How to create an efficient drawing management system for CAD
The heart of a good Engineering office is a good drawing management system. It should be simple to produce such a system. But typically it hasn't been. Large Engineering manufacturers usually employ substantial resource to this part of the system and most will have a fairly sophisticated process. They need it, in order to operate. Assemblies, sub assemblies, individual components, clearly identifiable and manageable. The automobile, the aircraft, the washing machine, it is essential that they have systems and staff to manage the systems, so as to make it work. In the days before computers, manufacturers would generally use a fairly sophisticated combination of letters and numbers in order to segregate and group components and systems. Human error was very common.
Nature of the Problem
But what happens in a small to medium size enterprises (SME) ? Invariably there is never enough time or resource to manage the drawing system. Yes, most are using CAD, but most are also managing their drawings with sub standard drawing management systems. In many cases they just don't recognize the issues or it falls into the “Round Tuit” basket. “One day we need to get on top of this issue” is a common expression as staff spend frustrating hours wading through old files looking for previous work or give up in disgust and start designing from scratch.
It doesn't have to be like that.
The advent of data bases has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for creating and managing drawing numbers. Now SME's can enjoy the same benefits as the big players, but without the big costs. The same rule of “Garbage in – Garbage out” still applies, but by employing a disciplined approach the drawing management system will work very effectively.
In an ideal world, the drawing number system would link to the cad drawing storage area so that in a search, the cad drawing can be opened with a single click. However this is a costly system to instigate and resource hungry in operation. By employing a 2 stage approach, a very good alternative system can be set up at a much more reasonable cost.
Create a unique directory and file structure for storing the cad drawings. Ensure that the drawings are separated into smaller groups, otherwise the system will struggle to handle large numbers of drawings. Typically files of approx 500 drawings work quite well. This can easily be varied to suit an individual application. e.g. the first file maybe numbers 10001 to 10499, the second file would be numbers 10500 to 10999 and so on. This is where the cad files are stored.
The second stage is a drawing number system. The web based data base system works very well for this application. A good example is Mintranet, which can be used for a simple drawing number creation system through to quite sophisticated applications. In its simplest form it will deliver and manage the drawing numbers and provide search facilities so that there will never again be “lost drawings”. The extensive search facility has the ability to scan many, many fields of data in order to retrieve drawings Mitranet will also customize as required in order to fit a customers exact requirement and all at a very competitive cost. It is simple to set up, simple to manage and simple to use.
The beauty of the web based system is that it is very user friendly, can be readily accessed and can be shared (if required) by anyone with access to the web. This 2 stage approach may sacrifice a small amount of functionality, but provides an excellent and comprehensive drawing number management system at a very reasonable cost. It is a solid building block for the engineering process.
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