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DP Associates, a leading US-based provider of CAD services, began operations in the early 1990s as a division of a New York-based sourcing company, assisting US and European firms in identifying vendors and providing Quality Control services for a wide variety of engineered products. The firm got into CAD drafting services by accident, as a favor to a sourcing client. The first customer, in the late 1990s, was an engineering firm that required conversion of engineering drawings to AutoCAD after the original computer files were lost. Soon thereafter, the firm’s landlord, a New York-based real estate company, hired DP Associates to convert their archive of architectural blueprints into AutoCAD and upload them on the company’s website. It was then that it became clear that this could be a sustainable business, and the firm began to market the service to existing sourcing/QC clients.
At first, the conversion process involved the collection of physical drawings from clients, but it quickly became evident that without a network of offices, the cost and risk of shipping documents back and forth was prohibitive. In order to avoid damage of drawings in transit, DP Associates introduced a policy of only accepting electronic copies (i.e. raster or bitmap images) of drawings. If a customer does not have access to a scanner, they are referred to a network of affiliates across the USA. Not only is this approach safer, but it is also faster, less expensive and more eco-friendly than couriering documents back and forth. In order to further reduce cost, DP Associates adopted technologies that enabled the automation of parts of the process via a workflow system that customers could access. This low cost raster to vector CAD conversion service, combined with the company’s quality control heritage, became popular among US architects, engineers and construction firms. Before long, the division had grown sufficiently large to operate as a separate company, which was formed in New York in 2002 and incorporated in 2004.
Evolution of the Company
Having developed a high degree of confidence in DP Associates’ quality and reliability, clients began to ask for red-line changes, architectural detailing and 3D models. This presented a major challenge, as it required the firm to invest in training, installing new software and hiring new people. Re-creating engineering drawings is relatively easy, because very little judgment is required, but as one moves up the learning curve and tackles more complex assignments, there are often multiple solutions, and a certain amount of subjectivity and creativity is involved – and therefore quality control becomes harder to define.
Despite the challenges, it became clear that moving up the learning curve was important for the company to continue to expand and to provide a career path for its employees. While raster to vector CAD conversion will remain an important part of DP Associates’ business, particularly since many companies are now switching from 2D CAD to 3D CAD (e.g. Revit, BIM), most of the company’s growth today is coming from new services such as structural engineering, CAD detailing, renderings, 3D modeling and 3D walkthroughs.
Recent Expansion and Future Plans
In 2006, a group of private angel investors, including Managing Directors at Goldman Sachs, Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) and the International Finance Corporation, invested in the DP Associates to fund international expansion. Today DP Associates manages two talent pools: an internal team of around 150 architects, engineers and CAD draftsmen; and over 400 subcontractors around the world.
Having built a reputation for quality and reliability, DP Associates’ goal is to become the leading global provider of architectural, engineering and CAD support services, serving both industry and governments. Growth will come from two sources: new, higher value-added services and additional geographies. The corporation plans to grow primarily through organic means, but is also evaluating options to acquire smaller companies that can contribute to either geographic or product expansion.