Those Vital Civil 3D User DREF Skills

Tags DREF, data shortcut, data reference, Project Management, dynamic model, naming convention, rules, structure

Data References (DREFs) in Autodesk Civil 3D are all about published Managed Models built inside our civil engineering and survey projects. These models effectively can help us achieve better Civil 3D production results with less hassle. We employ DREFs to share a model, or as I call it …the Civil 3D data behind, from a drawing to other drawings in our project. That all seems simple enough.

Folks like to think that DREFs are a Civil 3D specialized (and weird) form of XREF or IREF. I do like to point out that if that were actually true, we could manage DREFs in the AutoCAD XREF Manager Tool. I believe I’ve seen that request on the Civil 3D Wish List a time or two.

Civil 3D Managed DREF Models are project-based by design. I mean by that - DREFs are published drawing data dependencies that may potentially span many related drawings. Yes. There is almost always more than one shared model in a Civil 3D project in most civil engineering and survey projects.

Civil 3D Users Drive the DREF Bus

These published and structured project models are all a mission-critical Civil 3D user accountability.

As one customer put it,
“Maybe we tried too hard to make DREFs easy and simple for Civil 3D users.”

I couldn’t have said that better myself.

Managers can plan and create standards until they are purple, train everyone comatose, and preach until they are apoplectic. But the Civil 3D user attention to the Civil 3D data behind details and the requisite skills needed to manage published Civil 3D DREF project models remains a most significant operational benefit or obstacle in Civil 3D.

DREF Management Skill Builds Competitive Advantage

To employ the tired metaphor…Coachmen are not airline pilots even if most of us still travel in coach.

Simply put. Organizations with DREF skilled Civil 3D users do more and perform that work faster and better than organizations that do not develop those skills.

The requisite skills to replace and redefine DREF published and structured dependencies in a Civil 3D project add significantly more Optionality to our iterative design processes. If we lack those Civil 3D skills, the odds are we never see or even know what we are missing. See the Civil 3D Trials and Suffering post for more about the importance of Optionality.

Dependencies in Civil 3D are good news until they aren’t

In the earlier Manage Civil 3D Dependencies post, we explored the vital role that Identified Benchmarks and revisions of our Heuristics (Rules of Thumb) play important roles in the development of our corporate skills and necessary structures for that Civil 3D user skill development.
Project Managers and CAD Managers take heed.
What we say and reward matters. It is exactly what we get.

In the Civil 3D Object Model Nuances follow up post, we barely scratched the surface of how Civil 3D Object Model nuances bear on our new Civil 3D Benchmarks, Heuristics, and efforts to improve our production capacity and throughput.

Maybe You Already Noticed

Am I sorry to belabor the points? Not.

Data References are a published and live and work inside a defined project structure in Civil 3D. This means Civil 3D users can identify the benchmark events and understand the rules of thumb about what to do about it via known workflows.

The idea that we must have agreed on naming conventions, rules, and structures within our projects to hold the above results usually makes sense to most only when we get there.

Truth be told, it is pretty common to recognize only at that point we’ve already made some mistakes. The skilled perform a sitrep loop and fix the issues in detail. The unskilled bully on ahead into the upcoming machine gun fire.

The Arts of the Separation of Powers

Dependencies in Civil 3D are good news until they aren’t.

For almost all published DREFs, there exists at least one complementary or coupled project resources drawing that produced the published DREF. There might be more than one. That resource drawing(s) preserves all the richer data behind that DREF publication removes. In effect, we can usually bet we’ll have to come back and adjust the published DREF result.

Consider an Alignment and all its many potential related children for example. The act of DREF intentionally removes dependencies - the parent child relationships.

See the Civil 3D Styleless Data References post and Civil 3D Styleless DREF Mechanics follow up.

Many people tend to skip a separate and cleaned publish DREF drawing altogether. This is faster in the short term. Usually, this also avoids all that nasty cleanup stuff we might want to avoid. That fast and dirty strategy has typical downstream consequences we only discover that we want to dodge later.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t or can’t use the quick and dirty to develop solutions to a design problem. I personally do that all the time. I am saying that when we do, it is usually best to clean up after ourselves. When we don’t, we almost always regret it.

“How Do We learn to Do This?”

No pain. No gain.

Make a copy of a completed project and clean the DREFs and dependencies up from top to bottom. Trust me the experience for most folks will be educational to put it mildly. If you are laughing at this point and thinking “No Way”. That itself is a significant message.

This QAQC project upgrade and evaluation process usually also helps to identify a bunch of things to modify and fix in future projects. Recurring problems only disappear when we seek to find them and proactively learn to remove them from our standard practice.

If you don’t yet work on and employ Civil 3D Project Templates, you probably don’t know what you are missing. That’s a discussion with videos you can find out about on the Civil 3D Projects and Setup page.

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Civil 3D Dependency and References Posts

Manage Civil 3D Dependencies

  • What we can and need to do about all those references and dependencies we employ in Civil 3D

Civil 3D Object Model Nuances

  • Answers to the most important Civil 3D User questions about How, When and Why for the many references we employ in Civil 3D

Those Vital Civil 3D User DREF Skills

  • How to learn to improve our mission critical Civil 3D Data Reference skills individually and corporately

Civil 3D Design and Data References

  • How and Why the differences between Civil 3D User DREF personal and corporate skills effects our production Civil 3D project work