You’re (Probably) Doing Drafting Wrong (Part 1) 

This will be a series of articles dedicated to all things drafting and production engineering in the millwork world.

OK, maybe not you.  I’m sure some of you reading this are thinking to yourself already that I must not be talking about you.  Hopefully I can change some of your minds. 

When I say you’re doing drafting wrong, I’m not talking about technical drafting standards.  I don’t care if you use CAD or engineering software to draft.  I don’t care about line weights, colors, depth cueing, hatches, or whether your dimensions have tails.  Fine, you got me- I do care about all those things.  Like any engineer, I can hold very passionate opinions about topics that aren’t important. 

Did that part where I said those aren’t important trigger you a little?  GOOD!  You’re who I want to talk to. 

Let’s start with a simple question: what’s the goal of your drafting department?  In other words, what does it exist to do?  If you’re snarky and answered “to do drafting” then A) thank you, I enjoy sarcasm a lot and B) you’re wrong.  Unless you are employed by a company that does drafting for other companies, that is NOT what your department exists to do.  I am an engineering nerd at heart- I LOVE everything about engineering, including drafting.  If we could run our millwork companies without drafting, then we totally would.  We do have drafting departments, so they must exist to do something else. 

If your next answer is “to create the best drawings possible,” then you’ve totally set me up for my next point Thank you for that.  Imagine your next submittal is objectively the best set of drawings the world has ever seen…  Literally everyone would agree on this. In the style of Buddy the Elf reading the advertisement and running into the coffee shop, shouting “Congratulations!  You did it!  World’s best cup of coffee!”  How much extra is your customer going to pay you for those versus a set that was good enough?  How much material or labor or time are you going to save versus a set that was good enough?  Here, “good enough” means that everyone understood the scope, materials, details, and dimensions.  I argue that you’ve saved nothing and been paid no more. 

If your answers are “to save PM’s time,” “to save the shop time,” “to figure out what everybody else needs to do,” then you’re still wrong, but you’re on the right track.  I’ll quit with the annoying questions and just make my point; Your drafting department exists to get products built (and/or installed, if your company does that).  That’s what makes money.  Those worlds-best-drawings I mentioned above cost a fortune to make.  That company went out of business a few weeks later.  Your company stays in business as long as it continues to produce the product that it has sold. 

Every decision we make has trade-offs- some good for the drafting department, some bad.  Some of those that are good for the drafting department are bad for the business because they reduce the throughput of finished products.  In the next article I will dive further into this topic with real-world examples. 

About the Author 

Jonah Coleman has worked in woodworking for 15 years, during which he has built cabinets/custom items, managed projects, estimated, engineered, managed multiple engineering departments, managed teams of Project Managers, been an Operations Manager, written an ERP software used by 20+ shops, been named Time Person of the Year 2006 (check if you don’t believe it), written custom code for engineering software used by hundreds of shops, been repeatedly told that he is the only one who can prevent forest fires (both an honor AND a burden), and now works for INNERGY. 

INNERGY is the ERP software written by woodworkers, for woodworkers.  We have helped our 200+ customer firms become highly profitable.  Our next goal is to revolutionize the practice of millwork engineering. Please join us at AWFS this year to see an exciting new set of features aimed at this goal.