×
INTELLIGENT WORK FORUMS
FOR ENGINEERING PROFESSIONALS

Contact US

Log In

Come Join Us!

Are you an
Engineering professional?
Join Eng-Tips Forums!
  • Talk With Other Members
  • Be Notified Of Responses
    To Your Posts
  • Keyword Search
  • One-Click Access To Your
    Favorite Forums
  • Automated Signatures
    On Your Posts
  • Best Of All, It's Free!

*Eng-Tips's functionality depends on members receiving e-mail. By joining you are opting in to receive e-mail.

Posting Guidelines

Promoting, selling, recruiting, coursework and thesis posting is forbidden.

Students Click Here

The case for paperless office workflow
3

The case for paperless office workflow

The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
I'll make the case for a paperless office workflow!

I've been using this setup for 2 years and haven't looked back. All of this hinges on having a display tablet, not to be confused with a regular drawing tablet because those suck. To be clear, I don't advocate paperless outside the office; I still use pen and paper for site visits and meetings. I'm also not describing a note taking device; that's covered in detail in the threads below, but can easily complement the workflow I'm presenting. Feel free to poke holes in any of this! It's just for fun.

There have been a few threads on the subject:
https://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=497244
https://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=499061


1. You get a clean workspace, which increases clarity of mind and productivity

This is my home office. Real office is similar, but with more monitors. I didn't clean it up; this is in the middle of work. Enough space for my protein shake, super cool rock, and cold water. Display tablet is on the right.



Before I went paperless and was working for someone else, the office looked something like this. It's not an exaggeration; the reality was worse. There were also bookcases, shelves, and repurposed furniture just to hold drawings and binders.




2. You don't have to look through millions of pieces of paper to find a calculation

Calculations are organized into electronic folders. It beats walking to a bookcase, finding the right binder, and flipping to the right page of calculations.




3. With a tablet display and Excel, it's faster and easier to make calculations

Instead of printing and annotating an engineering drawing for a calculation, you could take a screenshot and mark it up. This works seamlessly in Excel, which has built-in drawing tools.



You can incorporate markups like you would with paper calculations, along with math. Some advantages over paper include being able to easily modify numbers (and have them propagate through calculations), move things around like sketches, and work on an infinite canvas. Should you need it, you also have the power of VBA programming at your fingertips. This is better than paper.



I didn't make any attempt to make these look nice or easy to follow. But should it need to be submitted to an official, it can be made to look more professional. It's the same thing with paper.


4. You can incorporate results from other programs in the same file

This one is not a 100% slam dunk. Microsoft Office isn't quite there yet when it comes to integrating Word, Excel, and PDFs. But it is possible, though quite janky. But on paper? You have to print out the results and lose the order. In Excel, you can paste a PDF on a separate sheet, even multiple sheets, and it will retain the order. I've done 60 page long calculations by doing this in one Excel file. (If you're using SMath or something else, this argument falls apart a bit.)




5. Sketches? Yeaa boii

Some engineers like to have a notebook full of sketches, calculations, and random thoughts. Use OneNote or Krita. OneNote can save stuff in a hierarchical fashion and have different workbooks, chapters, and sheets. I personally don't work like this and I save everything to a specific place, but I created a quick notebook to demonstrate this.



As a plus, you can take a screenshot of anything you want to mark up, like a dimension or changes to a detail, and shoot it off to a client or coworker or employee. I have one remote drafter and 100% of our communications are done with paperless markups on pdf's. So the advantages go well and far beyond calculations. The caveat is with engineering drawings, even with a big display, you have to zoom in and out quite a bit. My work office has a fancier display tablet with programmable knobs and controls for that, which makes it less onerous.


6. You can carry your calculations everywhere

This is definitely not possible with paper, unless you scan and organize everything. I have my server hooked up to a Onedrive and Goodsync cloud mirror, which I can access with my phone. I can pull up Excel calculations and pdf's anywhere I go. It's been useful in a few cases where I was at a meeting and didn't have a certain calculation or drawing on hand, and didn't have to call back to the office to have it sent. It takes some practice and getting used to, but it doubles as a neat trick in a meeting.


