Read our most frequently asked questions.

What is a Drawing Management System?

A Drawing Management System is an assembly or combination of rules and approaches with the intent of maintaining drawing health. This could be a process to managing hard copies and how they are filed. It could be software that maintains some structure and processes of electronic digital drawings.

A Drawing Management System can be vast or brief. It could include revision control, approval processes or storage locations.

A simple Drawing Management System like folders in a computer system where staff are instructed to store drawings is a typical start. The best process with this type of system is with strict permissions but ultimately a shared drive on a server lacks ability of purpose-built software.

Software Drawing Management Systems can help reduce duplication, give guidance on good drawing management practices and allow easier finding of relevant drawings in the future.

Any Drawing Management System used by an organisation is best supported by good policies and procedures. Procedures that show best practice and give the ability to it’s users. Policies to ensure the use of the said Procedures.

What are the problems with Drawing Management Software?

The biggest problem we see, is software not fit for purpose. It also is not software that does not do enough. It is software that does too much. The more functionality added, the more a user needs to know. Most organisations that need Drawing Management Software are not Engineering or Drafting houses. They are not organisations the live and breath drawings. Engineering and Drafting houses could easily use a windows folder structure with a little care. They often have few staff members, with several projects unique to each staff member or teams. When you get organisations with hundreds of staff and thousands of drawings, the game changes. Often managers and engineers meet the potential suppliers for Drawing Managements System. They know drawings and lots of functionality seems important. Though most of these managers and engineers are too busy to manage the drawings. They are also not the biggest user of the system. The biggest users are typically base users. Staff that search for, print, download and use drawings for their day-to-day work. Staff like maintenance workers. These staff members are not drawing management system gurus like engineers and managers are. So, if the system is too complicated then your main use case will not be met. Staff just will not sue the system.

Another problem is a system can be too ridged. Typically, an organisation produces a service or a product. Manufacturing, Mining, Ports, and Major Facilities for example. These organisations might have staff to create drafting standards and drawing management standards. Though often these staff do not have time to police these policies. So, the system needs to largely enforce these standards. In attempt to take over much of the policing. Often this is too ridged. You want to enforce good version control and approvals. But the split up of drawings needs a little freedom. Too ridged and you will get large general collections with few break-ups.

PDF version not being tied to original files. CAD Drawings are great. But using CAD is rather hard and requires software to be installed to view and print. Having a PDF of a CAD is great but if the CAD and PDF are not paired together then they can get out of sync.

The list goes on here.

Feel free to call us and we can discuss what would best suit you. Even if it is not us. We will support you as someone you interact with might need us.

How to best manage drawings?

It is horses for courses. Each organisation has different needs. Project Managers, Engineering Offices and Manufacturing Facilities all benefit from different systems to manage their drawings.

The main requirement is to know your needs and risks.

If your organisation has more than say 50 staff and thousands of drawings, then you will really benefit from Drawing Management Software. A cloud-based website or web-based software on your server where you can access on your systems via a VPN. So staff can access drawings at any time without seeking directions from others. Being web based will mean no client installs either. Staff will just need a web browser. IT staff already have enough to do.

The system should manage versions, reviews, approvals and allow staff to easily search for and view drawings. Ideally then allow staff to identify issues with the drawings. There are many things to restrict in a drawing management system but access and identifying issues should be easy. The easier the system is to use, the more it will be accessed. Increasing productivity, reducing plant downtime and increasing profits.

Outside of what system to use, your organisation really wants some good standards and policies in place. A system is only as good as the information you put into it. Rubbish in, Rubbish out.

The initial population process can also be time intensive and requires the attention of someone who cares. A poorly populated system from the beginning will result in a system not used by your staff. Your staff will struggle to find the drawings they are after or not know how to store new drawings being entered into the system.

Talk to us and we will be able to explain the benefits to different solutions and give a recommendation on the best solution. During your information gathering phase, you really want to talk to as many staff as you can before making your decision.

How to manage a drawing management system?

Rarely do organisations have document controllers or drafting offices on site. Though if you do, use their abilities to your organisations advantage. They know your drawings. Get them to populate and manage the system. No one will be more passionate in your organisation to maintain the system that maintains the drawings.

If your drawing management system is transparent in areas that it should than a system can largely manage itself. Backed with a health reporting system and you will be able to identify any issues.

To manage a system over the long term it requires effort up front. A plan for how the drawing management system should be populated now and into the future. A plan that transforms into a standard that lives and grows with the system. From there a policy document that enforces the use of the system can help. A good support company can help you with all of this.

