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7 tips on what to look for in an outsource CAD drafting company

When I started PCD in 2005 the economy was booming and I had ample companies that needed my services, there also wasn’t much competition and the companies I worked with were swamped with work that their departments couldn’t handle. Then in 2008/09 we all know what happened, the economy tanked. I literally lost 4 of my clients because they had to close their shops.
As I tried to gain new clients in the past few years I have come up against a much more competitive market of outsource companies. My theory on this is because many CAD draftsman and engineers lost their jobs and saw an opportunity to get some side work. Another thing that makes me think this is the pricing, my pricing hasn’t changed from 2005 and I know it is very competitive, but I have been being beat by VERY large margins lately. The reason for this is the former employee who isn’t running a business and just wants some side work will most likey just bid it at his hourly wage, which doesn’t cover the cost of a business. He is also most likely running an illegal version of AutoCAD or his design software, so software costs are $0
Unfortunately the bottom number is what people look for, but when you are up against this type of competition I feel that some education on the industry could help. Here are 7 tips to consider when evaluating who to go with.
1.) Find out how long they have been in business.
The first thing to look for in an outsource company is their years they have been in business. This matters because there are many factors you learn to work with as an outsource company, not everyone has the same standards and construction methods. You also want to make sure they are an actual company.
2.) Make sure they have a legal & valid copy of AutoCAD.
Software piracy is pretty rampant these days and Autodesk has a team of people dedicated to finding out who is doing it. If they cant answer this question it might mean that they aren’t a reputable company.
3.) Are they a one man show or do they have other draftsmen?
Many CAD outsource companies are one man operations, this isn’t bad, but do they have a associates or employees they can use if they get behind or backed up? Another thing to make sure is that this is their full-time job and not a weekend job as this could seriously affect your lead-times and reliability.
4.) Have they done work in your specific area of woodwork?
This is VERY important to know as some of the smaller companies might only have experience in commercial cabinetry or doors and windows. Ask for specific sample drawings if they don’t have them in their samples. If they cant provide them I would stay away.
5.) Are they from the woodwork industry?
This may sound like a surprising question to ask but the fact is many outsource companies out there are CAD farms who have absolutely zero knowledge about cabinets and millwork. They will draw anything and have a crew of people doing it. I have seen their drawings and they are BAD. Ask the salesperson you talk to about their history in the industry to find out if they know their stuff.  Also be wary of overseas outsource firms.
6.) Are pre-submittal revisions included?
At Casewood we always allow you to review and send back the drawings before you submit to make sure you get exactly what you want, even if you want massive changes it’s all included in our fixed price. Many firms out there will charge you for changes, they figure they know best for your company and the drawings they gave you are perfect – I’ve seen it. Make sure you find out in detail what type of revisions are included.
7.) Stay away from hourly quotes and “estimates”
In outsourcing always get a fixed price on the drawings, and make sure they include a scope of work in their proposal outlining that price and whats included. Hourly charges will add up quick and if they don’t know how long it will take or how much it will be that is a good red flag to stay away.
I will close out with a story on going with the lowest price:
It was early on in my outsource company and I bid a job to a company. I called to follow up and the owner said I was a quite a bit higher than another company. I told him to call me if he had any problems. About 3 weeks later I got a call from him asking me to bid another job, he went on to tell me that he should have went with me and that job was a disaster as far as drawings and timeline, his in-house CAD guy had to redo it all. After that I did many jobs for that company at my pricing.
The fact is price isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing an outsourcing company, experience, quality and reliability are critical.