Now, to address concerns!

Doesn't feel as good as paper
I agree, but it's pretty damn close. An engineer I know was forced to use a display tablet over a decade ago and she hated it. She tried my display and said it's so good, it's like night and day. The technology is refined, and will only get better.

It's not precise and/or it's clumsy
That's because your tablet is too small! I use a 24" tablet with 2K resolution. I tried Microsoft Surface and iPad, and those are too small to use effectively. I do NOT recommend going the laptop or handheld tablet route; I need a beastly, non-portable monster tablet. With a big enough display, you don't have to zoom in and out. If you have the desk space and budget, I recommend going even bigger. (It's just my two cents; some people have had success with laptops.)

Use paper and scan it!
Nah, this is superior. It saves the step where you print something out, mark it up, go back to scan it, and save it in the right place. Those seconds add up. Plus, electronically, everything has an infinite canvas and things can be moved around.

I don't want to pay for subscriptions!
Microsoft Office is the only subscription service used here that's different from a paper setup. Cloud services for carrying your calculations around are optional, and it can be self hosted with free open source apps like Nextcloud (it's a bit more advanced and needs Linux).

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Quote (milkshakelake)

That's because your tablet is too small!

I can attest to this. I have the same brand tablet as MSL, but I got the little one to "try it out." It works well from a technical standpoint: the pen is good, the interface responsive and natural, etc. But it's too small. Also, plan out your desk setup. The cables for mine are proprietary, so I'm stuck with a set length. They were barely long enough to hook up to my laptop in dock mode. Now that I have a beast of a desktop as my primary in-office work center, the cable is too short and I can't use it. I could probably get extensions but like I said it's too small...so I haven't been motivated.

I'll probably check for the 24" during Black Friday sales.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@phamENG I haven't tried 12" but tried smaller ones, and it's too small to use without zooming in/out. I understand the thing about desk space; my desk is 4' long and barely has enough space for it. One thing to mention is that it takes time to get used to, but the aggravation in the beginning is worth it for a faster work flow in the long term. When I first bought it, I was constantly cursing under my breath for wasting money on something I thought was worse than paper. Even now, sometimes I wish it was bigger than 24"; then I could work more easily with Arch D drawings, but my desk wouldn't handle it.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Yeah, I was just looking at the 22...half the price of the 24 and only an inch or so smaller. Still has a larger screen area than 11x17, which is the largest I can print anyway. I'm ordering a USB-C extension so I can get back to using it...even if only to keep notes on something other than Post-Its...

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@phamENG This might be a philosophical point more than a practical one, but for business, I don't hold back on buying the best equipment. It pays dividends to have the best of everything (software, pens, hardware, computers, site tools, etc). So if it's only a few hundred dollars difference, it would be worth it for me to get that extra inch to have breathing room for 11x17. 1 or 2 hours of engineering work would pay it back. To me, it's similar to how athletes would pay thousands more for a 1% better bat or golf club. But anyway, everyone has a different business strategy.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

I need to dig into it and see why the price difference is what it is...after all, it's barely an inch larger on the diagonal. From the pictures it looks like it doesn't have the buttons on the side and it's 1080p vs 2K. So it seems there is a reason it's cheaper, but the reason is mostly meaningless to me. I"ll have to do the research and see. The 24 is up to almost $900...I agree that in the context of engineering fees it's not very big, but as a one-man shop it's amazing how quickly those "not very big" line items turn into a cash swallowing hole...

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

need to get yourself one of these rubber rulers so you can draw a straight line without scratching the screen: Link

also strongly recommend some kind of macro pad like the Razer Tartarus or Huion Keydial outside of their usefulness in the drawings apps they work great in Revit/AutoCAD.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
Great suggestion with the ruler! Ordering one now.