Another helpful tool can be restricted old stores of drawings to read only. Forcing staff to use the drawing management system.

What makes a good drawing number system?

A good drawing number is specific to your organisation and inclusive enough to include it all. Often a drawing number will be created by an engineering group such as Electrical that will ignore Mechanical and Civil etc. It could also be done by one area and not include the other. Like the refinery plant division not including the mine side. Though sometimes this is what has to happen due to time constraints. A drawing number which works very well for Electrical is unlikely to work for Mechanical if it was not first thought of. In some cases we produce drawing numbers separate for disciplines for this very reason.

It can be really helpful to have a tag number (Unit ID, FLOC, Unique ID) in a drawing number. So all drawings referring to specific plants are grouped together. This Tag is best at the beginning of the drawing number so sets for a particular piece of plant are kept together and not split by discipline or area break-ups.

Do not use information which is generic across your site or a prefix that does not change. Drop all the detail which does not assist the drawing number. Shorter the number the better. Long numbers become hard to put in titleblocks and to use for referencing in drawings.

Try not to use a number that needs a key or legend to decipher it.

  1. Single Line Diagram
  2. Termination
  3. Schematic

Instead use SLD, TER, SCH. It makes it easier for the end user.

Ensure you give your drawings enough padding. We usually recommend 4 digits. Often 3 is enough but after a plant has been operating for a decade you might be surprised to know you’ve used the majority of 999 drawings for the major generic areas.

If you are embarking on creating a new drawing number, feel free to call us. Getting it right from the start is crucial. Changing a number later can be painful.

What features should a drawing management system have?

What a system should have will depend on your organisation’s needs. Thought there is some obvious features the system will need. A permission system that can lock access down or expand it depending on the data set. Version control so many revisions can be stored together. An approval system so all new entries are reviewed.

There are some less obvious features though that are more important.

Firstly, is the system easy to use for the base user. Getting your Managers and Engineers to use a feature rich system with a lot going on might be easy. How hard is the system to use for most of your users though?

Secondly you really want PDFs to be tied to each CAD file. In pairs. Not managed separately. If they need to be managed separately, they could get out of sync. PDF versions are easy to view and print. Everyone has a PDF viewer nowadays. Not everyone has CAD or can use a CAD viewer. If the system uses a viewer to produce a preview instead of a PDF than it has been setup to view the drawing based on the line types. Each new vendor needs to be setup. Who is going to set that up and at what cost on an ongoing basis?

Lastly, having files not tied to a revision number on the file. So many times, we have seen a system with a revision number and the files being a different revision number. If the system needs the revision number populated during uploads, then users will make the mistake of populating this wrong. Worst still, some systems automatically give files the next available number as a rev. Having the number in the filename on the upload ensures there are far fewer mistakes.

The ability to reserve drawing numbers, easily identify drawing issues and retire old drawings are also important. The list goes on but as mentioned, it is specific to your organisation. If you are worried about missing out of features, you might need than give us a call.

Do you partner with us to support us with our drawing management needs?

Yes! Every step of the way.

We review your current:

  • Drawing and document practices
  • Drawing collections
  • Policies and standards
  • Needs and wants
  • Organisational specifics

Then give you recommendations and guide you on what will work best for your organisation. Then with your guidance produce any standards and policies needed to begin. Though these documents will grow and change as your project continues.

We can then clean-up your drawing and document collections. Removing duplication and unwanted files. Plotting CAD files. Checking for revisions. Then populating your system based on your preferences.

From there we have closeout meetings explaining exactly how the population has gone. Anything left to close out and supply your staff training.

Depending on your staff availability and your existing drafting support we can then do future uploads and drawing mark-ups as requested. Though you do not have to use us.

Why not use windows explorer and folders to manage drawings and documents?

Using Windows to manage files relies heavily on permissions being setup correctly and users who can self-police. The challenges do not stop there though:

  • One of the first problems is to be able to find required drawings and documents later. Unless the drawings are really well sorted this is a big problem. Even if they are well sorted, the drawing number rarely gives any clue to what the drawing is of. There is no additional metadata to search on
  • This usually leads to some sort of a list – This list becomes large and can itself be difficult to find things in – especially if the numbers get into the thousands of drawings or documents. Managing the list and ensuring it is always up to date, matching the files being managed is a job in itself
  • Often staff will keep their own little stash of drawings close to them so that they know where to find them when they want them
  • Certainly there is very little that can be done to ensure drawings and documents are placed in the right location or are not duplicated.

Outside of the folder setup and access there are more systematic issues that reduce the use and trust of your stored drawings and documents.

