Cad For Project Managers: How to feed and water your Setter Out.


Much of what we build in the Construction industry is not rocket science. In my experience many drawings are completed in less than a day. So why does it take two weeks to get a drawing out?

Because the drawing is incidental to the design process.

Design, Coordinate and Then Draw

Photo by Paul

The role of the Setter out is to make sure that somebody has thought the process of manufacture and installation through from start to finish.

Through research, phone calls, meetings, samples, drawings and prototypes, it is up to the Setter out to make sure that everything that has been specified by the Architect or Designer will work together, fit together and meet the relevant building codes – Before we start to build it.

Only once all this ‘Design’ work has been done can a fully accurate and coordinated drawing be produced.

Delays to the drawings being finished are often caused by the original design specification being inconsistent, inaccurate, incomplete or incorrect. Many of these problems are not turned up until the Setter out starts work. Keeping the program on track requires good communication and quite a bit of effort between the Project Manager and the Setter out.

Photo by Paul

Looking for trouble

Don’t wait for your Setter out to find those problems! Look through the design documents carefully for errors before you hand the work over to your Setter out. If you are lucky enough to have a team of Setter outs on your job, give your lead Setter out a head start to turn over the information. Make the lead Setter out responsible for bringing any problems to you.

If you have issues with the Design brief – don’t challenge the Design team. They are not ‘wrong’ they just probably haven’t given the practicalities of the job as much thought as you have – that’s what us Contractors are for right?! Work with the design team.

Provide solutions rather than asking questions. Cover as much as possible in design coordination meetings and confirm the decisions taken in meeting notes. RFI’s can be divisive and a barrier to communication. Use RFI’s only to back up questions that cannot be answered straight away.

Whilst it might be tempting to hand the Design coordination meetings over to your Setter out – the reality is that the longer the project goes on for, the less benefit there is in your Setter out attending. When your Setter out is in a meeting, they are not producing drawings. As long as your Setter out has the information they need to get on and draw – keep them drawing!

Photo by Suat Eman

Photo by Suat Eman

Keep Moving

If your RFI’s aren’t answered – make a decision and instruct your Setter out how to proceed. If the Design team sign off your drawings you are in a position to progress. If they don’t – at least you will have found out what you need to do to move on. If you have submitted your drawings for Approval on programme and the Design team ‘Sit’ on your drawings while they decide what to do – the ball is in their court. You have done what you can.

Once any queries with the ‘Design Intent’ have been clarified, have your lead Setter out put a pack of design documents, RFI’s, meeting notes, sketches, surveys and/or Photo’s together to pass on to the Setter out drawing up the item – so that this Setter out doesn’t have to go through the same process again.

This may be a continual process for each item during the job – don’t forget that your lead Setter out will not be producing drawings whilst they are doing this chore for you!

Get organised

Photo by Salvatore VuonoAs soon as your Setter out is on board, go through the Design Specification, Programme and Estimate together. Then work together to create a drawing register. List out all the drawings you think you will need to build the job. Leave plenty of ‘spare’ drawing numbers between drawings in case you need to add more drawings down the line.

This document will give you a good idea of how many drawings are required for the job, which will help with programming. This is also a great opportunity to talk through the job with your Setter out to make sure that they understand what you are expecting.

Just because you have listed a drawing on the drawing register it doesn’t mean that you have committed to producing that drawing. You can add or delete entries from the drawing register as the job develops. The drawing register is a working document and will need to be updated as you go along.

Photo by Salvatore Vuono

Keep organised

Photo by Salvatore VuonoIt is likely that your Setter out will want to keep their original CAD files under lock and key in a permission controlled file. This is to be expected and you shouldn’t let it worry you.

However, you should insist that your Setter out (or your Document controller) file an ‘electronic’ (PDF or DWF) version of each drawing that has been issued in a project folder that anyone can access. This makes up the current set of drawings and should always be up to date.

This resource is for your benefit and will save you having to treat your Setter out like a walking print bureau and library!