Agreed about the macro pad. I have two. I also recommend a macro mouse for drafting, since it has less finger travel than a macro pad: okay option for junior drafters, good option for pros

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

For dwg markups, i used bluebeam. all comments, etc. from all project team members are captured online and retained for all to see.
then again, more dwgs and corporation bought the corporate license.

what you described is likely for the single user?

press the shift key for drawing straight horizontal/vertical lines in excel.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

So what display tablet brand and model do you use?

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

When I worked on larger projects, I had a 'folder' template that I would use with all the sub-directories created, and those that weren't needed, were deleted.

-----*****-----
So strange to see the singularity approaching while the entire planet is rapidly turning into a hellscape. -John Coates

-Dik

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@pmover My company has 6 people and can't afford Blubeam subscription...like phamENG said, the expenses add up...so we use Pdf-Xchange, which is like $60 for 5 licenses. It works decently with a pen tablet. Didn't know about the shift key, will try that. We save the drawings on our physical server and send cloud links or old school email back and forth for collaboration.

@SWComposites I use XP-Pen Artist Pro 24 and XP-Pen Artist 22. If I had to start again, I wouldn't get the 22 because it's kind of small. There are tons of sales on Black Friday and there are competing brands with similar quality. I also have a Wacom Intuos , which is garbage and only used as a last resort (like if I'm in a coffee shop with a laptop). Even the Intuos beats not having a pen tablet though.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

A downside is it's handy to have physical copies of important emails / drawings because employers and their lawyers cannot be trusted to not selectively edit or delete things. And saving electronic copies is alot more obvious.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

MSL -- look at Bluebeam again. With your philosophy of having the best tools for the work, leaving Bluebeam out is a major gap in your productivity toolbox, particularly for paperless work, and particularly using Sessions for collaboration.

To the point where when I joined a startup office a few years back, I refused to go without it and bought a personal copy (back in the days of perpetual licenses). After my teammates saw the benefits over the first few months, the whole office came around.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Now that Bluebeam has gone to a subscription model I have found DrawBoard to be a serviceable replacement which still maintains a “sessions” like environment.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Not a CE, but I've never had much need for paper. I keep a mini notebook handy for the odd doodle and notes when the laptop fails but most weeks I dont touch it. In offices I've worked, paper has also been considered rather antiquated and handwritten anything generally unprofessional.

Software: Most print markups are minor and easily done in Adobe. For major rework I'll either sit down with the drafty and collaboratively sketch on paper or make the high-level change myself and ask them to detail via email. For most calcs I just start with a new spreadsheet to prevent arithmetic and algebraic errors and bc sooner than later I'll need to do the same work again. If I need a graphic, google and my pdf collection of textbooks readily provides 90% of my needs copy/paste and MS shapes tools handles the rest. For notes, I use MS OneNote between various computers and my phone to organize both my professional and personal lives.

Hardware: Desk and chair aside, I find large monitors to be the most important bit of hardware for comfort. I'm 6'4 so need to sit further back from the monitor for good posture, and in the past have struggled with eyestrain being too far away and neck/back pain from hunching over the desk to read smaller monitors. My current employer was slow providing a second monitor so I set up a spare 40" HDTV and IMHO its the perfect size for desktop use. For CAD work I bought a basic 3dConnexion space mouse/puck and love it for navigating pdfs and larger 2d drawings, it allows endless panning the same as you would handle paper vs click/drag/release/repeat with standard mice. It also makes sketching/manipulating the pointer on-screen much more controllable. Beyond that, in past offices I have also preferred to have both a desktop and laptop to prevent tasks from bogging down my only machine. With two computers I can run CAD or heavy analysis on the desktop and remotely manipulate it from the laptop, keeping most/all of the laptop's RAM & processor free for other tasks while the desktop does the "heavy lifting." The desktop can also stay uninterrupted on a LAN line tied directly to the corporate server, allowing heavy work to be completed reliably while the laptop is on WiFi in a conference room or across the country. Most importantly, if CAD freezes during an important presentation it won't kill my laptop and I can pivot to Powerpoint or otherwise keep presenting.

