The Truth about Off-Shore CAD Data Capture and Conversion


When talking about CAD data capture, we’re referring to the combined processes of scanning drawings, cleaning and correcting the images, OCR and Indexing for title boxes and, finally, outputting to the required CAD format.   This process of CAD data capture is the entry point for CAD archiving, CAD workflow and CAD conversion to 3D.

This large format scanning and capture has been made considerably easier with today’s advanced large format scanners, leading some organizations to invest in the scanning technology and do it themselves.  However, while scanning can be relatively simple, the technologically challenging part of the conversion process comes when converting the scanned files to 2D or 3D CAD.  Achieving high conversion throughput at minimum cost requires a skill set that most scanning personnel and CAD operators do not have.  This is where service bureaus and CAD conversion outsourcers come into play.  Low offshore labor rates, cheaper communications methods, and the ease with which scanned files can be transmitted can make offshore CAD conversion companies appear very attractive

In this post we look at the issues that can arise with offshore CAD conversion outsourcers:

  1. Far Fewer Savings than Expected

One of the biggest risks associated with the offshore outsourcing of CAD conversion involves the inflated expectations that the internal organization has about how much the savings from offshore CAD conversion outsourcing will be. Unfortunately, many executives assume that outsourced labor will yield savings comparable to a person-to-person comparison (e.g., a full-time equivalent in India will cost 40% less) without regard for the hidden costs and added internal management efforts and operation modifications required for outsourcing.    In reality, many organizations save far less than they had anticipated with CAD outsourcing.

  1. Lowered Accuracy and Performance

 A significant risk of outsourcing the CAD conversion function is that the vendor may not be able to perform as promised.  This may be as a result of language barriers, differing cultural expectations, delays in response due to time zone differences or lack of understanding of the work involved.   For example, Although English is one official language in India, pronunciation, and accents can vary tremendously. In addition, cultural differences include religions, modes of dress, social activities, and even the way a question is answered. Most leading vendors have cultural education programs, but executives should not assume that cultural alignment will be insignificant or trivial.

  1.  Offshore Vendor Unfamiliar with U.S. Government Oversight/Regulation

Most US organizations face various degrees of government regulation and oversight.  While at first glance, this may not seem to be an issue when discussing CAD Conversion outsourcing, the issue of transparency is becoming more significant as requirements such as the USA PATRIOT Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act place greater burdens of accountability on all American corporations.  So whether it’s a building code issue in a CAD drawing to required security measures for sensitive aircraft drawings, If the offshore vendor is not sensitive to industry-specific requirements and the vendor’s ability to: 1) comply with government regulations; and 2) provide sufficient “transparency” showing that it does comply and is thus accountable, then this could create legal ramifications for the US corporation.

  1.  Turnover of Key Personnel

Rapid growth among offshore CAD outsourcing vendors has created a dynamic labor market, especially in India. Key personnel is usually in demand for new, high-profile projects, or even at risk of being recruited by other offshore vendors. While offshore vendors will often quote overall turnover statistics that appear relatively low, the more important statistic to manage is the turnover of key personnel. Common turnover levels are in the 15%-20% range, and this usually refers to the most knowledgeable of the CAD specialists.  The impact of high turnover can directly affect the quality of CAD conversion work.


The choice between onshore and offshore outsourcing should not be based only on quoted per-conversion costs.  The proximity of the conversion process to the subsequent business process becomes more important when looking at all aspects of the job such as technology integration with other applications; quality and accuracy of data conversion; knowledge of regulatory requirements; the need for continuous training of rapidly changing new personnel.

Concentrating the CAD conversion process with an onshore facility generally provides a more seamless approach with greater ROI, even if the initial per-conversion price quote is somewhat greater than an offshore facility.  This is particularly true when CAD conversion is an on-going business strategy that results in a permanent or semi-permanent business relationship between the organization that owns the CAD drawings and the service bureau that does the conversions.


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