CAD Tip 1022: Use a system to speed up repetitive tasks

A good system shortens the road to the goal.
– Orison Swett Marden
Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.
– Henry Ford

Repetitive CAD tasks can be carried out faster and more accurately if you have a system to apply to the work.

What type of system works best?  That depends on the task.  Generally, a system works best when there are many similar or identical tasks that can be grouped together and completed at one time or in one sequence, rather than bouncing around between very different tasks that require different types of actions in various parts of the work area.


Henry Ford revolutionized the automotive industry by creating and perfecting the assembly line system.  In this system, the car moved step-by-step through each stage of an assembly line, and each worker on the line had a very limited set of tasks to complete before the car moved to the next stage.  The worker would repeat that small set of tasks over and over, reducing the chance of error or wasted time.  This proved to be a very efficient system, compared to having a worker or a team build a car in-place, with each team carrying out a large number of very different tasks to complete the assembly of one car.

Assembly line for the Ford Model A

You can apply a similar logic to repetitive CAD tasks.  When possible, and when it makes sense, group similar tasks together and do them all at once, in a single step when possible, or in a continuous, uninterrupted sequence.  This can save time because you get in a rhythm.  It also makes it less likely you will accidentally overlook one of the task instances.

For example, say you have a sheet with lots of text on it, and you’re bringing it in from a project that referenced APPLE, and the current project needs to reference PEACH in a similar way.  You can use the Annotation Search and Replace function to update all of the APPLE references to read PEACH.  (Go Annotate tab, Text panel, Find text.)

Another example:  Say you have a drawing where all of the blocks called “THISBLOCK” need to be rotated 90 degrees.  Select at random any instance of “THISBLOCK.”  Right-click to open the shortcut menu and click on Select Similar.  All instances of the block will then be selected.  Now in the Properties dialog box, change the Rotation value of all of the blocks from 0 degrees to 90 degrees.


You may say that it’s never that simple.  Perhaps not, but there are often opportunities to edit similar objects in one fell swoop, or as the French say, en masse.

Instead of doing Task A, Task B, Task C, and Task D, in that order, twenty times, would it be more efficient to to Task A twenty times, then move on to doing Task B twenty times, and so on?  It could make a big difference.

You may find it useful to combine the power of big round numbers (Tip 1021) with the ideas mentioned above.

So think like Henry Ford, and look for ways to organize a big project into smaller, similar types of work that can be grouped together and mass-produced or mass-edited.  Plan your strategy in advance.  Make repetitive tasks work in your favor by finding a smart system that works on the whole bunch at once.  It’s usually there if you look for it.

Keep on CADDing!   🙂


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