Good dialogue tho. I may yet try a display tablet if I see a deal, they look neat but I'm not sure I'd see enough benefit to justify much expense bc I'm pretty good with existing tools.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

It's tough to break old habits; I've tried to dump as much paper as possible, but my wife still likes to write things in a notebook or print out certain documents. Nevertheless, we've at least gotten to the point where we donated away 6 cases of printer paper.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@Lomarandil I don't see much benefit because we're getting the job done, but I'll definitely re-explore Bluebeam. I wish I had some copies before they went subscription-based. Celt83 mentioned DrawBoard so I'll check that out as well.


@CWB1 I used the Adobe pdf program for a while, but it wasn't cutting it for a lot of reasons. Rather than explain the reasons, other options are also cheaper. But if it's working for you, then no need to change it. Also agreed about large monitors; it helps a lot. About Google and the pdf collection, I still haven't figured out how to organize it electronically so that the whole office can use it (i.e. books can have post-its at important sections but pdf's don't) so we have a physical and electronic library. I try not to rely on people being able to search into the right part of a book; it wastes time.

It's interesting that you use a remote computer for heavy lifting. The reason I don't do that is because the time it takes to transfer a file to the remote computer, run it, and send it back adds a bunch of overhead and complexity. We use ETABS, which needs files to be on a local hard drive and not a server. Also, it was always a bit choppy, even over LAN but especially remotely. What tools did you use for this? Windows Remote Desktop?

About paper being antiquated, there are respectable, old school people that will die on a hill to defend paper calculations and markups. I have two of those people, very intelligent, and yet they are clearly not going to adopt modern methods. (Those papers end up spreading over the desks and shelves like viruses.)

Thanks for sharing your own tips! Yeah, no need to get a tablet if you're already paperless and it wouldn't add value.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@IRstuff Yeah, I get it. It's not for everyone. I've been glued to a computer most of my life so paper was the unnatural thing for me.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Quote:

old school people that will die on a hill to defend paper calculations and markups.

I'd consider myself, "old school" since I just retired in Sept. Nevertheless, programs like Mathcad, SMath, or Maple Flow, can easily replace pencil and paper calculations AND do all the grungy unit conversions, AND make it easy to do dimensional analysis for error checking; you're never going to see a piece of paper show you where you made a math error. Plus. with some forethought, those programs' outputs are directly publishable in reports; the only issue is whether graphs are "pretty enough."

Yeah, and you're never going to find a sheet of paper doing your graphs for you.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Quote:

It's interesting that you use a remote computer for heavy lifting. The reason I don't do that is because the time it takes to transfer a file to the remote computer, run it, and send it back adds a bunch of overhead and complexity. What tools did you use for this? Windows Remote Desktop?

Yup good old Remote Desktop, nothing fancy. In my case the "remote" desktop box sat on my office desk so I had easy access and could transfer files directly but rarely needed to. Generally I did design on the desktop and presentations/PM work on the laptop. Larger employers also had various clusters dedicated to heavy analysis that I could remote into but rarely did bc I had the desktop. Larger automotive programs also often have many engineers working across multiple servers so getting the daily update from separate powertrain, body, chassis, and design studio servers could be a networking nightmare at times and kill productivity without the second machine.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Neat description of your workflow @MSL.

My paper use is strictly as a tracking record and out of necessity (I don't currently run a tablet). I'll bang out a quick checklist, apply a date and name stamp, and then track my design progress until complete. Those notes are then scanned in and compiled with any of the PDF results I have. Certainly some time saving issues could be had if I used 100% digital notepad, and that is hopefully in the works.

I do like the paper tracking record and paper markups, as these kind of legitimize the self-checking steps that I complete as a solo operation. But maybe that is only in my head.

If I did bigger projects, I'd probably be in the digital only workflow.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Quote (Cetl83)

Now that Bluebeam has gone to a subscription model I have found DrawBoard to be a serviceable replacement which still maintains a “sessions” like environment.

Bluebeam going subscription is a total PITA...unfortunately its considered so standard here at my company and those we work with that we'll never switch off and have to eat the subscription cost

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Why yes, I do in fact have no idea what I'm talking about

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Quote:

MSL -- look at Bluebeam again. With your philosophy of having the best tools for the work, leaving Bluebeam out is a major gap in your productivity toolbox, particularly for paperless work, and particularly using Sessions for collaboration.

