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Problems concerning the standardization of drawings in the field of prefabrication is a pressing matter nowadays; in fact, given that there are no written and harmonized rules not only on the field as a whole but in each company, the risk of errors remains remarkable. However, the use of more or less sophisticated software solutions has led to techniques which make the development of electronically stored drawings relating to production easier to follow the regulations and requirements of a company’s quality system.

The ISO 9000 regulations form a reference standard and verification system to obtain a certified quality assurance from all organizations providing products and/or services. This quality assurance approach is dedicated to producers and production processes rather than the products themselves. For this reason, it is of vital importance for the production process and its organization to comply with these regulations. Quality, as understood in these rules, no longer relates to products and services, but production entities, then processes, activities, organization and combinations thereof.
It is the responsibility of management to choose the appropriate quality policy not only for increased market competitiveness but also to provide for its company organization a structure within which responsibilities, hierarchies, and departmental interrelations are defined to ensure that activities are efficiently carried out.
The quality policy of a company is briefly described in its quality manual, the existence of which is essential to obtain certification, and instructions contained therein will form the communicative basis to transform individual knowledge, that is often subjective, into corporate assets to constitute an important part of the company knowhow.

The ISO 9000 regulations help establish a logical and rational control of a company’s activities based on the principle of continuous assessment to carry out the monitoring of production processes necessary to constantly identify the characteristics of company activities at any given point in time. To ensure this, data must be encoded to be understood by all prospective addressees. This data will then be the working criteria for all participants involved in a given project. In this context, any return of information will be used as a feedback to control whether a service or production step has met the demands and, if necessary, to carry out modifications.
Any project is the result of its design and it is therefore the activities of the design unit and its monitoring by the corresponding quality system that ensures not only the ultimate technical product quality itself, but the ability of the design unit to control the entire process flow.
To implement design control, the design unit has to enable a process of asset management by assigning responsibilities and adequate resources and qualified personnel to all departments, working groups, and participants concerned. Also, the design unit must provide a definition of interfaces between all entities involved to ensure a communicative network that is properly managed and monitored and that, whenever appropriate, will be prepared to undergo revisions to meet the needs of design, planning and the process as a whole.

The years spent as consultants for precasters have given us the opportunity of working very closely with this industry and we have thus asked ourselves as to why there are numerous fundamentally different systems of design presentations in this sector, not only between the various companies, but also within such organizational entities themselves. Contrary to the situation as found in the mechanical engineering sector – where an information system allowing for the transmission of data all over the world has been successfully implemented in the past and has been existing for a good number of years – in precasting, every designer has been adopting his own method of presentation derived from his own experience and training.
If we also consider the great changes that have occurred over the last years within the manufacturing sector where workers increasingly tend to have fewer qualifications and less experience, there is a general need, in our opinion, to provide an ever growing body of information in a clear, complete, easily comprehensible, and organized fashion and in a simple and readily readable manner.
Precasters are in need of optimizing their resources and products by focusing more and more on streamlining designs. A first reaction to these new challenges within a company should be a new approach to the company’s quality system stipulations to initiate a reorganization of know-how that will help a monitoring of procedures to make the state of affairs available to all operators by means of the corresponding technical manual. The two manuals complement one another since the technical manual will contain the rules for design, production, transport and assembly, while a quality manual will contain a list of all types of documents that the unit design produces, both in terms of make-up and content.
All this calls for the need to provide all available pieces of information and especially those concerning a given project, in a single system of presentation that enables a fast transmission of project data with the consequent advantage of avoiding errors. Finally, there is an ever increasing tendency that maintenance of already erected buildings is outsourced to other companies and the use of a single system of project presentation would greatly facilitate this type of cooperation.
Starting from these assumptions and having developed an automated design system applicable to precast concrete structures, CSG Engineering have established a system of information exchange that addresses the layout of production boards, the dimensioning system, and the corresponding data management system that will form an intrinsic part of the entire process of activities. CSG have chosen to present the required product data on two production sheets, one for carpentry containing all the information related to tooling, and one addressing reinforcement which is often outsourced and where the supplier of this job is even responsible for such a salient aspect as the positioning of the cage in the mould.
All drawings developed by CSG have a number of elements in common, starting from the chosen A3 sheet size used horizontally and allowing for a perfectly legible and scaled product presentation, the position of the title block, of summary tables, and by the presence of all the views of the product. This layout is the result of extensive discussions that have taken place not only among the design engineers of various companies, but also including direct feedbacks of the production workers as ultimate users of these drawings.
The title block contains all the information related to the product, that is the mould, its size, the materials necessary for production and its specific coding that distinguishes it from other products and processes, all this not only as a paper printout but also in the architectural design itself. Once the drawings have been finally developed, all depictions of the product and its dimensioning will have been optimized so as to avoid duplicate information and to comply with a constant, rational and systematic logic for all types of products. Other information relating to each desired product is summarized in tables organized by topics, inserts, lifting procedures, reinforcements etc. and are complemented with a series of references to the technical manuals specific for each company. This completes the data pool that is necessary for production and that complies with the proc edures as contained in the corresponding quality manual.

Maurizio Frasani, CSG Engineering, Italy – Enrico Dassori, Professor and vice-director DSA, University of Studi di Genova, Italy