Documenting the implementation

The single most important weapon in the fight against system decay is documentation. This will take the form of procedures (for both operation and use of the system), training information, operating instructions, and documentation of in-house additions or modifications to software.

The type and detail of the documentation will depend on the size of the CAD/CAM/CAE system, the size of the company itself, and the purpose to be fulfilled. In general, the larger the installation, the greater the amount of documentation, and the larger the company, the more formal the documentation will be. Large companies tend to have standard formats for documentation, including such things as drafting department manuals, and the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager must create procedures and records accordingly. Small companies, on the other hand, often rely more on face-to-face agreement, and an overly complex set of instructions is likely to remain unread.

Whatever the style, the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager should start creating the required documentation at the earliest opportunity and should issue it in draft form at regular intervals. This allows comment from the users, puts them on the right working lines from the start, and means that the documentation evolves smoothly instead of building up into a large task that will never be addressed. The practice of releasing draft documentation that will evolve to become the final version can help instill better documentation habits into members of the CAD/CAM/CAE support team and the users themselves.

It should be clear to the support team that it is necessary to follow good system software development practices. The users can be shown that if they keep records of the files they create and the structure of the information within those files, it will be of use to them when they meet problems or require assistance.

Although documentation is the cornerstone of consolidation, the principle of consolidation must be carried over into the consideration of how the implementation should be developed. New areas such as linking with other systems, giving information to contractors, generation of further in-house software, and accepting new revisions of software from the vendor should all be considered against the strengths and weaknesses of the current implementation and should take into account the extra work involved. Starting new projects before existing ones are on a firm footing leads to short-term gains in time, but often results in loss of time and rework over the long term.

Until the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager, the support team, and the users have settled into a properly controlled and organized way of working, the resource that will be required for new projects will always be underestimated and a spiral of late projects set up. If the weaknesses in the current setup are not attended to, then problems will occur 'unexpectedly' in the future.

A final point about consolidation that should not be forgotten is that the vendor should be a major influence on the success and development of any CAD/CAM/CAE system. The vendor can provide support and advice on current problems, provide upgrades and new releases of software, and should be only too pleased to participate in the success of the implementation. Constructive communication and sharing of ideas between the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager and the vendor is a feature of most successful implementations.

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