Desperate Architects: Want to Know a Secret About Architectural Drafting?

Sep 13 06:03 2005 Lucky Balaraman Print This Article

There is one crucial ingredient you need to employ when you outsource architectural drafting. Find out from the experts what it is.

It’s about twenty after 9,Guest Posting on a Tuesday morning, Mike Johnson is an architect and he's thinking that life is bed of roses. But it wasn’t like that a year ago…This time last year, the revenues of his practice were shrinking at an alarming 15% annual rate… he was trying everything in the book to pull those revenues out of tailspin, primary of which was outsourcing most of his CAD drafting offshore. That exercise failed miserably, and he couldn’t even start to figure out why.

He had been very diligent in selecting the service provider (who was based in India)… got custom samples done, and ramped up slowly to midsize assignments, to the point where the service provider successfully drafted a 120,000 square-foot, mixed-use project in Miami…Bertie Spalding, Mike's Project Manager for the Miami job, was impressed with their work. He decided to move the service provider even further up the ladder of design complexity.

Mike had just been awarded the design of a 1,250-room luxury hotel in a major metropolis. He decided to ask the service provider to draft the lobby, restaurants and service areas. He put Henry Kluger, one of his middle-level architects, in charge of the outsourcing activity.

But the service provider kept doing it wrong; they couldn’t keep up with the schedules and Mike missed several important deadlines with the customer. He ended up hiring 18 temporary draftsmen at $40 an hour to finish the schematic drawings inhouse. This set the project back by a whole month. The customer, justifiably angered, withdrew the design contract from Mike's firm, moved to one of their competitors and left Mike in a hole $32,000 deep.

Mike was surfing the net around that time looking for tips on refinancing his house when he saw an article on outsourcing CAD. “Give the service provider good tech support or perish”, it said. Hmmm… Mike thought he had given that support, but in any case decided he would ask the service provider their feedback.

The results were shocking… Henry Kluger had not responded to their questions in time and on some occasions not at all. The service provider had navigated a storm without instruments. “Give us good support and we can do anything,” they said.

Mike decided to give the service provider another chance. This time it was the County Civic Center, half a million square feet downtown. Mike asked the service provider to draft the atrium, the shopping mall and the auditorium. Bertie Spalding coordinated from Mike's end and Mike carefully watched over the communication with the service provider.

Bertie answered each of their questions in detail and on the same day. He talked to the service provider on the phone several of times a week. The service provider used collaboration software to show Bertie its monitor screens in real time. Mike's software technician took care of the mechanics of uploading and downloading.

The work flew and Mike completed it before schedule. The customers were so happy that they promised Mike the design of the County Hospital as soon as the funding was in place.

Mike's firm now thrives on its outsourcing expertise. Also, Mike's getting known as “the county building specialist.” The smell of roses is all over his office.

So be seized of the secret: “Give your architectural drafting service provider good tech support and good communication if you want the relationship to stay meaningful and effective”.

Good luck and have a blast!(This story is based on a true incident; names have been changed to protect the privacy of people and firms as well as the confidentiality of projects.)

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Lucky Balaraman
Lucky Balaraman

Lakshman Balaraman, MSEE (University of Michigan), is Executive Director of The Magnum Group, a CAD drafting service provider located at Chennai, India. Talk to him and his team at:

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