Photo by Salvatore Vuono

Minimise the Admin

Keeping control of all the drawings for the build is a difficult job. Making sure that all the relevant parties have had the correct information is vital to the success of the project. It can be extremely time consuming to keep on top of the Drawing register, Transmittals, Printing, Copying and Filing.

Allow your Setter out time to do this job thoroughly. If you are lucky enough to have a Document Controller, make sure that they take some of this workload off your Setter out. Use your Setter out for their ‘unique’ talent – drawing!

Make a Plan

‘People like a plan – You know where you are with a plan’* Make a programme based on the drawing register. Don’t get too detailed, just put down the dates that you need the drawings issued into manufacture. Let the your Setter out work out the most efficient way to complete the drawings on time.

Review this programme weekly with your Setter out, and revise it as often as you need too to keep it current.

Methods of construction

Don’t forget that these drawings are a tool for YOU – the Project Manager. The drawings are there to help you control costs, meet the programme, satisfy the Design team and ultimately – make the Client happy (they only write cheques when they are happy).

Make sure that your Setter out understands how you want the job to be built, and make sure that they have a clear idea of the drawings YOU need to get that idea across to your subcontractors and Manufacturers. Make sure you see ALL the drawings before they leave the office. If you loose control of the drawings – you have lost control of the job.

If you loose control of the drawings – you have lost control of the job.

Just because you can – it doesn’t mean you should

Would you send a Bench Joiner out to buy more screws or a tin of paint? No?  – Well I should think not! You are getting the best value out of your Joiner when they are at their bench working – producing the goods that you are selling.

Most management jobs can be done in half an hour – writing an email, making a phone call, passing on information and checking on progress. Setting out is closer to working on the bench. Your Setter out needs to concentrate on the item they are drawing from start to finish, with no distractions.

Don’t be tempted to give your Setter out additional ‘quick’ tasks to do that will distract them from the job at hand, Just because they are sat at a computer, next to a phone.

You are getting the best value out of your Setter out they are at their computer drawing.

Programme, Programme, Programme.

renjith krishnanIt is frustrating when the Drawing Approval stage becomes a bottle neck and prevents the job progressing. Don’t let the Setting out office become a ‘Black Hole’.

Talk to your Setter outs daily. Keep tabs on what they have done, what they are intending to do next and any problems they have that may be a road block. Head any problems off early, don’t let problems build up and make sure any important decisions are YOURS.

Don’t let the Design team have a second bite at the cherry! Even the best Designers will keep on ‘tweaking’ their design up until the last minute – if YOU let them… Changes to drawings can take as long as the original drawing took and keeping track of multiple versions of drawings can cause confusion and delay. Keep a good relationship with the Design team, but don’t let them re-design the job as they go along.

Your programme is a working document that represents a moving target. Keep on top of it a revise it as often as necessary. Keep your Setting out team clearly advised of your goals.

Photo by renjith krishnan

Money, Money, Money.

Very few Setter outs will price a job as they draw it. It is YOUR job to keep the project profitable (unless you are lucky enough to have the help of a QS). If you need to, get the item re-priced to the Setter out’s drawings before you send it to the Design team for Approval. Don’t let the Design team sign off an item you can’t afford to build.

If your Setter outs are not reading the estimates and are over specifying items, you need to nip this in the bud. Take them back to square one, lead them through the design spec’ and Estimates again and make sure that they understand what you require.

Wrapping up

Most Setter outs are knowledgeable, professional and thorough (OK, we can also be temperamental, pedantic and – well – Odd). It is very easy to prove how much we’ve cost the project if we make a mistake – but very hard to prove how much we’ve saved the project when we do a good job. Just a few simple tips can make working with your Setting out team profitable – and fun!

  • Be clear on what YOU need (or you won’t get it.).
  • Take ownership  (They are YOUR drawings).
  • Protect YOUR team from distractions.
  • Keep on top of progress.
  • If you are no longer enjoying it – you’re not doing it right!

* Terry Pratchett

Do you want to find out more about how Autodesk products can help you? Read  The Autodesk Product Design Suite 2012 For Builders!

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