Archive for May, 2013

DraftLogic Electrical and Untrained Users…A Cautionary Tale

Monday, May 13th, 2013

This cautionary tale applies to all software that provides any degree of automation, herein we will focus in on the DraftLogic Electrical building electrical design expert system.

The Power of Automation…and Power Tools

Comparing the productivity of DraftLogic Electrical versus raw AutoCAD, Revit, or the MEP versions thereof is like comparing a jackhammer to a 10 pound sledgehammer…the productivity difference on a job of any material size is immense!

The Danger of Automation…and Power Tools

Similar to the jackhammer versus sledgehammer comparison, however, the user of the tool must know how to properly use the tool. An untrained jackhammer user is likely to hurt themselves rather than do a quality job in an efficient manner without injury. DraftLogic Electrical adds lots of building electrical design functionality to AutoCAD. Much of this functionality is highly automated expert systems tools.  Typically, the more a particular tool does for you, the more important it is to provide good base data to that tool.

A designer untrained in the use of DraftLogic Electrical is highly likely to feed bad data into the expert system automation and thus make things harder for themselves. How can a designer create bad data? Well, AutoCAD is basically a completely open design environment…you can design what you want how you want. This is great for design flexibility, not so great when you are trying to help a user create a CEC or NEC compliant building electrical design and using expert systems automation to help the user get to a completed design a lot faster.

What are some of the things that untrained users can do that will make trouble for themselves?  A good example is failing to use the Circuit Manager to create relationships between distribution devices. Users manually filling in the parent ID and circuit attributes on distribution devices will often mistype in one or the other, or leave one of them completely blank. They will also use the same circuit number for multiple devices. Phase, pole, and voltage incompatibilities are often created. None of these things can happen when the Circuit Manager is used–that’s why the training videos tell users to use the Circuit Manager many times.

The Cautionary Tale

I recently assisted a client with a fair-sized project, likely 400 person hours of design work if done in raw AutoCAD or AutoCAD MEP…more if done in Revit or Revit MEP. The project was started by one user on DraftLogic Electrical but due to resource constraints in the design firm was handed to another user early on. Unfortunately, only the initial user had taken the time to carefully go through the training program.

The second user ended up manually populating their circuiting relationships, with errors in almost every one, rather than using the Circuit Manager & also manually populated feeders rather than let DraftLogic Electrical supply code-compliant feeders for everything and only after that override those select few feeders that are desired different from a basic code compliant calculation. These errors jammed up the reporting automation completely.

Much badness resulted: I had to perform a detailed review on the drawing, the user was frustrated because their project was halted, and after my review they had to rework basically all of their distribution circuiting. We got everything sorted out and put the project back on track, but at a cost–the project should have taken 120 hours or less in DraftLogic Electrical rather than 400 in AutoCAD but due to the errors I am pretty sure the hours ran up to over 250.

Let Their Painful Lesson Save You the Same

In summation, AutoCAD is the wild, wild west for the variety of data that a user can create. In DraftLogic Electrical we attempt to balance between placing restrictions to ensure that users create good data versus not restricting their design efforts. It’s a tough balancing act, and throwing an untrained user into the mix is highly likely to make problems for all concerned. So please ensure that anyone you desire to enjoy the DraftLogic Productivity boost is given ample time to learn how to use DraftLogic Electrical properly. Their ongoing productivity gains from efficiently using everything that DraftLogic Electrical has to offer will make the upfront few days training time investment completely insignificant.


Dean Whitford
Chief Executive Officer
Phone 780-906-2888 (9AM to 6PM MTN time)
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