I think "A solid understanding of the company’s policies and processes" is essential (the other are basic requirements). EPDM is a highly configurable Software.Understanding the business, can make or break your process with a good/bad implementation.
In my experience it also needs to be someone with a knowledge and will to fight battles with IT and other departments.
Since IT, Accounting, Operations, Quality/Doc Control... often have(impose) requirements/expectations that bog down a streamlined EPDM Workflow/process.
A good Admin should be able to propose/deploy Solutions (Business Processes) that integrate well with other systems.
A great Admin will always be learning and researching to develop the efficiency and scalability of his CAD environment.
I find that in many implementations I do, the person chosen as EPDM Admin is simply the person who was involved with us in the presales process.
an EPDM Admin should be someone who's not afraid to ask questions, not someone who simply goes with the flow". Actually having enthusiasm for the role rather than treating it as a chore can also go a long way to making a good EPDM Admin.
One of the best EPDM Admins I work with calls me almost daily, for advice and answers etc. Yes at first it was a bit annoying, but I began to see that this person really cares about the system, and is interested in deploying it company-wide.
I also think that VARs can go a long way towards changing the perception of an EPDM Admin role, and portray it as something more than a person employees go to when their permissions don't work.
I agree with all the statements. As a full time CAD/EPDM Admin for our company, making the system work effectively requires planning and patience.
While SolidWorks VAR's do not portray EPDM as an OTS product and do recommend some form of implementation plan, EPDM is a living being and is usually deployed in many different stages. Sometimes ones that you haven't even forseen/planned.
An EPDM Admin needs to be a politician/mediator. He/She not only needs to be technically capable but will need to understand all of the relevant stakeholders, company policies/processes/practices, develop a strategic plan, and also be able to campaign/sell the plans to the organization.
As other have mentioned being a good project manager is extremely important to being an EPDM admin. However I actually believe that administering EPDM is really 2 different roles.
First is the functional role, which requires a knowledge of the functionality of EPDM and how to apply that functionality to fit into business requirements. This component others have talked to above with great accuracy.
There is another component and that is the technical side. EPDM(especially in larger installations) is a fairly complex product and managing its reliability and performance does require an IT professional. This is an area where many VARs are weak, most do not want to even look at the database let alone make changes there. For example while the out of box indexing is OK, depending on your use case it might not be optimal. Not to even mention the advice that you set-up static repeating SQL plans to blindly maintain your index's(on SQL Standard no less).
When picking your EPDM admins don't leave out the technical requirements. Like any database application it does require a database admin to maintain it correctly.
I must admit I was hoping for more feedback on this. I don't think there are any wrong answers, actually, so many right ones no one is sure what to put.
Like Jules in Pulp Fiction, "personality goes a long way". I think the most important, and humbling, thing I've learned so far is to say "I don't have an answer, but I'll get you one". You're going to have to spend a lot of years learning, IT, systems, programming, software/hardware, CAD Design, FEA, Drafting, Processes, Change Notices, Document Control, and Sales/Marketing as well as Planning and Program Management to be a pretty good ePDM Admin.Don't forget, it changes every year too! I know I'm missing a few. However, there is company policy, there is reality, and there is the job of making workflows and a Vault reflect real life as closely as possible.The term "referee" comes to mind a lot.....as does politician, parent, guru, student, leader, counselor, mediator,....
Agree, I was hopping for more responses, you summarize it very well Matthew, A good CAD Admin not only has to learn many disciplines, but become a master on most of them. A Jack-of-All-Trades master of most... The Swiss-Army-Knife of a company (that has Engineering/R&D)
Swiss Army Knife of a position, no doubt - great analogy! Personally, I want to be the shiniest, most well kept, well oiled knife there is. Great damage can be done with a knife not kept in great condition.
Constantly learning, always staying current, knowing what I can learn, that's why I mentioned personality. I think if I had gotten my ENG degree first, before my management years when I was younger, I prob wouldn't have appreciated the importance of growth and learning. Some of the smartest people in the world will tell you they don't know a thing; I like that philosophy, and that I learned that early on. ePDM can be quite elaborate and powerful; we all know what comes with great power.
One other point I wanted to make - surround yourself with people who know what they're doing and want to make it happen. The abilities I lack, and there are many - I have knowledgeable people I can call, email, txt, whatever, to ask "what do I do". Another important trait an ePDM Admin should possess IMHO; maybe having no Fear to be Fearful....?!
I am amazed that no one has mentioned a solid background in programming. I often see posts from people struggling to solve a problem that is trivial to address with a simple EPDM add-in.
I don't think this is on my top 5 skills to be considered a "Good Admin". Reasons being:
-A lot of environments are simple enough where programmed customizations are not required.
-Most companies that have EPDM will have a decent IT department that can help with programming.
-You could always get your VAR to develop (sell you) something custom.
-You could always buy Third Party/Partner solutions or Consultants.
That being said I personally believe Programming is one of the best skills anyone can learn regardless of their job.
I have to disagree:
Customization is ALWAYS required. There is always something the software (EPDM/SolidWorks) cant do in a nautomated fashion.
IT department personnel typically know NOTHING about programming
Who want's to pay an arm and a leg to get your VAR or a consultant to program something? Even if they do, it will most likely need to be edited modified sometime. As a consultant, I've made a bunch of add-ins for companies that are now partially/fully obsolete.
Third party solutions do work. But as said before, tools/needs change. Can't typically modify something bought OTS.
I actually had made a bigger mention to Programming, but I was trying (and probably failed) to keep my reply concise. I'm on the fence with programming, and can only agree with Adrian anyway. In the grand scheme, I think once a user attains CEPA Certification, the next logical step would be to take programming classes or training. I know my VAR either offers them or knows of good ones to attend. The justification for company sponsored training might be the money the custom "bought" programs would cost. The big issue I've had is that when I hear "do it with programming", I try to find the alternative. Many times, I've found it, or asked enough questions to build it myself. What do you do re: programming Jim, do you know it well enough yourself? Is it a big part of your Vault processes (workflows)?
