Managing CAD Drawings in a Competitive World
If you’re working in an AEC design environment, then you know how important workflow is. Drawing files are routinely shared between design teams, some of which may be located in different offices in different geographic locations. The tricky part is keeping track of the most current version of the drawing, and making sure that all the accompanying paperwork is integrated into the design package. If you’re a small office, you may be able to get by with a Windows filing system, but for larger organizations, or small organizations trying to grow, managing your file in a Windows hierarchy just won’t give you the control that you need for a multi-discipline design project.
Strangely, the very firms who are quick to see the value in Electronic Document Management Systems for their word documents and spreadsheets, are the very firms whose CAD managers have never even considered EDMS for their CAD files. This may be simply a matter of misunderstanding regarding what EDMS software can do. So, just what can EDMS do for your CAD department?
It’s important to realize at the outset that EDMS is far more than just a way to organize documents and drawings. While it’s true the EDMS will let you add additional information to your file system…like version numbers and revision dates, the real benefit of EDMS is the control that it affords for your drawing assets. An EDMS can restrict users from accidentally deleting, moving, or overwriting your files. This is particularly critical during the design process when your teams may be working with several different versions of the design at once. How many times have you had to go to your backup system to restore a lost version? What do you do when a file is accidentally overwritten and a critical portion of the design is lost and has to be recreated.
In today’s competitive design world, these kinds of mistakes can cause missed deadlines, increased costs, and unhappy clients. An EDMS can eliminate these kinds of problems by setting up access rights and version controls. Common users can access, work on and save files, but can’t move or delete files by mistake.
Furthermore, because an EDMS manages your CAD files with a protected database, they can’t be accessed from your Windows file structure. Users can’t bypass the controls you’ve put in place and “do their own thing.” With your files in a protected database, you can assign extended metadata fields to every file. You can have fields for the file name, description, lot and block, revision dates, and literally any other piece of data you can think of. And, you can restrict access to files via log-in authorizations. This means that your personnel has access to the files they’re assigned to work on and no other ones.
Most EDMS packages also manage the archived revisions of drawings, so you can refer back to previous versions of your designs easily. This can be a real time saver when you’re on revision #6 and your client decides that maybe he liked revision #2 better after all. This happens frequently in architectural design. Rather than trying to track down, or worse, recreate version #2, all you have to do is click on the archive file and make it current.
Security: When competition is high, competitive advantage can mean the difference between winning the bid and losing the bid. You designs are your designs, and the competition could have a field day with them. If you’re relying on a Windows-based filing system to protect your designs think again. There is nothing to prevent any one of your employees from walking out with your designs. An EDMS gives you the capability to secure your proprietary documents, while still allowing authorized personnel easy access to the documents they need. Some EDMS systems can even track who has logged in and accessed each document.
Coordination: Without an EDMS, part of your design team may be using one version of the design for their work, while another part of the design team may be using a different version. This lack of coordination in collaboration can lead to errors in design, errors in submittals and exasperated clients. Whether you have a small design team or a large design team, the potential for confusion and loss of income exists when you rely on a Windows file system. However, the potential for increased profit as a result of the safeguards and EDMS can offer can usually more than offset the cost of the EDMS.
An EDMS is necessary for any design firm that wants to be successful. There are many different EDMS that are geared to the CAD environment. We recommend contacting a trained EDMS consultant who can help you set up an EDMS that will meet your needs at a price point you can afford.