Viewing and Printing the Drawing

Once found, most drawings are in an AutoCAD format. There are a number of viewers available for opening CAD drawings – however they are not always easy to print due to the colours and line thicknesses.

The person accessing the drawing needs to have the viewer on his/her computer and know how to work it.

Keeping Track of the Changes Made to Drawings

One of the main problems with keeping track of things is having multiple copies of drawings and documents. Knowing what is the latest revision and who has it is a problem.

This is compounded by the fact that very few organisations directly employ someone to look after and mark up their drawings. This job is left to external contractors (such as us) and sometimes there can be a number of them.

Without; an approval system, version control and protection of duplication than few will feel confident in using the documents and drawings stored.

Our system theDMSeffect solves all of these issues and more.

Why shouldn’t we just develop our own drawing management software?

This is often an approach which seems ideal. Your organisation will get a solution which meets your specific needs. Sadly the endeavour rarely results in a finished product. There are many hurtles:

  • Developing software is usually a long process.
  • Finding an IT partner; You will need to find a development company. Someone with some prior knowledge of a similar system ideally. This will take time. The wrong partner will blow out costs and result in a clunky system. Changing partners part way through could well mean an entire project restart. Will you know how to judge what company is best suited to your needs?
  • Putting together a plan – how will the system work and what functionality is required? How many chefs are going to want a say in what the system will do? You need to allow a lot of time for this. You need to think each process through. How is the information stored in the database, how does the software make changes to the database and then, how does it present to the user. UI and UX are just as important.
  • Development time – the whole time you will need to be available for input to the end result. There will be a lot you have not thought of. If there were many chefs then testing and filling the missed sections of the concept/design can be painful. Take too long to find a resolution and developers are doing nothing while you pay them. Rush and do not consult all your chefs and the end product might not be fit for purpose.
  • Testing functionality – Fail to test thoroughly and the system will not work the way it needs to. Post the major development phase it can be hard to find development windows with your support company because you are no longer fully employing developers. A poorly functioning system well lose trust in its users quickly. If issues are not identified early and fixed quickly, you will end up with a costly dormant system.

This whole process is likely to take about 2 years if everything goes well. Cutting corners to reduce this timeline results in a reduction in areas mentioned above. You either end up with a system not fit for purpose or riddled with bugs.

  • During this time your drawing and document management problems have not been addressed and are still growing.
  • The cost of developing software is usually quite hefty.
  • Then you still have the project of populating the system left.
  • From there who will maintain the system? Windows and the internet is forever changing. Your software will need consistent updates to keep up. Then every 6-8 years it will likely need an entire rewrite to work with new systems.
  • Who is the long-term software manager? You will need more than one person on site. If they leave it will be rather hard to pick things are again.
  • You will also need to maintain physical servers, back-ups and the ever changing windows environment.

Going your own way and developing software sounds ideal. Though in reality it often ends in software not used, a large bill to pay, and with no one to support it. Through no fault of their own, the original personnel set with the task to develop software, are often setup to fail. Leaving egg on their face without serious support by management and a healthy timeline expectation.

Why not get off the shelf file management software which is a single payment?

There is plenty of packages out there that you can purchase, install and setup yourself.

However, this move has inherent issues:

  • Someone on site has to become the champion of the system. Learn how it works, how to configure it and how to trouble-shoot it
  • Someone has to enter the documents into the system. This can be a big job and can take some time
  • Systems often need a server to run on
  • More often than not, client software has to be installed onto user’s computers to allow them access to the documents on the server
  • If the champion of the system leaves the organisation the knowledge goes with them, and you can be left with the problem of getting someone else up to speed to manage the software
  • These packages are quite powerful and pack a lot of features. This can cause problems as the more powerful something is the less easy it is to learn and use. Especially for the end user; electricians, fitters, boilermakers, etc.

The better solution is to subscribe to an online drawing management system.

  • The subscription company should be a full-service provider to assist with drawings and documents. This reduces the need to have a system owner on site that knows the software inside and out. Obviously reducing the impedance of key drawing management staff leaving your organisation
  • The subscription company would ideally assist with populations of your system. This task can be incredibly involved. Cleaning up the dataset, mining out the metadata and populating your system based on something logical to your site. Drawing Management is not your core competency, but it is for Drawing Managers
  • Client installs and servers for hosting the system will be a thing of the past. Users only need a web browser
  • Our system is specifically designed to be user friendly to the staff where using a computer is not the main requirement of their role. Often these are trades staff

Our drawing management system and just as important the services we provided in tandem are likely to cost you far less than doing it yourself. All while reducing the risks and overheads to your organisation.

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