People and CAD/CAM/CAE

The year that follows the introduction of CAD/CAM/CAE is often a difficult one full of mixed emotions. Many people in the company will start the year with one view of CAD/CAM/CAE and end it with another one. Top management will want to see a rapid return on investment, but as this is unlikely, by the end of the year they will be disillusioned and no longer supportive. Middle management will start the year looking for short-term productivity gains, but as these rarely occur, they will finish the year treating CAD/CAM/CAE as the root of all evil.

Developers may start the year somewhat fearful of the introduction of a new technique, but will end it wondering what all the fuss was about and wondering when the vendor will produce a version that really meets their requirements. The only way to overcome these changes of attitude, and the problems that they lead to, is to make sure that even before the system is chosen people really understand what CAD/CAM/CAE can and cannot do.

All types of people need to be made aware of CAD/CAM/CAE and the benefits it can bring. During the year, top management will want to learn more about the new technology it has invested in and the way in which it should be used to provide maximum benefits. Middle managers need to learn about the effect that CAD/CAM/CAE will have on the engineering and manufacturing activities for which they have responsibility. Middle managers of other functions, for which CAD/CAM/CAE does not appear to have a major effect, should also be educated.

As time goes by it may be found that CAD/CAM/CAE does have an effect on areas, such as purchasing and marketing, which appear to be outside the mainstream engineering and manufacturing areas. The CAD/CAM/CAE support team needs to learn about system support (which will probably be relatively complex and unknown to them) and use (which will probably not be documented). Last but not least, the real users of the system need to be trained to use it.

The question of who should be trained first is linked to the questions of which applications and which projects should be the first to be carried out with CAD/CAM/CAE. During the first year it is important that use of CAD/CAM/CAE appears to be successful. This is one of the most important factors (though clearly it should not conflict with longer-term objectives) when choosing how to start using CAD/CAM/CAE. A fairly small project that can be handled by well-proven functions of the system may be a good starting point. The first users should be people who have the basic skills to work on this particular project, who want to use CAD/CAM/CAE, who will learn quickly, and who will not give up quickly.

It may be helpful to set up a CAD/CAM/CAE steering committee to see that CAD/CAM/CAE meets user requirements. Its members will be representatives and managers of users. The CAD/CAM/CAE Manager will probably be invited to participate in at least a part of each steering committee meeting. As time goes by, and CAD/CAM/CAE is introduced to new areas of the company, representatives of these areas will also join the committee.

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