100%, we sort of ignored studio for far too long and kind of fell into using a few months ago due to a nightmare massive project where prior arrangements just lead to markups being missed, lost or not being checked after drawings when completed.

It would be hard to go back, everyone in the design team loves it (engineers and drafters). It's not perfect, we seem to have all sorts of issues with permissions in sessions, and no more layers is annoying, and not being able to edit others markups to correct or amend equally annoying sometimes. But the ability to tag people and control status makes it a really clear process that's much better than some bastardised email/server/teams/document management system approach we were struggling with before.

If work wasn't providing it, I'd pay for it myself.

We've already worked with a paperless office mentality for many years. I can't even recall the last time I printed anything, maybe 2+ years ago....

https://engineervsheep.com

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

milkshakelake, does it get hot underhand. That's one thing I hate about my surface on hot days. Feels like it's going to melt the flesh off your hand if you're working it hard!

What do the little dial things do on the short edges? What can you set them up to do?

Does it have good palm rejection, I'd see myself using it laid as flat as possible, but it doesn't look like it goes that flat? In the as far as it goes flat configuration, does it feel solid or flimsy. That stand doesn't look that great from the pictures, but nothing like a first hand opinion.

I think the discussion around 1080p or 2k, and saying there is no difference must be from someone whose never really experienced how much better higher resolution displays are on the eyes. At work I have two 24ish" 1080p displays plus Microsoft surface screen, at home two 27" 4k displays plus surface screen, 8 times the desktop real estate. Work screen drives me nuts some days when working on too many things at once and the subpar resolution wrecking my eyes.

https://engineervsheep.com

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Agent666, 1080P and 4K are very different and I love my 4K TV and monitors. 1080p and 2K? Less so. And if all I'm doing is writing notes on it... not really worth $400. At least not for me right now.

I still have a perpetual BB license, so I can't speak to the subscription. But I will agree that trying to save money by not using it is probably losing you money. I went with Adobe at first for that reason. It's a great general purpose PDF program, but for an AEC work flow it didn't tough BB for ease of use, tailored productivity tools, and wide feature set.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@skeletron We use paper checklists, which are discarded after the work. I never thought about saving them; that's a good idea. About project management, I haven't figured out a solution yet. Figuring out who's working on what, and how far they are, is a bit of a mess. I'll have to set aside a few days to try some open source project management solutions. People track their own projects on a self-hosted server app (link), which isn't ideal because it's isolated per user.

@Agent666 Yeah, I'll definitely have to revisit Bluebeam. No, it doesn't got hot; Surface has its own CPU and motherboard, whereas this is a monitor. The surface is less hot than a monitor because it has more surface padding out of necessity. The dials can be configured for zoom (a must), scrolling, brush size, rotation, and can't remember what else, and can be configured to switch functions with a different button. The buttons can be configured with key inputs. I use them for page up/down, space (for drag scrolling with the pen), save, undo/redo, pen/eraser switching, and opening various folders and programs (Google Drive, project folders, downloads, etc). It's more convenient than having one hand on the keyboard. The buttons don't natively support opening folders, but it's kind of easy to set up with some scripts. Celt83 mentioned macro keyboards which serve a similar purpose (which I also own), but I prefer having them on the monitor itself and use post-it notes next to each one to describe the function.

