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Where have all the drafters gone (was: drafters' reliability)

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On Apr 8, 2005, at 12:05 PM, Gerard Madden, SE wrote:

What people need
to remember is the structural draftsman is a dying breed.
I'll quibble a little with this. There are many fewer drafters whose only job is creating drawings, but the need for engineering drafting is the same as ever. Drawings still get made, but there's a lot more crap floating around as drafting gets reassigned. You need drawings to aid in reviewing and presenting the features of the design. Drawings are the only way to present pertinent design details that communicates this information. The business case for separating drafting from the rest of the engineering process is to delegate that part of the work and free up an engineer for managing the project, getting quotes, resource planning and allocation, communicating with the client, site visits and troubleshooting requiring engineering oversight.

From what I can see drafting is being done by junior engineers in larger companies and it's simply being added to the the engineer's duties in smaller ones. (Of course those of us with one-holer practices have always been in the barrel because there's no one else.) Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Where engineering requires a great deal of technical expertise, like the nuke business the quality of the design and the quality of the drafting suffer; in offices where design is basically just cartooning junior engineers can function OK, but you don't find many junior engineers who can do a tolerance stack-up or weld design, to name just two. And in offices where the drafters did the checking, you see a lot more errors. Just check the next drawing package you get. If the checker and the designer and the approver all have the same initials, be very, very careful.

The mistake is to assume that drawings are only artistic representations, which they aren't. Drawings are communications, just like a report or a specification. They have to be organized, and unambiguous, besides being accurate. The difference between an experienced drafter and a CAD monkey is the ability to organize and communicate, so you get very attractive drawings with too much detail where it's not needed, or the wrong detail or dimensions called out to 4 decimal places with tolerances. OTOH too many engineers approach the drafting function with a 'do what I meant, never mind what I said,' attitude toward communication, and the number of questions and 'shop screw-ups' reflect the fact that the design drawings are just cartoons.

My own opinion is that the guts of the problem is a lack of technical leadership. Or technically literate leadership. Too many obsolete engineers or non-engineers in managerial positions. People who understand what the drafting function actually is would have recognized the way to integrate CAD into their design cycle to make it more productive instead of going for the small potatoes and just looking at their head count.

Christopher Wright P.E. |"They couldn't hit an elephant at
chrisw(--nospam--at)   | this distance" (last words of Gen.
.......................................| John Sedgwick, Spotsylvania 1864)

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