Why CAD Standards Are Important for Your Small Business

by Shaun Bryant
- Jan 25 2014 - 4 min read
Micke Tong

According to Wikipedia, CAD Standards are “a set of guidelines for the way Computer-aided design (CAD) drawings should appear, to improve productivity and interchange of CAD documents between different offices and CAD programs, especially in architecture and engineering.”

And that’s exactly it. Standards are there to standardize. In my CAD classes, I use the phrase “Boring is good.” If every drawing is the same and is “boring,” it’s good. On the flipside, if you have standardized your drawings, errors stand out, making them obvious and easy to fix, too.

How Do You Standardize?

cad standardsStandardizing in a small-business enterprise is pretty easy because you don’t have many management layers to get through, if any. I have worked for numerous large multi-disciplinary organizations, and standards can be a headache as you have various departments and divisions to keep happy, and they all want their own little bit of “ownership” of their standard. That is the main reason I provide consultancy services around CAD Standards—so that you can get on with the job at hand while I get it all standardized in the background.

The main areas requiring standards are AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction) and MCAD (Mechanical CAD), but there are many other niche areas. I will stick with the main ones for now. This is one of my “pet” subjects, so expect a whitepaper sometime soon!

In those main areas, the following CAD features need standardization:


  • CAD layer standards—naming, numbering
  • Line thicknesses—highlighting specific objects and areas on the drawing/model
  • Annotation—text, dimensioning, tables, and leaders
  • Scales—viewports, annotation scaling
  • File-naming standards—allowing for easy file location

MCAD (All of the above, plus …)

  • Geometric dimensioning and tolerancing
  • Geometric quality

So, the question is, have you standardized all of the above? If not, why?

CAD Standards can be very subjective. For example, sometimes you can be working with an architect who forces his or her CAD standard upon you. This can be handled easily if you, too, have your own CAD standard. You can utilize the CAD Standards feature in AutoCAD (DWS filetypes) and also use the layer aliasing feature to add an “alias” of your layer name against the architect’s layer-naming structure, thus saving you precious time having to remember all the architect’s layer names. You just alias them with your layer names, saving time and gaining productivity.

AutoCAD has lots of lesser-known tools for CAD standardization. You just need to look a little deeper. As Lynn Allen (Autodesk Technical Evangelist) said in one of her Autodesk University classes, “You normally only ever use 30 percent of AutoCAD at any given time.” So use 40 percent instead and make your life easier, right?

CAD Standard Localization

Wherever you go in the world, CAD Standards differ. A typical example is the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. still uses imperial measurement, and Europe uses metric measurement. Standards need to be adjusted to take that into account. I worked in the petro-chemical industry for many years as a CAD manager, and numerous projects I worked on needed both types of measurement shown (metric and imperial), so that was built into our internal CAD standard to conform to the CAD standard of the country where the project was located (which could be China, Kazakhstan, or Turkey, to name a few countries where I have managed CAD projects).

cad standards

Here are a few links that will give you more information on worldwide CAD Standards: Wikipedia, AEC UK (CAD & BIM), CAD for Theatre, and National CAD Standard (U.S.). Also, consider BS 1192 and Uniclass if you are UK-based.

You will discover many parties, committees, and organizations working hard to standardize. Get involved! Become a member, join a committee, or, better still, form your own. Work with other committees. Remember, CAD is a community, so maybe join Autodesk User Group International (AUGI) and get on the forums, too. Set up a forum group about standards that you deal with, and get input from other users.

CAD Standards are necessary and very important to the industry to allow for designs and drawings to be interchanged between teams on projects. Sometimes large projects use multiple CAD platforms, so CAD Standards are essential for the project to function.

As a small business, it is easier to implement internal CAD Standards or adopt a known national CAD standard. Plus, if you have a CAD standard in place, you can ensure that all third parties you work with adopt your preferred standard, making sure that you operate at full efficiency and, perhaps, get that project out of the door even quicker. And with many projects out there nowadays offering early finish bonuses, it is in your best interest to make sure you are standardized. It is difficult to do, and if you need external help, there are guys like me out there whom you can employ to assist you in bring your standards up to scratch.

For more CAD and project management tips, check out 3 Must-Know Tips to Be a Successful CAD Manager and Project Management: 7 Best Practices of Well-Timed Production.

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