It goes almost flat (about 20 degrees). I use it as a second/third monitor so I keep it close to vertical, which actually doesn't hurt using AutoCAD/ETABS but takes some getting used to for writing. Most people use it around 30-45 degrees. The stand is surprisingly strong and there's no movement or shakiness when using it at all. It's heavier and sturdier than a monitor. It doesn't need palm rejection because it doesn't respond to touches; the more expensive Wacom Cintiq 24 has that feature, but I can't think of why I'd use finger touch. I think 2K is worth it, 4K is preferable (costs 3x as much and only offered by Wacom at the moment, and probably is only worth it to an artist), and 1080 would be too low for intensive daily use because it's close to the eyes. For taking quick notes, 1080 should be fine. One minor drawback is parallax (i.e. the writing surface is ~1 millimeter away from the display surface) so it's only accurate when you're looking straight into it, but that's easy to get used to and is the same on a Surface/iPad.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

So this big artist tablet is intriguing. I’m starting to think it would be useful for making 2D line art and illustrations (rather than on paper and scanning those in). Does anyone have recommendations for (free or low one time cost) line art sketching software? I don’t think I need fancy painting, photo editing, 3D CAD, etc. Thanks.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

SWComposites:
Krita or Inkscape

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Depends on what you want. Microsoft Whiteboard is free and native in Windows 10/11 and has basic drawing, sketching tools.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

I’m thinking of making illustrations for a book. I detest Powerpoint. Have used Visio in the past for simple drawings. Looking for something a bit more free form. It’s tempting to dig out the old drafting board and ink pens (they are somewhere in the pile of stuff in this house) but that’s not ideal either.

Thanks, I’ll check out the above suggestions.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

For a book I would go with InkScape since it is vector graphics. Krita has some vector capabilities but is geared more towards raster drawing.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

I have been trying to go paperless here at my job. We have so many people here that have been here 30-40 years, they refuse to change. Frustrating.

Chris, CSWP
SolidWorks
ctophers home

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@SWComposites +1 recommendation for Krita and Inkscape, which are free. Both can, and are used for, artistic art, but Inkscape is more suited for technical art. I've personally used the tablet for lots of art (3D modeling and painting, games) but it wasn't relevant to the post. Back in college, I wanted to drop out of engineering and become an artist...good thing I didn't throw my future away.

@ctopher Yeah, I have a similar issue at my office. You can only change yourself. I think the day I stop changing and adapting, I'll be on my deathbed.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Out of curiousity, has anyone seriously tried to use CAD with grid and snapping on, in conjunction with a pen interface? I'm curious if that might actually be a good workflow. I lean heavily on typed input for CAD work, so I don't think it's for me, but I suspect there's a way to set up tool pallets and maybe a macro keyboard for your left hand that makes this a reasonable possibility.

Honestly just curious if anyone's tried it.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

In some regards in can allow for better precision since the drawing surface is mapped 1:1 to the display.

It's a bit like working with one of the old digitizers:

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Quote:

Out of curiousity, has anyone seriously tried to use CAD with grid and snapping on, in conjunction with a pen interface?

Not for CAD, per se; I've used Visio with grid and snap and HATE IT, it RARELY snaps to where you want, because there are SO MANY enticing snap targets all around. I invariably have to turn it off to be productive. I suppose if the CAD app has some sort of heat map adjustment to soften the snap, it might be practical; it might also have something to do with the snappable objects, a purely vector-based app might allow clean snaps to vertices and edges. Visio just seems to snap to anything that's remotely close to the cursor.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@TLHS It's a big nope. AutoCAD's support for pen tablet functionality is laughably bad. It doesn't register very basic things correctly like when the pen is pressed down or not, or where it is on the screen. Complicated 3D modeling software have managed to integrate it correctly and add value, but not AutoCAD.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

I used a Kurta tablet for years about 12x18 size with a 12 button puck... it was great and very productive.

-----*****-----
So strange to see the singularity approaching while the entire planet is rapidly turning into a hellscape. -John Coates

-Dik

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Celt, did you ever use a digitizer like that? There was one in our office when I first started, but it was no longer setup then. I started with Autocad R12. Pen plotters, and sticky backs, those were the days.

MSL, I am interested to here your organization method for files within your sub-folders. I have been using an analysis directory with sub-folders for each software package for some time now. I have never devised a good method for file names so I can find things easily in the future unless I print everything out and put into a binder. Every project seems to start on one path that involves prelim work, and then any number of revisions thereafter. My folders always seem to involve clicking on lots of files to find what I need.

