need their help in advance.
Book an appointment with them ahead of time. It will give you a goal to focus on, and it will give them the opportunity to prepare for your meeting.
But don’t worry too much about hitting that deadline. As long as you can give your colleague some advance notice they will happily move the meeting time for you.
Why? Well – do you think that your colleague or customer would rather move your appointment to a new time, or not have an appointment at all – and risk having you interrupt them needing urgent attention when they aren’t prepared for you!
Keep your list by you and note how long the tasks are taking. In the long term this will help you to estimate more accurately how long these tasks take. In the short term you will recognise pretty early on if you are running behind your schedule.
As soon as you think that you won’t be able to meet your agreed deadline, go to your manager and ask for their help. If you do this soon enough, they may be able to help you meet the deadline. If you leave it to late – no-one will be able to help you… I predict that you will be working late…
Finally – don’t forget to report as you complete each milestone. It’s not enough to plan your workload well, you need to let people know that you’ve planned.
Don’t wait for your Boss or your customer to chase you for a progress report, be proactive and let them know that you are protecting their investment.
3. Finally – The drawing itself!
OK, now you know what you are setting out to achieve (and you’ve made sure that everyone knows it) you can start up AutoCAD and get going right?
Wrong, you’re not quite there yet. There is a vital exercise that I want you to do first. Even you take nothing else away from this article, please promise me you’ll do this exercise!
Take a piece of blank paper, sketch out a drawing border and then sketch out a ‘thumbnail’ version of the drawing you are about to create.
The is the single most valuable thing you can do to help you plan your drawing more effectively.
Don’t worry if you can’t draw very well. It doesn’t matter how rough the thumbnail drawing is. Just map out where you are going to place the principle view, indicate how may sections you will need to draw and note which areas will need detailing.
Not only will this focus your mind on how much work you need to put into your model in order to create your drawing, but you can show it off to your ‘customers’ too. Pin it up above your desk. Let people see it. Let them ask questions. You might be surprised at what you find out.
I’d like to take a minute to thank my good buddy Edwin for inviting me to participate in ‘How to work better with AutoCAD‘. I sincerely hope that you are enjoying the series.
Did you find this post helpful? Do you have some great tips on time planning that you can share with the group?
I look forward to hearing from you.