SketchList 3D Cabinet Design Software

SketchList 3D helps wood shop owners sell and deliver jobs in a managed and controlled fashion, resulting in satisfied customers and increased profitability.

A survey asked several thousand shop owners, not all of them SketchList 3D users,  to comment on their experiences and problems they faced selling and delivering jobs and what they wanted from their design software.

We asked workshop owners to rank problems they felt they faced  in their businesses.

The most useful benefit of cabinet design software in the shop and office was an accurate and organized set of reports.  SketchList 3D provides a set of reports that are integrated across the sales – production – delivery process.

Respondents were asked to rank typical woodworking reports – cut list, shop drawings, layout diagrams,and  3D renderings – as very important, important, or unimportant.

The results with user comments follow.

1. Cut list [69% very important.]

• “Time is important to be able to pass on work for construction.”
• “I tried a free drawing program but it does not generate cut lists…wasted time, extra step”
• “Like materials layouts, cut lists are necessary but time consuming.”
• “The cut list is the main advantage of having a furniture design software. It is what allows me to buy the materials cut just how I need.

2. Shop drawings [65% very important.]

• “Again, this a necessary  part of projects.”
• “On small projects, not a huge issue but for larger ones this can be a real problem”
• “It’s a must have.”
• “most important to get these done asap”
• “Usually have to draw project twice, one for customer, one for shop”

3. Optimal material layout [55% very important.]

• “Can do it manually, but adjustments take time and still may not be the most efficient”
• “Important for material cost”
• “Optimizing materials layouts by hand can take far too long.’

4. Cost of materials [30% very important.]

• “I find accurate costing determine profit and loss”
• “Sometimes guess work used to estimate materials to be used”
• “[You need] realistic bids in competitive market.”

5. Rendering of 3D images [23% very important.]

• “Customers often need to see something in 3D before ordering.”
• “It is difficult to get a mental picture of the furniture without images how will the finished product, both for me and for which requested the cabinet. “
• “People relate to pictures much more easily than to just numbers.”
• “Much easier to explain a concept with pictures rather than several thousand words.”

Learning New Software

A concern expressed by respondents was the time required to learn a new software package.  At the same time they acknowledge there is always a learning curve.

One respondent said:

“If the software delivers the results I need I’ll invest my time in learning.  It will take more work in the beginning and I’ll add-on to my knowledge of the product over time. But as I increase my skills I will be productive on a day-to-day basis. This will help my business.”

Remember the saying ‘Don’t let perfect be the enemy of better’.  You need not know every aspect of every feature in the product.  The features you need to know are only those you use in your designs.  If for example you use pocket screws for assembling, you need not learn how SketchList 3D adds a mortise.

Focus on learning the most-used features first and become productive in a shorter period of time.   That will give you a working base of knowledge that you can build on as you go along.

Three factors influence how long it will take to become productive.

1.   What is your goal for your design software?
2.  How much detail does your design require?
3.  Can you use components from your library in your design?

Goals:  Experience shows us that having a goal helps focus learning.

Goals might include:

  • Creating high quality 3D images to show prospects.
  • Generating cut lists
  • Making shop drawings
  • Brainstorming and exploring design ideas
  • Creating a floor layout for a room
  • Layout out parts on sheet goods to minimize waste
  • Creating parts files to export to your CNC process
  • Creating a portfolio of images and drawings for a proposal
  • Calculating material costs.

Of course you may decide that you want to achieve several or all of these goals with your cabinet design software. However, you should prioritize and focus your efforts to generate the most important outputs as soon as possible.

Amount of Detail

More detail and more complexity require more time to master. It might seem that users would want to know every last function of the software and how it is used to create masterpiece designs. But this survey shows that only 40% or respondents are interested in highly detailed designs (defined by “show every joint, hole, and line in the design”).

But 60% said prior to selling the job less detail was required in the designs or plans.  They added that they did not need to know every detail since at any point in the design since their shop experience filled in any gaps.  One example given was laying holes for shelf pins.  That respondent wrote “I don’t need to draw them all – I use a jig for drilling them.”

Consider the following about including details.  Will the detail be visible? Would you add a drawer slide even if that slide is hidden in the images?  But it is probably necessary to add drawer handles and moldings to convey the feeling and look of the job..

kitech details

Several users report that at the beginning of a design they work with a minimum of detail.  After closing a sale, they modify the design as necessary. This keeps from wasting time detailing those jobs designed but not sold.

Many times a deadline determines the amount of time available for design, and non-essential details can be overlooked to speed the process.

Stock versus one off

The third factor in design times is that trade-off between the use of stock items and creating one off designs.

With a library of standard cabinets, doors, drawers, hardware, assemblies you can simply copy an item into your design. You can either use the items that come with SketchList 3D or make your own standards.

Because modifications with SketchList 3D are easy to make, you can combine stock and one off. Just take a standard component and modify it to fit the job: change the sizes, add a door or drawer, change the material.

“We designed this hanging drawer unit as required by the client’s architect. It took probably 10 minutes. We took that unit, changed its size, and the number and layout of the drawers and had that finished in like a minute.”

Truly one off designs take more time. But even with highly custom work, there are many strategies when designing that save time. For example, you might create a segment of a design, clone and mirror that segment, re-size it, and use it elsewhere in that job.  In any case as you create your designs you can save them for use in other jobs.

SketchList 3D – an Integrated Approach

In SketchList 3D design and reporting are completely integrated. As you design you create all reports. Changes in design automatically shows in the reports. This saves time on the initial preparation of the design and makes changes very easy to accommodate.