Make sure you read my companion article.
Recommendations to the New Boeing CEO
Can Engineering Survive without the Drafting Group?

Related image

This is a drafting room. No, it was not called the engineering room. Drafting was the basis of all engineering.

What you see here is the draftsmen on the right and the design engineers on the left. The two fellows close by could be stress, material or lead engineers or supervisors that over looked the drafting room. All engineers wore ties as did many of the older draftsmen.

Rarely did you find an engineer on the drafting board.

As draftsmen we were responsible for most of the Form, Fit and Function design. Many were in lead engineer positions that basically managed the different assignments or projects. Draftsmen made all of the drawings, even when 3D CAD was introduced.

The 1980's - 3D CAD - The Beginning

Engineers were not at the forefront of the FFF design, but were responsible for scrutinizing and assuring the design was feasible and would not fail.

                   They were engineers not draftsman.

My First 17 Years or "How did we do it without 3D CAD!"

Engineering's total purpose is to make available concise, complete and unambiguous documentation to manufacturing.

The Drawing was Engineering's Language!

The Drafting Group was dissolved at Boeing around the turn of the century with the implementation of PLM. The Drafting Group was made up of draftsmen which was an ancient mentoring profession.

The Drafting Group

The Drafting Group was responsible for the creation, correctness, release and maintenance of the engineering drawing.

It is a simple as that. Engineers had no position in a drafting group. Yes, in smaller companies where the engineer was the chief cook and bottle washer he would do it all. But in large companies it was the Drafting Group in charge of the engineering documentation.

At Boeing they had a VP of Drafting! Each engineering group had Lead Draftsmen and a Drafting Supervisor. The Lead Draftsman was the go to guy, no one knew more. Remember the drawing drove the show!

Drawing Creation

A few companies, like Pratt and Whitney had a design department manned by engineers that created board design layouts. Now there might have been a few design draftsman, but it was in a complete different building and I never was there. They had a completely separate drafting group. In most companies the draftsmen were assigned to specific engineering groups to work alongside the design engineers. Draftsman working with the design engineer or working alone would create the design layouts that were used to create the drawings.

There were design and drawing standards
that were strictly applied.

In each group a checker was assigned to review the completed drawing. He/she would check for form, fit and function and drawing correctness. He would sign off on the drawing in the title block as would the draftsman, stress, materials, manufacturing and lead engineers, finally the engineering supervisor.

The Drawing was released to Document Control.

With this many eyes on the design you could pretty much be assured that the part was correct. But there is always the human factor.

Here is a signed off title block. This was just one part. Every part went through this scrutiny. The Drafting Group was responsible for getting the title block signed off.

Just one failed part can cause havoc at assembly
 or installation with slipped schedules.


If a part could not be installed a rejection tag or ECO (Engineering Change Order) would be generated by a Liaison Engineer and sent to the originating group. These were handled by the Drafting Group, investigated and working with a design or lead engineer solutions were implemented. The draftsman would document the change as a revision. These could be ADCNs (Advanced Drawing Change Notices) done on 8.5 x 11 sheets that would be printed and attached to the print or directly change the drawing with a DCN (Drawing Change Notice)


There were no engineers involved in this process except for support, review and sign off.

What was the only media?


The 3D CAD Factor

We will not concern ourselves with the CAD (Computer Aided Drawing) these were electronic drawing packages, mostly Autocad, that created drawings made up of unassociated orthographic views. They were plotted on vellum and handled like the manual drawing.

But 3D CAD was completely different, it was the end of the "drawing" as we knew them. We now created documents by dimensioning views created from the 3D model. I have coined these AIDs (Associated Information Documents).

One of the misnomers that came out of the transition from drawings to AIDs was "2D Drawing". This was used to describe any document that looked like a drawing whether created manually, electronically or by a 3D CAD documentation module. This generalization has led to many uninformed decisions on how the different documentation should be handled.

The Death of the Drawing

With 3D CAD the documentation is created at the end of the design in the documentation module, with the major CAD systems it is added file that must be synchronized with and "travel" with the 3D model. There are other CAD systems that have a integrated drawing which would alleviate much of the PDM (Product Data Management) problems.

CADKEY or Catia?
Boeing’s Billion-Dollar
3D CAD Mistake!

In the beginning of CAD the draftsman would do the design and create the AID. The AID was plotted and released as a print. But the 3D model was soon to be used as a pattern for CNC and drive a 3D printer, plus many other purposes from inspection to marketing.

The AID was still a fully detailed document that could standalone, any change in the model would be reflected in the AID. Much care had to be taken when making changes. We will not go into the limitation of the major CAD systems here.

To Draw or Not to Draw??

Redefining 2D/3D

The 3D model and AID as a print became a nightmare for PDM and PLM. Even when the PDF was introduced it did not seem to make this nightmare better.

The Data Management Mess

PLM & PDM Defined

The Death of PLM

Then some brilliant people decided we needed one document like the drawing was in the past and they developed MBE (Model Based Enterprise) based on the PMI (Product Manufacturing Information). Which you can only call a 3D drawing!

This was a top down decision made by those with not one ounce of applicable knowledge of the engineering document control system. They replaced a standard system that was efficiently honed from the bottom up over decades if not centuries. A truly arrogant bunch! They still stand in the way of solving this chaos. They were not even curious enough to find how it was done in the past.

