Friday, April 06, 2007

Free Plot Tracking

I think in the 1980’s when CAD was just starting out; one of the selling points that would be brought up was going paperless. Oh yeah, everything will be on the computer. I’m not sure that one has quite happened yet, at least not for me. Plotting costs can be almost as much if not more than software costs at the end of the year. One thing you can do to help advance your position as the CAD person in charge, is to minimize plotting costs. A great way to do that is to charge the customer for plots. Now, this is not earthshaking news by far. There are plenty of print tracking solutions to choose from that will help track what you have plotted and determine what you should charge back to clients.

I offer this free solution to plot tracking. Capture plot stamp information using AutoCAD’s built-in plot stamp function and append it to a comma delaminated file which can be used to determine, who’s the plot champion of the month, quantities, sizes and times of every plot plus billable or not billable indication.

Here’s how to do it.

First, use standard plotting tabs inserted by a lisp or you can have them in your standard template. In the Plot options section of the plot dialog enable the plot stamp and use the editing icon to fire up the Plot Stamp dialog.

Choose the items you want to track, not necessarily what you want to see in a plot stamp. The fact is that I don’t use this plot stamp for anything but plot tracking. I use fields for a plot stamp. See my article in Cadalyst on using fields in title blocks.

After you have selected the items you need to track, use the Advanced button to configure the stamp.

In the Advanced Options dialog, give the stamp such a small text height that not even a spec will actual show up on my plots. Then I create a log file in a network path and check the “Create a log file” check box. Then use the Save As button to save this configuration on your server as a PSS file.

This file will be appended to each time you or anyone with this configuration plots. That will put everything in your plot log file except billable vs. un-billable information. That is done at the time of the plot.

Before submitting a plot, select the edit plot stamp button as before and pick one of the predefined User defined fields. Yeah, a predefined, user defined field. Don’t question it, just say you made it.

The real trick is getting people to indicate billable plots for you. I try to motivate them by offering something to the highest plot-billable user of the month. Special parking, a gift certificate, or what ever. Your company will make more than enough in recouped plotting costs to afford a little reward.

Lastly help out accounting by renaming the plot log file by giving it a CSV file extension. This will convert it to a comma delimitated file that can easily be sorted in Excel by you and accounting.

Pay attention to the plot log file. Unattended it will grow to server stopping size before you know it. Now go cash in your gift certificates for fancy mouse pads and dinners.
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