Bluebeam is the one package I open daily. If they improve the API documentation some of our savvy programmers could make it far more useful for many daily tasks.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

I was very fortunate that my highschool technical drawing teacher had a passion for the legacy machines so we had access to a machine with the digitizer and one with a pen plotter which was fun to watch print but we had to schedule print jobs for assignments since they could take hours on that thing.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@Brad805 The basic file structure for each project is something like this:


The folders themselves would be subdivided with dates, and unused items with 2022-00-00 to be initialized later (it functions kind of like a checklist when everything is 2022-00-00 "something here" at the beginning of a project):


Calc folder was shown in the beginning of the post. It generally has empty folders that get filled in (mainly to serve as a checklist). The folders in each calc may be subdivided as well:


In a calc folder with actual calculations, files that might change over the course of a project have the date in the filename (like xxxxxx 2022-11-17). I found that in most cases, putting it at the end of the filename will sort it better. In some cases where date is the primary objective (like with invoices), it's better at the beginning. Some judgment will be needed there. For files that definitely won't change over the course of any project, like the section profile of a member, it's better without the date. When modifying a calculation, we always put the old one in an Archive folder and new one with today's date.


I don't generally sort the calculations by the program used to make the calculation (except for ETABS and SAFE for good reason). Taking Enercalc for example, it could be used for beams, columns, etc and you'll end up with a million different types of calculations in one folder. That wouldn't follow the principles of using a physical binder. Regarding ETABS and SAFE, if it's used to design one component of a building like a single beam, it would still go into the beams/truss/stair beam folder and not the ETABS folder. The ETABS folder is reserved for gravity and lateral analysis FEM model only.

Regarding file naming, it's also important to label the components in an Excel file (I showed a screenshot in the original post) and have that correlate to a file name. Since this is internal to the calculations, it doesn't have to match the naming scheme on the actual drawings (because a drawing can have several W10x33 but the calculations will be different for each one, so I notate them as B1, B2, etc). It does help to specify the floor in the filename with columns/studs/walls. Finally, stair beams/headers/jambs: I have Excel sheets that have certain inputs (i.e. size of stairs, load, span of beam, length of landing, etc) that can almost completely define the size. So where it's possible, I put it in the filename. For example, it would be something like "3FL stair beam A25 B8.5 C4.5 D50 L100 2022-11-17".

Now getting the whole company to follow this is another story, but I've bludgeoned it into everyone's heads enough that it's consistent. Will need a bit of writing guidelines, reminding, and policing. Also, I saw that you're structural. This advice will be vastly different for other trades.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

My OCD is screaming out internally at you regarding the mix of all caps and title case folder titles.... What possesses someone to do such a thing ponder

https://engineervsheep.com

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

FYI the XP-Pen Artist Pro 24 is currently 30% off at the XP-Pen store.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@Agent666 That used to drive me up the wall. Several people work on the same project, so there's some mishmash. Not everyone is fluent with computers; some learned at an old age, so there are anomalies. As long as they follow the naming conventions (which was hard enough), I'll let the capitalization slide. I learned to pick my battles.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Folders as a checklist is an interesting idea. I'm going to have to think about that. I like it, but I think I'd end up having problems if things are split up too much and I can't see as much in one place.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@TLHS It doesn't replace actual checklists but it helps. Yeah, you have to find a system that works for you without splitting things up too much. I happen to have a lot of similar projects (with constant elements like architectural drawings, borings, paperwork, etc) where it makes sense this way. I also have to split up financial stuff from the project itself to hide the $$$ info from employees, which is a necessary headache.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Hi All,

This thread is very interesting to me, a 77 year old museum piece. Yes, this surely the way to go. I suppose that you all have systems in place for archiving your calculations and keeping them up to date by configuration control (I'm from the aero industry where this is crucial).
Regards,
Andries

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@Andries Agreed, it's important to be well organized and archive things. At some point, the design might change back to an older iteration.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Quote (Agent66)

It would be hard to go back, everyone in the design team loves it (engineers and drafters). It's not perfect, we seem to have all sorts of issues with permissions in sessions, and no more layers is annoying, and not being able to edit others markups to correct or amend equally annoying sometimes. But the ability to tag people and control status makes it a really clear process that's much better than some bastardised email/server/teams/document management system approach we were struggling with before.