Every airplane from the 767 down, the C5-A, L-1011, DC 10, Space Shuttle and every engineering project pre-CAD uses a well defined standard engineering process based only on the "paper" drawing. As a contract draftsman you could go from company to company and be up to speed in a day or two. Try that today!

The 777 was done in 3D wireframe and generated AIDs that were handled just like a drawings. The 3D models were virtually worthless except to generate the AIDs.

31 Years of 3D MCAD Incompatibility




PLM/MBE/PMI Absurdity!!

Management thought with the PMI there was no need of conventional drawings, therefore no need for draftsmen. Since the documentation could reside in the Catia CAD system there was no need for the Standardized Document Control Group. One day they are sending the 3D model and fully defined AID to the supplier, the next day the Catia native file based PMI. No transition period or trial period. Today, the Boeing suppliers are working around the silly demands of MBE.

Compare and Validation Programs?
Band-Aids for Self Inflicted Wounds!

Boeing eliminated the drafting and documentation control group. They even renamed the Draftsmen to Engineering Techs. Documentation was now managed by Dassault PLM!

Can you imagine one of the greatest manufacturing companies in one of the most safety sensitive industries in the world handing their proven standard engineering management over to a CAD software company?

This decision was incredibly irresponsible and ignorant. Why did they get rid of the drafting group? It was the enemy of Dassault, the InfoTechs and the new PLM gurus. The documentation was the most important step in engineering and the Drafting Group was the watch dog. They knew the process introduced by Dassault, the PLM gurus and InfoTechs led by the CIO would cause chaos and fought them. But sadly, there were no PHDs in Drafting just seasoned professionals.

This was a bit short sighted, this concept did not solve the documentation problems with inseparable assemblies and actual electronic drawing and legacy drawings. It has been chaos.

 So, who is in charge of the documentation today?

When Boeing got rid of the draftsmen, they handed all of drafting’s responsibility to the degreed 3D CAD engineer without a transition plan. I suppose they thought the “Engineering Techs” would transfer their knowledge by osmosis before they were let go by attrition! This was 21 years ago, I am sure there are very few Techs left since you have to have a minimum of a BSME to get an engineering job at Boeing.

The Millennial CAD engineer is now responsible for the design, analysis, the creation of the documentation, the correctness of the documentation, the form, fit and function of the design, the release of the documentation, the maintenance of the documentation and the revisions of the documentation.

Today it is more important for an engineer to have the companies CAD system experience than industry related experience.

Don’t believe me? Read this article very carefully!

Engineering Yesterday & Today
Engineer's Job Description
The Search for the Purple Squirrel

They were to do this with not one drafting or engineering documentation training class in college. Prior to this situation, Boeing knew this and like most aerospace companies would start the new engineers in drafting under the guidance of the senior draftsmen for a year.

Today there is no one group that is now responsible for the engineering documentation it is just part of the 3D CAD engineers job. Take a look what is happening with documentation without any one responsible!

I have heard there is an engineering producibility group at Boeing that reviews the released documentation. But that seems a bit like putting cart before the horse. You can only imagine the convoluted process if a problem is found.

If you do not read any of the reference articles please read this one! It is one of the most shocking statistics of the state of engineering documentation.

Engineering Documentation Today!

There is no set training for engineering documentation today. Most is learned on the job from those that learned it on the job.

The Death of the Draftsman or  “Where has all the talent gone?”

Educating the New 3D CAD Engineer

The Millennial 3D MCAD Engineer

Should the New 3D CAD Engineer Learn Drafting?

I found this article, it is a bit strange with a mixture of disciplines. It is no more that a renaming of the draftsman. Why would they find this is necessary? Try and get a job in the industrial/mechanical engineering industry without an "engineering" degree.

Drafting and Design Engineer

In the following descriptions of an engineering technologist or technician, they do not even reference engineering documentation. An oversight? or is it just blatant ignorance?

Engineering Technologist?
Engineering Technician?

Yes, we need a drafting group or a separate group that is responsible for the engineering documentation
No matter what you call it.

Again I will state this and you should now realize why engineering is in the condition it is.

 Engineering's total purpose is to make available concise, complete and unambiguous documentation to manufacturing.

We also need a Standardized Documentation Control Group outside of engineering and especially the CAD system. Someday the Boeing's of the world will realize you cannot have a CAD Centric Engineering System. Too many vested interests, in Boeing's case, Dassault, PLM Gurus, MBE and the InfoTechs led by the CIO!

Standard Cloud Based
Engineering Document Control

Standard Cloud Based
Engineering Document Control Part II


Years ago, the drafting group was a very tight organization based on an ancient profession, our job was to assure every part met the design requirements and were completely defined without any ambiguity.  We had a very little path to management, we were worker bees. Even if we had a "green" engineer it was our job to make him look good.

I saw this article.

Boeing Employees Mocked F.A.A. and ‘Clowns’ Who Designed 737 Max

Can we blame the elimination of the drafting group for the 737 Max failure plus many of other Boeing delayed projects and much of the state of the industry today? You be the judge!

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Viewpoints on Today's 3D CAD and Engineering Industry

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