Increasing the awareness of CAD/CAM/CAE

Awareness training should be given at some time to the entire staff, though the level and quantity may vary. The implementation of a CAD/CAM/CAE system is likely to affect the working methods of many people in the company, not just those who will use the system. It will certainly change the way the company operates - its procedures and practices - and it is therefore vital that everyone should understand the CAD/CAM/CAE context.

The first group of people in the company that needs to be made aware of CAD/CAM/CAE is top management; until they have some understanding of CAD/CAM/CAE and are prepared to offer it support, little progress can be made. It will be useful for them to learn about the way in which CAD/CAM/CAE can be used in a company, the way in which other companies have used it, and the potential costs and benefits.

Many companies misguidedly undertake the system selection process on their own and without recourse to the wealth of experience accumulated over the last 30 years. They allow strategy development and system selection to be undertaken by a keen young engineer and/or someone from IS. Neither of these individuals may have any knowledge of CAD/CAM/CAE systems except for reading the occasional journal article and looking at the glossy pages. And yet these are the people tasked with moving the company forward technologically. The very first thing they must do is to obtain some awareness training.

Awareness training can be obtained from a variety of sources, including journals and magazines, exhibitions, conferences and seminars, CAD/CAM/CAE vendors, courses, consultants and awareness programs of seminars, literature, and videos sponsored by industry associations, government departments, and educational institutions.

Once those spearheading the selection process have a good understanding of CAD/CAM/CAE, the next people requiring a similar level of understanding are those managers and key users who are going to be closely involved with the selection process. These are the people who will have to agree on the benefits and justification, who will assist in defining user requirements, and who will be responsible for making the system a success.

Having defined the requirements - and evaluated the most suitable systems - the next step is to gain approval for capital expenditure. This is often a stumbling block, for after spending much time getting to the point of proposal presentation, the whole project falls on stony ground. One of the main reasons for this is that the people who must sign off on the proposal do not understand the scope and possibilities of CAD/CAM/CAE. They do not understand it technically, and, more important, they do not appreciate the impact it can and should have on the organization in terms of a new way of doing business and new ways of working.

A further critical factor in the success of a CAD/CAM/CAE installation is the support of top management, because success is not instantaneous and the benefits may not be seen for 1 or 2 years. During this period it is vital that top management keeps faith with the project. These issues must be understood and their implications realized before the proposal is submitted for approval. It is the responsibility of the selection team and user management to ensure that top management receives the right training. This also implies that they must appreciate the issues themselves.

Once a system has been selected and installed, it may be useful to occasionally assign one workstation to awareness training for those not actively using the system. This will help these people understand a little about CAD/CAM/CAE and help reduce whatever fears or frustrations may have been induced by the arrival of new technology.

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Page last modified on February 11, 2000
Copyright 1999, 2000 by John Stark