The layers issue noted - did they eliminate the ability to put things on different layers everywhere or is that only in studio? I have been looking at blue beam for a while and struggle on the pricing. Does enterprise with a good number of seats help mitigate the large price per license?

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

StructSU10 -- Layers still are a feature for regular bluebeam use, just not in sessions.

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Quote:

Does enterprise with a good number of seats help mitigate the large price per license?

We currently just have a series of perpetual licences from version 2016 to 2021 with no maintenamce, so have yet to cross into the subscription territory. But that's coming with sessions being turned off after March if you're not on a current version.

I guess in terms of cost you have to consider the lost opportunity cost. You spend more money to actually be more efficient. Bluebeam is a product that achieves this for us for the most part. You got to view these thing as the cost of doing business.

If I interviewed somewhere and they said they didn't have bluebeam because of the cost, I'd hazard a guess they spend more time and money hidden in lower productivity workflows, multiply that by many employees and its a no brainer. Time spent doing something else is more opportunity to make money.

https://engineervsheep.com

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

Back in 1977 we installed our first CAD system. It had a CalComp plotter:



Now this cost approximately $50,000 (in 1977 dollars), and this was one of the cheaper options. Flat-bed plotters, which were also used at the time, could run over $100,000. And having to keep the pens working was almost a full time job. Every night we had to remove them and place them in a special canister which keep the nibs moist so that they wouldn't dry out. And then the next morning, put the pens back, test them to make sure they worked and if needed, we had to clean them and refill them with ink. And these pens were not cheap, $25 or so and if you plotted on Mylar, they wore out pretty fast, and then you had the cost of the Mylar. Even regular velum wasn't cheap. So we didn't make any more plots than we needed.

Then in the early 80's, HP decided to get in the plotter business and their first models were in the $14,000 dollar range, and ran much faster and used cheaper pens that worked longer because of how they were 'capped' when not in use.

Then eventually people like Xerox started to produce large size electrostatic printers and the cost per plot dropped again.

While it's true that being able to send images and documents over the net has reduced the need for sometimes having a physical copy, the fact that we've made the production of paper documents so cheap is the biggest barrier to having a true 'paperless office'. If it cost a buck a sheet, I can assure you, we would have gone truly paperless years ago.

And lets not forget the copy machine, it also contributed to our storm of paper. If we had never gotten past the mimeograph, our desks would have stayed fairly clean and tidy.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: The case for paperless office workflow

(OP)
@JohnRBaker I started in a company with a ~$20,000 laser plotter and downsized to a ~$700 inkjet HP plotter (the laser one's annual maintenance was the same cost as the inkjet). It's interesting to see the history of these things. We did have a pen style plotter but used it only for novelty.

The impetus to move to paperless wasn't about cost, though. It actually costs a lot more! Servers, tablets, scanners, and cloud services cost more than paper and printers. The benefit is having a clean and organized office, which leaves more room for productivity and makes stuff easier to get. It's also faster in my opinion; I worked with paper for a decade. I didn't even mention the environmental angle, because I have a feeling that all these electronics and power use are on parity, or worse, than paper when it comes to the earth.

Red Flag This Post

Please let us know here why this post is inappropriate. Reasons such as off-topic, duplicates, flames, illegal, vulgar, or students posting their homework.

Red Flag Submitted

Thank you for helping keep Eng-Tips Forums free from inappropriate posts.
The Eng-Tips staff will check this out and take appropriate action.

Reply To This Thread

Posting in the Eng-Tips forums is a member-only feature.

Click Here to join Eng-Tips and talk with other members! Already a Member? Login



News


Close Box

Join Eng-Tips® Today!

Join your peers on the Internet's largest technical engineering professional community.
It's easy to join and it's free.

Here's Why Members Love Eng-Tips Forums:

Register now while it's still free!

Already a member? Close this window and log in.

Join Us             Close