When setting up a workstation for a detailer, there are many options to consider. Of course, you’ll want to maximize productivity and minimize costs. But what about user comfort? What about today’s paperless project environment? How about efficiency in performing repetitive tasks? The office environment has gone through some changes in recent years.
Not all that long ago, detailers sat in tall drafting chairs hunched over their drafting tables. They needed their lead holders, scales, stencils and electric erasers within easy reach as well as a place to put all their various contract documents for convenient viewing. Today’s detailers, especially the self-employed variety, spend many hours in front of their computer each week. Writer’s cramp has given way to carpal tunnel syndrome.
When I sat in front of my first computer detailing station I had a single 22” widescreen monitor, a 2-button scroll wheel mouse, basic office chair and a sloping table next to me to hold my printed contract drawings. I kept plenty of pencils, erasers, and highlighters around too. We were lucky enough to have one of those new-fangled wide format printers, so I never had to endure the pain of waiting for a plotter or worse (those wonderful smelling ammonia blueprint machines).
Today, my station looks a bit different. My computer houses a video card that was easily half of the cost of the entire machine. This powers 4 monitors, 2 of them running at 4k resolution with the other 2 at 1080p. The big screens are for modeling software and running Bluebeam for our contract documents. The smaller screens are for monitoring email, running our video conferencing virtual office, office chat windows and anything else that does not need all that much space.
An ergonomic gaming mouse and keyboard are essential for us as there are many programmable buttons we can use to execute most common commands with a single key press. We learned from growing up as gamers; hunting for buttons to click on the screen or worse, from drop-down menus, is never as fast or efficient as keystrokes and pre-scripted mouse buttons.
We also have webcams as standard issue on our stations. These may not be for everyone though. But since our office entirely cloud-based, it is the only way I’ll ever see my staff as we all work out of our own home offices. It also allows our customers and others involved on projects to be able to video conference with us.
Video conference capability is huge. We can share screens with our co-workers to discuss issues, or conference in our customer and give them the ability to draw right on our screen. We’re collaborating in real time and the time savings allows us to fit in more projects and make each one that much more profitable.
For our conferencing, we started out using Skype, then switched to Google Hangouts and now have added in Zoom. Skype and Hangouts are free but tend to lack a few features. We use Hangouts primarily as a messenger chat system and for quick video calling within our virtual office. Zoom has both free and paid options and gives us the ability to draw on screens and record our conferences for later use. With Zoom, we are also able to set up virtual conference rooms rather than just a one-to-one phone call, so we can bring in as many participants as we need.
We also make use of MS Office 360, particularly for OneNote. This allows us to share notebooks with each other and it has proven to be a wonderful tool for managing to-do lists, making quick sketches to trade around the office when needed.
So that’s our basic detailing station set up. A basic station like this runs around $1,500-$2,000 and of course, can be built up over time. We find the efficiency and comfort is well worth the cost. What does your setup look like? Anything you’ve found to be a tremendous time saver or energy sink? Let us know in the comments section.