Need for CAD/CAM/CAE procedures

Running a CAD/CAM/CAE system without procedures is similar to having a highway system without a Highway Code and traffic signs. Such a system will work while there are only a few users, each responsible for their own activity, but as the number of users increases and the need to share data and work together grows, the problems start to arise. Procedures provide the ground rules and framework for co-ordinating activity at several different sources.

In the absence of procedures, how can the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager respond to a user who has lost work because of a known system problem? In the absence of procedures no one will know whether the user knew of the fault and, if so, had written documentation showing how to avoid it. Procedures will not solve such problems, but they may provide the information to stop them from occurring. Procedures should guide and advise the user, highlighting possible problem areas and suggesting ways around them.

Small installations can frequently get by, for a time, without formal procedures. The people most interested to work with CAD/CAM/CAE are the ones that will use it the most. They will become well versed in the system and have a good idea of what they are doing. Probably they will use informally defined working methods based on individual experience of the installed system. These methods will be limited by their knowledge of the system and will, in some instances, be based more on supposition than on a true understanding of the system's functionality. In such cases, the use of CAD/CAM/CAE and its interface with other departments is unlikely to be in line with company strategy.

As the use of CAD/CAM/CAE expands, so does the scope of the problems and the impact on the company. Inappropriate interfaces and working methods that do not integrate CAD/CAM/CAE into other areas of the business will magnify difficulties and detract from business performance. The development of a well-conceived set of procedures at this stage is an effective way of recovering the situation. Their preparation and adoption is probably one of the only ways to prevent the continuation of bad practices. If they are developed with the co-operation and involvement of users, they can be seen as a means for simplifying the use of CAD/CAM/CAE and making life easier for all concerned.

CAD/CAM/CAE procedures provide the formal framework for using the system and define its interface with the rest of the company. They provide a reference for everyone who may come into contact with CAD/CAM/CAE and help ensure that it is consistently applied throughout the company. They simplify the introduction of new users and should be included in the training program.

CAD/CAM/CAE procedures are a management tool. They define how the installation should be operated and formalize relationships internally and externally. Properly implemented and updated procedures help ensure that basic errors are not made and that as problems arise they are solved and the information passed to all users. They do not solve problems, but provide a vehicle for avoiding them or, at the very least, dealing with difficulties in a consistent and controlled manner. The extent and scope of CAD/CAM/CAE procedures will depend upon the installed system and its desired application.

At least three types of procedure are needed - design procedures, user interface procedures, and system procedures.

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