I am wondering what you think of the section in Aldrich's book about grading? It seems like a simplified method in some ways and so I am wondering if for someone simply making the patterns (instead of the clothes) might this method do just fine?There are different approaches to grading. Aldrich's "method" is similar to Handford, just presented in a different way. The movements of the pattern pieces is done in basically the same way as Handford. I have not graded a pattern using Aldrich's method, but I don't see that it would be a problem. Just keep in mind that her grade rules are based off her own sizing study of a British demographic. It may or may not work for your customer profile.
Its not that I am adverse to putting in the extra time, but sometimes I wonder to myself if I am doing way more work than necessary in order to avoid "cutting corners" and making a product that in the end is below par.I've been grading patterns for over 15 years. I'm still learning. If you want a superior product, you will have to spend the time learning how it's done and gain necessary experience. People in business either hire someone to fill a knowledge or time gap or they spend a lot of time learning in the school of hard knocks. Grading is not especially difficult, but it does take time and effort to learn it. The best way to learn is by trying and doing. I don't mean to sound harsh, but there is no magic book or trick that will help you get what you want faster.
I am not drafting/grading using a cad program but am doing all my work by hand and in Adobe Illustrator if that helps you answer my question better.A lot of people ask me if they can use Adobe Illustrator for pattern making and grading. I suppose you could but to be honest, it's not for the faint of heart. I know there are indie pattern makers using Illustrator to do what you describe. But as a professional pattern maker and grader, Illustrator does not provide the level of accuracy and control that is needed for superior results. If given a choice, I would do all of my pattern making and grading by hand, or in other words with a pencil and paper.
Now there are pattern companies that draft their patterns either in CAD or scan in hand drafted patterns and add all the extra notations in Illustrator. The Big 4 do it that way. No problems there.