Understanding the consequences of maturity

In the same way that the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager may have a false impression of the success of the implementation, several other characteristics of maturity may be misunderstood. There will be more time available for the support and development of the system, although this may only be apparent to the CAD/CAM/CAE team as an impression that they are not quite so exhausted. There is a temptation to take advantage of this by launching some improvement or integration tasks.

Far more information is kept in people's heads than is realized, but there is a limit to the amount of information that can be maintained in this way. This will become apparent when some of the key CAD/CAM/CAE staff members leave or are promoted.

Although the people concerned may not be aware of it, impetus will have been lost. Those who championed and carried out the implementation will be drained. How would they react if they were told they had to start the same implementation again from scratch? They will have paced themselves to perform a major task, they will have completed that task, and, although the work still stretches out before them undiminished, there will be a temptation to relax to a slower pace of work.

Most important of all, top managers will no longer be taking a direct interest in the progress and success of CAD/CAM/CAE implementation. After trying to be involved and give guidance in the early stages and finding the problems outside their understanding, they will have withdrawn. The CAD/CAM/CAE Manager will thus have been managing the system unaided from above, led by the single broad-brush management instruction to 'make the system productive'.

In a traditional organization, by the very nature of the beast, the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager will not have been able to apply a strategic or business-wide involvement to CAD/CAM/CAE direction. It is vital that business control of the CAD/CAM/CAE system now be reasserted.

A different style and emphasis is required as the implementation begins to mature, and the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager must be aware of the changing situation to be able to react accordingly and take advantage of new opportunities for progress. Instead of the highly pressurized and reactive situation of a brand new installation, the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager will gradually find that problems become more regular, predictable, and almost repetitive. The frustration changes from a lack of experience and ability to make the barely understood happen to a lack of time and resource to make the obvious happen. The successful CAD/CAM/CAE Manager will respond to this new environment by initiating four parallel and overlapping activities.

While being sensitive to the information and skills that are currently in the heads of the CAD/CAM/CAE support team and the users and being mindful of the fact that CAD/CAM/CAE experience is hard won but all too easily lost, the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager will set out to define, proceduralize, consolidate, and document the working methods, system management procedures, and in-house refinements of the system.

The CAD/CAM/CAE Manager should set the implementation back on its best footing and bring it back within the scope of both the engineering department and company strategy by carrying out a review which will reset the CAD/CAM/CAE project plans for the future. The impetus and opportunity to expand into new areas of development, both the development of the CAD/CAM/CAE system itself and integration with other systems and departments, will be satisfied by well-managed and well-coordinated project planning that is based on the review.

Finally, the system needs to be prepared for the future, in the knowledge that CAD/CAM/CAE, although part of the company for only a short time, will be a part of it for the coming decades and so must be run within long-term guidelines.

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