Welcome to the CAD Admin’s Corner

by Brian Johnson

CAD Admin CornerCAD Admin’s Welcome

Welcome to our new series focusing on the nuts and bolts of being an Admin. The scope of what an Admin does can vary greatly from company to company. In some cases, as with smaller engineering departments, the Admin not only handles software functionality but also can be a: trainer, I.T. and may even be called upon to handle project assignments. For larger companies, this role might be more defined and be seen as a subject matter expert who works with multiple departments to achieve their goals or as I affectionately have called it, “The Red Tape Labyrinth.”

In this monthly series, I will share my 16+ years’ experience, opinions, observations, personal mistakes and new technologies.  My Admin background includes a small 5 person engineering department to a global company with over 100 users spanning 3 continents. My goal is to help guide you through your day-to-day and even yearly goals.

As many of you may be aware, being a CAD Admin is much more than just installing software and walking away. I will discuss how to utilize SOLIDWORKS tools to help ease the day to day grind of the users.

Here is a list of topics that will be covered throughout the life of this series:


  • Depending on the size of the department, the privileges that have been set by IT, and the means of delivery, there are a few options that need to be covered.
  • Pros and cons to those different delivery methods.
  • What to include and manage with your installations, again, it is much more than just installing software.

File Management

  • Part numbering and folder structure
  • Toolbox and Libraries

Change Management

  • How revisions are handled and the revision scheme
  • PDM’s vs. PLM’s

User Training

CAD Tool Development

  • Automation
  • Project Management

Let’s start with the first stage of the installation process.


When it comes to any installation and/or update, you should always put together a plan before beginning any part of the implementation. No matter the size of you company’s infrastructure, your IT department will need to be involved. For small companies, you might be the IT department as well. Here are a couple of reasons you have to involve IT:

  1. More than likely you don’t have rights to your network servers.
  2. Through my own experiences, most IT professionals have trouble with CAD programs. This is no fault of their own, but with their experiences and education, they tend to try and treat CAD software as if it is an MS program not realizing the complexity of the software’s architecture.

For the first time installation, your plan will need to include the frequency of updates. SOLIDWORKS has a major release every fall and typically 5 service packs throughout the year. Depending on the size of the deployment needed and maintenance required, you may choose to limit the updates. For example, while I was working for a large account with over 100 SOLIDWORKS users, our update schedule was only once a year, with the major release happening every other year. In January of 2012, the update to SW 2012 service pack 2 was implemented.

When pushing out a major release, it is industry standard to not install service pack 0. This version can be a little more buggy with all the new features added. It may take one or two services packs to smooth it out. In January of 2013, we updated to 2013 service pack 5.  There are pros and cons to this method of schedule just as their is to pushing every major release. For example, by skipping a major release, you now have to train your work force on 2 years of new functionality instead of one. However, the “off” year update is a much less intensive process.

Now that you have a schedule, the decision to be made is the method of deployment. Typically this is determined by the number of users and their locations. If you are dealing with a handful of users in the same location, a manual deployment is more than adequate but involves you walking around and touching every workstation. If you are dealing with 10+ users or multiple locations, then creating an admin image is the preferred method. There are 2 ways to push an admin image:

  • Through email that has the install attached in a link requiring the user to follow prompts.
  • Through a command line that can be scheduled to run overnight without the users input.

For more details on how to carry out these deployments and creating the image, you will find all the information needed in the Admin Guide provided in the SolidWorks customer portal.

The last part of the plan, will be scheduling the testing phase. Always, let’s say that again, ALWAYS test your deployments before pushing them to your users. The last thing you want is to have an admin image crash during deployment with you potentially shutting down your engineering departments. This will result in a lot of stress and lots of people standing at your desk asking you why they can’t work. Although, testing an admin image doesn’t guarantee that the image won’t crash. (I may or may not have experienced one of these devastating moments).

In conclusion, a well thought out plan should save you time and energy in your next installation or update. It could even earn you some praise for taking some of the pain out of the users experiences from previous installation woes.

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About Brian Johnson

Brian is an Application Engineer for GoEngineer and has been a SOLIDWORKS user since 1999. The first half of his career was in the automotive and RV industries covering a wide spectrum of manufacturing processes and design from plastic injection, sheet metal, roll forming. He also spent a couple of years as a CNC programmer on precision routers, punch presses and lasers. The latter half of his career was in the oilfield technology as an equipment designer and CAD/PLM administrator. Brian is very dedicated to simplification and learning day to day operations. He is familiar with Lean Six Sigma and knowledgeable of both ASME welding and GD&T standards.

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