State of Standards
by Mark Stefanchuk, cadmanage.com
I’ve been exchanging some emails with our good friend Bob B. – a long time cad developer, cadguru, cad manager etc. The exchange has gone a little like this…
Bob – “Mark, CADD is getting killed out here! CADD professionals are being tossed out and the Standards are non-existent, no one seems to care, no one is checking drawings.”
Me – “I’m sure the overall economy is the main factor here. Standards are still relevant.”
Bob – “I’m sure part of the problem with jobs is just the economy…but with even the CADD companies removing the “D”…I think there’s more to it. I know Engineering has been trying to get rid of “Drafting” since the early 90’s. and believe me, whether they know/admit it or not…the drafted product is suffering.”
I did a little bit (very little) of informal surveying and others are still seeing a significant reduction in staff especially among the drafting teams. If the projects aren’t there then the people aren’t either. Whether or not it’s just the overall economy or it’s a new paradigm is uncertain and it’s also unclear when hiring will pick up again.
What do you think? Is there an underlying desire to change the way we do things in the design office and thus eliminate some older professions like the drafter and drafting supervisor?
I think there has, for quite some time been a shift towards using the junior engineers as drafters. When I started there were very few computers in the office and CAD was only used in the largest design offices. So, if you couldn’t draw very well, you weren’t allowed to draft. Today computers and CADD stations are essentially commodity so drawing ability is not really a factor. It’s possible then that economic pressures have forced many organization to reduce staff and if business leaders believe anyone can run a CADD station then why do we need drafters – as the logic goes, if I can type my own letters in MS Word then engineers and architects can use CAD to draw.
I’ll get some of you mad at me for saying this, but this isn’t necessarily bad logic. Here’s my partial theory. Engineers, and architects (and design leadership) should be able to do their own CADD work – most of them just can’t. They haven’t had to know how to use the technology and they don’t know the details of their design practice. This most recent economic downturn, more so than any previously has accelerated the move from drafter as a separate hire to integrating the role into the skill set of the engineer/architect. Consequently, most organizations are not prepared. And, as Bob has pointed out, no one seems to care to check the CAD standards and drafting practices.
I suspect, in the short term this will continue to be a problem. Organizations are cutting staff because they don’t have enough work to go around. In the long term we, engineers, architects and design professionals. will likely be doing more, if not all of our own CADD work. When I got a computer with Word Perfect I knew then that it was going to be a long long time before I got my own assistant – I’m still waiting. I can type now too. Design automation is, of course more complex than a word processor. It’s much more difficult to learn, but it’s not impossible.
I’m not a futurist, but I can make a few more predictions. There will be more automation – design programs that do stuff for you , design programs that integrate with downstream systems like financial, construction and so on. (I hope so because this is how I make my living now.) To some degree, these solutions exist today, but they will get better, easier to use, and easier to integrate.
So, what do you think? Are CADD (emphasis on the second D, drafting) professionals getting killed out there? Are standards being ignored? Is hiring picking up? Leave a comment. Let us know.