CAD Admin’s Corner – End User Evaluations

by Brian Johnson

Discovery

Since most of us as CAD Admins are not managers, we are going to be discussing a different type of evaluation. This evaluation serves many purposes. The first of which gives you the opportunity to meet all of your customers.  That’s right; end users need to be thought of as your customers.  A CAD Admin is a service position.

Most people won’t speak out in a meeting with the entire user group for the fear of asking a question that will make them seem inexperienced. However, when sitting one on one in a casual meeting they tend to be much more vocal about their goals and experiences. Especially, when they know you are not their supervisor.

Meeting with the end user gives you time to evaluate their knowledge with the software and any desire they have to expand that knowledge.

Data

Create a standard form that has several categories for all the data you need to collect. Start with the obvious, the name of the individual, their respective department and their role. You’ll need to make sure that if they are on a standalone license you get the serial number. In many cases, I have found that this is not a well-regulated piece of information.

Leave open areas on the form to document other CAD/CAM related programs that are being used. Some of you may have to visit your manufacturing to see what CAM software packages they have to better help the process stream from Engineering to Manufacturing.

Questions

Set-up meetings with each individual as close in proximity to their location as possible. It is a good idea to inform the managers of the purpose of the meetings ahead of time. You do not want to just walk around and stand at people’s desks. Their managers may interpret it as chit chat.

To the end user, these meetings may seem like they are trivial information gathering, however, that is not the true intent. The information you are after is about them professionally and how their department runs. Ask questions specific to whether or not they know there are CAD Standards, if they know where they are located and most importantly, if their department is following the standards.  Also, find out what some of their pain points are with the software and the workflows.

Granted, this is not an open session to hear all of their complaints. Do not allow the meeting to get into other personnel, keep it about the software and processes. Determine which users are the power users, which are in need of training and of course where the problem children are located.

Round-Table

Now that you have spoken with the end-users across the company, it is a good time to create a CAD Council/round-table. Choose one person from each department to be a proxy for that department. Schedule regular monthly meetings with this group. The meetings are to start opening a line of communication between the departments.

Again, these meetings are to communicate and collaborate the CAD standards across the company. They are not complaint sessions. Take control of your meetings while also making everyone feel as though they are apart of the process.

You cannot do this alone, you will need the help of others. I have found that usually there is a company standard, but by having these meetings, you’ll find that individual departments need to have some modifications specific to their product line. Because those modifications were not already in place is the reason those departments strayed from the flock in the first place.

Council

Communicate all of your information on standards, software updates, and training through the Council and let them take it back to their respective departments. They will become the front line defense against those that may oppose the changes and improvements being implemented. Also, delegate assignments to the Council members to help ensure they know the role they are playing in the process.

Typically, I recommend twice a year having a town-hall style meeting with all of the CAD users at once. This is usually to explain the new features of the software, to showcase any new tool that has been developed and also to inform everyone of the local SOLIDWORKS User Group Meetings. If you can’t bring everyone together at once, have breakout sessions with the individual departments instead.

Try and make these fun for the users. Have snacks and giveaways at the large meetings. Give the users a little vacation away from their desk in the middle of the week. Remember, you can always call your local VAR and request a Lunch and Learn. Let them bring in lunch and provide the content, while you collect the accolades.

Information Flow

The goal should always be to make the company run smoother, a better and more accurate flow of information. If you find that you have wrongly evaluated someone you have brought into your Council, don’t be afraid to bring in a replacement. It might even be a good idea to rotate members, to get fresh perspectives.

Other posts from CAD Admin’s Corner include the following:  Welcome to CAD Admin’s Corner, Change Management,  Toolbox and Standard Libraries.

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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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