Setting objectives for the review

The framework of the review has to be established before the review itself starts. The CAD/CAM/CAE Manager must be clear about objectives, since merely asking general questions of a random selection of people will produce no more than a conversational case study of the use of CAD/CAM/CAE within the company. The objectives of the review are:
  • To confirm or refute the assumptions made in the original justification
  • To compare the current position with both the justification and the original implementation plan
  • To examine the reasons for the deviations from the original plans, and to understand whether they were due to delays, failures, or valid changes of direction
  • To question the management, operational and usage patterns and procedures which have become established
  • To regenerate links with departments and managers that were expected to be concerned with CAD/CAM/CAE, but in practice are not
  • To reestablish strategic and business control over CAD/CAM/CAE
  • To redefine CAD/CAM/CAE objectives if necessary
  • To set the scene for new developments and enhancements
  • To ensure that consolidation is complete
  • To produce a layered set of CAD/CAM/CAE plans for the next 12 months

A word of caution about the review. There may be pressure from top management to rejustify the system in the light of experience. Not having had control of the system for up to a year, their first impulse may be to insist that they be supplied with the information that they have lacked and in the form that they require. Such an exercise is of limited value. If considered in terms of direct benefits alone, it will not take into account the indirect benefits, and if done in detail, it will focus excessive attention on the past rather than concentrating on future opportunities.

The report that results from a review of the CAD/CAM/CAE implementation is not something to be read once and then filed away. It must be the platform and the spur for the creation of a coordinated set of plans for all projects and activities that affect CAD/CAM/CAE. To be successful these plans must receive top-level support. They must be workable, and they must be real, live, maintained, followed, and respected by the people involved.

One of the main results of the system review is a clear assessment of new project initiatives in terms of usefulness, urgency, and priority. It is only too easy, for example, to invest effort too early in glamorous integration projects such as a design-to-manufacturing interface, which would save work-hours on the shop floor, but which will not have the requisite quality controls in place for another 18 months.

As the CAD/CAM/CAE implementation becomes mature, some of the enhancements or developments that were envisaged at the outset may be seen as impractical in the light of the experience that has been gained. Conversely, new opportunities may appear as a result of experience.

It should be borne in mind that new developments are often seen as attractive both by the CAD/CAM/CAE support team, who would like something new and interesting to break the routine, and by senior management, who may be able to see the benefits without realizing the problems. The proposals for such developments need to be treated in the same logical way as all other project proposals in the company are treated.

Unless care is taken, new developments for a CAD/CAM/CAE system are unlikely to be subject to proper project control. Those associated with the implementation will have become used to an ad hoc method of working and will view possible new projects in the same light. CAD/CAM/CAE, EDM/PDM and software developments are often seen (erroneously) as projects for which the justification is very difficult to quantify. As a result, developments tend to be based on 'acts of faith'. Unfortunately, implementation is then carried out on the same principle. In the technological world, acts of faith can almost always be equated with ignorance - for which a cure can be found.

There is a surprisingly high overhead in investigating and planning CAD/CAM/CAE and EDM/PDM developments, and for a project to bear fruit, a long preparation and planning phase is required. This means that assessment and research of new ideas and opportunities, for eventual presentation and approval, must start well in advance.

Coordination of the different developments requires a project structure that involves a management level high enough to see the business implications of each development and to assign a corresponding priority.

One of the major achievements of a successful review will be to redefine project schedules within the company's overall program of computerization in support of the product development process. The CAD/CAM/CAE Manager needs to be a major participant in, and influence on, this program. Engineering information is a key component of the product development process, and as a result the role of the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager extends beyond the immediate confines of the engineering department.

While adhering to the precept that new initiatives should be planned with the benefit of all the hard-won experience, the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager should keep a positive and forward-looking approach, staying on the lookout for new opportunities. There may be once-envisaged projects that were shelved during the early implementation, but which have now become viable. The software and hardware that the system vendor can supply will become ever more sophisticated and powerful. Other vendors' equipment develops new uses. Integration becomes feasible and justifiable in more and more areas.

These possibilities must be evaluated from a company-wide point of view so that business opportunities are not lost and the company does not fall behind in gaining the very technological advantage that led to the original purchase of the CAD/CAM/CAE system.

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