The client needed a way to extract cost information from CAD drawings.
While there are plenty commercial products with that capacity, none were compatible with the client’s highly specialised setup, which involved separate departments for Design (CAD) and Estimating with just shy of 20 staff in each.
The best commercial option would have required almost doubling the number of CAD technicians, and cost a small fortune.
We suggested a disjointed approach which involved:
- Extracting data from the drawing items to an intermediate format.
- Using very basic rules to map the items to products.
- Introducing a new tool to manage those mappings and upload to the system Estimating already used.
While introducing an intermediate step seemed counter-intuitive, and required a lot of convincing, it allowed both departments to keep using their existing software.
The end result was more than satisfactory:
- Two week long estimating tasks could now take as little as two hours.
- The tidy up of CAD standards required to make this work enabled many spin-off utilities (like automating the drawing register, template completion and so on) making the Design department more efficient than before.
Not only was our solution able to eventually save time in both departments, which wasn’t expected, it also cost around a third of the next best option, as there were no new per-user licence fees.
One of the major advantages of a disjointed approach based on an intermediate format is that either side can be changed without affecting the other.
- Price updates did not require changed the CAD library.
- When the Design department moved from AutoCAD to Revit (a completely different CAD package) we made a plug-in which extracted data to the same intermediate format, meaning the Estimating side remained unchanged - a major win.
Building these considerations into the original design has saved the client thousands over the years compared to what would have been required with any of the alternatives, and that’s on top of the day to day time savings.
Take home points:
- Sometimes a counter-intuitve solution works better.
- Don’t let the lack of commercial options force you to change your processes for the worse.
- Clever design can save you thousands further down the line.