Autopro Blog

Using Drawing Automation to Streamline Project Execution

June 14, 2016

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Project teams are always under pressure to perform "smarter, faster, better".

The current economic conditions are also causing reductions in project funding, with the result that project teams must produce more with less. One strategy that can be used to streamline project execution is drawing automation.

What is drawing automation?

Drawing automation is the process of creating project drawings from a data source by using a set of software tools that have been configured to utilize the data. This process can also be extended to create other project deliverables including reports and lists.

The goal of drawing automation is to create consistent and accurate drawings while reducing the effort of manual drafting.

Many types of drawings are well suited for drawing automation, including:

  • Loop Drawings
  • Module Drawings
  • Junction Box Termination Drawings
  • Cable Schedules
  • Wire Termination Reports

Depending on the sophistication of the drawing automation database and software tools, other project deliverables may also be automated as a side benefit of drawing automation, including:

  • Instrument Data Sheets
  • IO Assignments
  • Instrument Index
  • Bill of Materials
  • Lamicoid Engraving Schedules

Benefits and limitations of automating your engineering drawings

There are many benefits of drawing automation, including:

  • Reduced drafting effort
  • Fewer typos and copy-paste errors
  • Error checking can be built into automation tools (eg. catching duplicate assignments)
  • Uniform appearance across drawings
  • Existing data sources can be leveraged such as IO lists, instrument indexes, cable schedules, etc.
  • More efficient quality reviews by utilizing the automation software to review data tables rather than drawings.
  • Rework (if required) can be less costly

While there are many benefits to drawing automation, there are some limitations to consider such as:

  • Not always cost effective for small projects
  • Not always cost effective when there are a high number of variations
  • The drawings will only be as accurate or complete as the source data
  • It may be difficult to integrate with existing drawings

For smaller projects, or medium size projects with many variations in the drawings, the effort to set up a database, templates, etc. may not justify the savings in drafting effort.

For custom or complicated "one off" drawings, automation may not make sense either. The project team may opt to perform drawing revisions manually on this subset of drawings.

It is still possible to benefit from drawing automation for drawings with variations, or "one off" drawings. A base template can be automated with basic drawing information to get the drawing started. From this initial drawing, manual revisions can be performed to complete the drawing.

Is drawing automation a good fit for your project?

When planning the execution of a project, the following questions can help assess if drawing automation can be beneficial:

  • What types of drawings are required?
  • How many of each drawing type is there?
  • Are there any class of drawings that are very similar or repetitive in nature?
  • How many special or unique cases are there per drawing type?
  • Are all drawings new, or are existing drawings being modified?
  • For existing drawings, are any of them raster based or are source files available (eg. TIFF or PDF only)?
  • Is it acceptable to replace existing drawings with new automated versions?
  • Is the data defining the content of the drawings consistent and easily organisable?
  • Are there existing sources of data that define the content of the drawings?
  • Are there any deliverables for construction that may be clearly communicated in table or report form?
  • Can partially automated drawings get the project "close enough" to complete with manual edits for special or unique cases?

The automation of project drawings has many benefits for project execution, including improvements to cost, schedule and quality. Several factors must be considered before utilizing drawing automation for a project, and the limitations must be understood.

Autopro’s automation experts can help you determine where drawing automation can help you save time and cost on your projects. Please bnou%60bu%21tr if you would like additional information on these or any of our other services.