Detailing Issues with Cabinet Drawing Programs

No drawing program handles parts detailing perfectly; systems have to compensate for the software's limitations. November 12, 2005

I have a six-man custom high-end cabinet shop. We've been using KCDW for about three years. I've lost a lot of money in reworking because the prints have been off. I have spent hundreds of hours with the support help. I spend too much time catching and correcting bugs. I'm thinking of switching to Cabinet Vision or Planit Solutions (same thing?). Any thoughts?

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(CAD Forum)
I have never seen a drawing program with many of the bugs you describe. There is one bug I see in all programs - the drawing says one number, and the cut list gives another.

I have not used KCDW. My customers that switched did so because the program could not do certain things. I saw Cabnetware make a mistake. The cut list was Imperial and fractional and there was a number on an individual cut list that was a decimal that was not even close. That was version 2b, though.

Cabinet Vision, back in the DOS v. 16 days, would misreport the size of an oven cabinet stile after it was changed, so you always had to go back and edit it in the cut list.

On the flip side, many think detailing is a gravy job. Sit in a chair all day in the air conditioned office and move a mouse around. The detailer’s job is to confirm that the cut lists are indeed correct. I know a bit about computer code and very seldom will you encounter a bug that gives a different answer every time with the same input criteria. The detailer must be undisturbed. Their phone should not ring, they should have a door that they can close and have quiet. They can hear shop noise, but not radios or people talking, especially in another language. The smallest interruption to a detailer costs 15 minutes of their time. The variables for a job take too long to write down and must be in their head. Miss one little thing and the job is blown and becomes a loss. Detailing is an extremely stressful position that many shop owners do not understand.

Maybe you are doing your drawings and these are not the issues. You really need to be a master at what you do with detailing if you want anything other than simple boxes to come out of a drawing program.

I would say that Cabinet Vision Solid is more flexible than Cabnetware. I know successful shops using both, in many versions. Funny thing is, I do not know one that gets 100% of what they need out of it.

This is not always the software's fault. An example would be Dynamic Door, formerly, I & S. I think I installed over 100 houses for them in the Beverly Hills area. All 3 – 30+ million dollar homes. There were always angles and complicated things. The shop used Cabnetware. If I had to install some cabinets behind a bar and the wall was on an arch, and the owner did the measuring and detailing (he is considered one of the best there is with Cabnetware), I would have 8 cabinets that had stiles on them precut with their angles and they were always completely wrong. Everything had to be either recut or the stile had to be replaced with a larger piece and a different angle. Once I learned Cabnetware, I learned that it was simple to calculate these angles and plug them in. It worked fine. He just did not care enough to take the time to do it right. He was certainly smart enough to figure it out and use the software to its full potential.

It is a huge decision to use another software. Besides the costs upfront, you have to learn everything all over again and implement the new changes in your shop to reflect what the software can do. You can cut a round hole in a piece of plywood on the table saw, but is that the best way to do it? Think of your software as a power tool and know when it is not the right thing to use, which may be where you are at right now. You may indeed need a new tool for certain tasks, but maybe your other tool still works and you are not accepting its design and limitations.

Knowing when to put it down and use a pencil and paper or something else, for a short time, can help quite a bit. None of this parametric software designed for cabinets does it all and the ones that are generically based parametrics can take much longer to use, and you have issues with material thickness not matching what the material thickness really is. This can be a big deal at times. You always must be on the ball.

Other things that cause problems are shop standards and communication. This has nothing to do with the software, but frequently the software is blamed. Do your submittal drawings and give a set to the shop foreperson. You must have a shop standard of communication in place. Let the detailer draw up the drawing the first time with what info they can gather. Then just guess at the rest. Print up a set for submittal and for the shop foreperson. Submit the drawings and while they are out, get your field dims and have the shop foreperson review them. When they come back from submittal redlined, let the detailer look over the field dims and the redlined set from the foreperson. Now, before they adjust the drawing, have a meeting between the two and possibly others that have additional info and decide what to do. Revise your drawing set once. Do not expect the detailer to revise the drawings three times after each person has had a look. It is not only disrespectful, but the detailer will not enjoy doing things again and again.

