NCS Key Discipline Relates to Workflows

Tags NCS, Layer Standards, CAD Standards, standard keys, Major Key, Minor Key, occam

For reason that should be obvious, I see a lot of different CAD Standards and a lot of Layer Standards in particular. Folks just call me up and hit me up with NCS questions. People pay me to develop them for them too. Does this make me an expert?. No. You’re the expert at what you do.

Our Production Solution products for AutoCAD Civil 3D have been out there for quite a while. There are lots of NCS variant schemes based on them out there in the wide world. Frankly, if you pay attention, we supply the tools to manage and Layer Schemes in our Style libraries as a mission critical tool. That’s only part of the battle.

The first and most important rule about standards is:

Make Less Work for Everyone

If your standards fail this Occam Razor test, you should probably do something about it. If you’re not really clear what I mean by the term Ockham's razor (I prefer the personal, locational, and historical reference) follow the link and learn something most folks never do.

“Good God man! You work in engineering.”

William’s tale is instructive.
With William of Ockham perspective and methods in mind let’s just delve in.

Standard Keys and The Pattern

One of the reasons people love and hate (you know it’s true) the NCS layer scheme is the rule based way it easily creates buckets for our civil/survey information. This ability to get very granular (large degrees of fine grained separation) is one reason for the common “way too many layers” compliant about the NCS. It is way too easy to over classify. I’ve posted about these things before so I won’t elaborate here and repeat myself.

The Long and Winding Way

It may or may not be obvious to you that your choices of Major and Minor Keys and the Pattern you employ are directly related to your workflows or not. That means you either change your workflows and the mechanics OR you tend to struggle with productive implementation or implementation productivity respectively. Huh?

There’s technically nothing wrong with your Layer Standard BUT it runs counter to how your people talk about things and processes on a daily basis. It may run counter to how your organization relates to all the other people involved in the overall process as well. If these things are working at counter purposes to each other you get Systemic Failure. Dang it. There’s that nagging term again.

“But the NCS Standards were supposed to make this easier.”

I prefer to break this complex problem down for clarity’s sake into THREE distinct sets of typical workflow mechanics that I commonly run into.

  1. Discipline Keys and mechanics
  2. System or Software Keys and mechanics
  3. Organizational Keys and mechanics

True, these often occur more often in larger institutions, but even if you’re a one man army they still matter. We all have to deliver something coherent, consistent, and buildable in the end. Nobody I know wants to work harder and longer doing that unless they have nothing productive to do anyway.

Discipline Keys

I really don’t mean to be confusing as the AIA’s NCS has formally defined disciplines itself. They are employed in the standards to chop up published Plan Sets.
Remember the NCS is a publishing standard first and foremost.

By the term Discipline Keys I mean the Major Keys and Minor Keys you employ. These are directly related to the SYSTEM >>STRUCTURE>>PART workflows and terminologies you and the people around you use to get work done.

Systems Matter Most

From my perspective the NCS is all about the SYSTEMS approach. This is the practical essence of the BIM approach as it relates to Layer Standards as well.

I consider ALL Major Keys to be SYSTEMS that include other STRUCTURES. If it doesn’t do that, your proposed Major Key is really a Minor Key.

There is Nothing Unimportant About a Minor Key

If you work in the flatlands, doing ROAD work the details of CURB structures are your daily bread and bread and butter.

Sometimes is hard to see that some things are part of a system. This is particularly true if we don’t talk about them that way. In all model-based software (aka AutoCAD Civil 3D) the SYSTEMS thing is much more evident than in primitive based CAD software. Property is a system as much as a pipeline. More about that and other Software Key issues next time.

The Bearded Template

Because we can do it automatically in AutoCAD Civil 3D via Style properties and Feature components, it is way too easy to automatically put all the pieces into their own discrete Layer buckets. This leads to that explosion of potential Layers we often see in Civil 3D templates. WTMI.

See my previous posts about the View Major Key as an example of how you can proactively do things to reduce Layer numbers in AutoCAD Civil 3D. We did it and things got better.

If you do almost nothing but earthwork the NCS is notably light on Major Keys for you.
Did you ever notice that the official NCS has no Keys related to slope?
If you do levee work LEVE is a Major Key and the nuance of the detail of the LEVE system is expressed in the Minor Keys structures of your day to day work.

Our Production Solution products include a lot of Major Keys that work for most engineering disciplines. People ask,

“Where did your Keys come from?”

We root around all the time looking for them on a nationwide basis. We stare and compare. Is this Key better? Do more people talk this way not that way? Does it integrate with the whole better?
You can see and download our Open Standard Keys.

In the products our discipline approaches are offered up in chunks to add in depending on your project work. For the most part, we consider the bigger you the more likely you are to employ more Systems in your work. Jump Kit has all of them. No one really wants a production template with everything in it?

The idea of one Civil 3D template is an oxymoron in a world full of interdependent systems and design and construction partnerships.

The Key…

See Your Keys by System Discipline and Shave Often

Next time some more about Software Keys and the NCS.
We have to work to control our apps along with our abs.

On Standards and Keys in Civil 3D