When this job hits the shop, there may be changes, anyway. There are a whole host of reasons, ranging from people not at work, machines down, better ways to do something, missed facts that were hard to understand from the original drawings, and things outside your control, such as design change.

If the shop needs to make a change, no matter how small, they need to let the detailer know of this change. The detailer must decide if they want to fix the whole set, or a few pages and reprint or gather up all the drawings in the shop and note it by hand. The detailer must want to do this and so must the shop. Of course, with the egos that are typical of cabinet shop employees that take pride in their work, this can be a difficult process. Someone has to give and go with the flow. The detailer is the shop's right hand. They are there to get work done as a teammate. And you know they are not going to tolerate being abused and disrespected for very long before their dissatisfaction shows in their work. Often, because problems cannot be worked out without conflict, they will just blow it off and collect their paycheck and not even care.

The flip side of all this is that if you have been here before, you can really appreciate a well-oiled shop that has mutual respect between employees and that work together well, after having seen the other side.

Detailing can be very difficult to get a handle on and more times than not, if there is a mistake, it was not a silly error of the software, but a problem with people making poor choices and not having the proper structured environment to perform well, so that they put down the software and got a pencil out, communicated the problem, etc.

There are quite a few softwares out there. Only you can decide what exactly the problem is and what software will work. Every software has unhappy customers, with the exception of one, but even then, that may not be the software for you anyway. Software may not even be your problem. Getting generalizations from people about other software is helpful, but you need to actually use it yourself and see if it works at your shop, before you buy it. Many have demos that work. If the demo is not working for you, with adequate diligence on your part, it is not for you.

I think that you will find that CV handles the upper end of the marketplace much better.

I agree with the first post (mostly) on this one. It is a personnel issue you are having more than anything. A detailer's job is to make sure that no matter what, everything is as it should be. I have not used KCDW, but I have used CVS for a couple of years. CVS has some bugs, no doubt about it. But so does anyone else's software. It still comes back on the operator.

If your issue is simply drawing accuracy, then you should be using AutoCAD... period! If your issue also includes CNC code, then your answer is as varied as there are software applications. The bottom line is still this... your drafter/engineer/detailer has got to get it right. What are you paying the guy for?

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the input from all. I am the detailer-drafter-engineer at this point. I think I'm being meticulous, but things get by me. It's not a drawing accuracy issue - it's usually a matter of the program not knowing how to handle certain applications. We do a lot of gang construction and it fails to account for that, but only sometimes. I was wondering if Cabinetvision had less problems with that, less bugs. I know there's no perfect program, but I wasn't aware that parts needed to be checked so meticulously on other programs. It's a little frustrating - why can't a program handle a cutlist without so much help? I have also had issues with KCDW's limitations. It seems I stretch it to meet our needs a lot. We're very custom and it fails to show a lot of the detail that I'd like it to. I was hoping someone had used both and could compare. My thought was to keep the KCDW going while I spend time learning the new program, if it is worth the switch.

I have been a Cabinetvision user for 12 years. It works as good as the info you put into it. The pictures sell the jobs. As far as the reports are concerned, they are a matter of interpretation. I have made the most foolproof plan and cultists - with renderings and elevations. If the guys in the shop are not trained to understand the cultists, they still make wrong parts. Any of the programs are only good if you understand them. A lot of times, I make a plan in CV that is just a concept. We are always improvising as we are building. But it helps a lot to calculate parts sizes.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor I:
I've had CV for a short time and have found many strengths in their platform. Nevertheless a concern you must consider is the way they manage the sales and support packages. In the initial purchase I was informed that the "USB Key" to access the software if lost would cost me $1500.00 to replace and as you can imagine this occurred.

When notifying my representative I was told that the "key" was no longer available as a single item and that now I needed to purchase what was call an add on software package and that cost $2500.00.

When you buy CV the legal forms they supply do not come with a list of the costs of all the extras or the prices for ongoing support. Being in California I found it odd that they are not required to supply this information.