I have written four EPDM add-ins that are installed in our vault and a handful of other 'utility' add-ins that I use in debug mode as administrator from time to time. The installed add-ins vary in complexity. The simplest is an add-in to reload the add-ins. Rather than having users log out when the add-ins have been updated, they can right click somewhere in the vault and select 'Reload Add-Ins'. This will kill any explorer.exe processes that are running and ensure that the latest version of the add-ins are loaded. It's 100 lines of code, which includes a dialog box that displays the current version info for all installed add-ins.
My most complex add-in is about 2800 lines of code. It's primary function is to handle the process of releasing parts, assemblies and drawings from a project folders to production folders. I can select a top level assembly (in SW or Explorer) and perform a 'Submit for Release' transition on just the assembly file. When everything is finished, every part/assembly (and it's corresponding drawing) in the assembly will have been assigned an item number from our MRP system (unless it already had one). Every file will have been renamed to match its part number and moved to a folder that groups part numbers in 1000 number blocks. The data cards will have the part number and description as entered in the MRP system. The BOM on every drawing will reflect the new part numbers. A PDF will have been made (using the machine where the transition was performed) for every drawing and placed in a 'Public' folder where they are also organized into 1000 number blocks. When drawings are revised, the associated PDF is regenerated and it's revision is bumped to match the drawing.
I have a medium sized add-in (300 lines of code) add-in that lets you right click on a PDF of an assembly drawing and it will populate an Excel document with a nicely formatted BOM that matches the BOM on the SolidWorks drawing.
My add-ins are all about making things as simple as possible for myself and the other users. If you move from a plain vanilla SolidWorks environment to an EPDM environment, you are instantly requiring your users to do more work (check out/in, state changes, data cards, etc). With some well thought out add-ins you can ease the users' task load and eliminate some common sources of user error as well.
wow. impressive! I must admit, I don't know the programming end of it (as stated). The add-ins are really fascinating; My VAR has one AE I know well that has a ton of experience and is amazing with that. However, I want to address two things: First, until I start involving myself more with ePDM programming, my expectation is for this extremely expensive PDM tool to do as much out of box process solving as I can build as a 15 year designer. I learned CAD using Pro/E and SW, and learned up front about relationships, the building blocks of parametric modeling. If two files are linked, you can't just move one without recognizing, somehow, that other. I'm surprised many times how I meet users who can't wrap the heads around the simple basics of PDM. Maybe they don't want to, maybe they can't, but as an admin, I am patient. If they want to learn, I will try my best to teach them correctly. I know the programming side changes things and outlooks. Secondly, I've met quite a few Admins and senior ePDM users, who will agree with me; actually, to the contrary, I may be channeling them; the expectation of ePDM is that a non-programmer can create and manage effectively with the tool(s) they have. The VARs and Solidworks corporate even advertise that. I'm not slighting you Jim, please don't misunderstand me; but I also think you are quite a step above the average PDM user, and to make it a criteria to have your level of programming in order to obtain/hold a PDM admin job, well, we'd be shortchanging almost everyone out there. Like I said, maybe when I start learning programming, I'll look back on this and laugh. I just think I represent the average ePDM user whose company spent a ton of money on Enterprise that has to use the tool for what it's worth. My bosses already told me, "If this tool doesn't work, we'll find something else". Also, thanks for the examples, I have a few ideas based on what you provided. Thanks Jim!
Thank you Alin for posing the question and starting this important discussion.
I agree with all that have been said here, and would like to add this:
1. A good knowledge and experience working with SolidWorks in general.
2. An ability to see processes and work tasks from a user's point of view. I'll try to elaborate on that:
A good admin, to my opinion, struggles to make life more simple and intuitive for his users, even if behind the scenes it's very complicated. A good admin, thinks of users as customers, who don't have the time and patients to learn how to use a search card, or to memorize a workflow in order to know who to file was just sent to. A good admin should have basic skills in graphic design and user interface, so that cards of all kinds are coherent, not confusing and contain all (but only) the needed data and functions. A good admin always asks himself and his users how the system can be improved and simplified. Being an industrial designer by trade, this "user oriented approach" is not new to me, but as all other aspects and functions of the system, you can always make it even better.
There were a lot of good points here, and it was an interesting topic to post.
I did not see that anyone touched base on one very important item.
In order to be successful as an EPDM admin, at the top of the list should be patience.
Patience to answer questions for all of the users that got thrown into the EPDM world with no training.
Patience to muddle through article after article until you find the answer your looking for that may solve a vault issue.
Patience to continue learning every day in order to streamline and advance your vault. As most Admins know by now a good EPDM vault is in a constant evolution process.
It also requires someone that is ok not just sitting at their desk all day. I administer a vault for a fairly large company, so I am constantly getting phone calls to help people with something or other, in other departments. There is never a dull moment.
My 2 cents
I visited yesterday a customer who is having a remote PDM Admin. I discovered that one of the SW users in his team has great potential to become a great PDM and CAD Admin. Recommended a promotion. Let's see what happens.
"on of the SW users in his team has great potential"
What are the specific markers that show this users great potential?
"the most senior CAD guy" or "the IT guy".
For most small companies, cadmin is also "the most senior CAD guy" while the IT guys know a lot about the server but lack of knowledge managing the cad files
I wasn't the most senior CAD guy but probably the one most interested in SolidWorks beyond the basics. I just dove into nearly every function and feature out of curiosity. Eventually I moved into managing the SolidWorks installations, training, standardization, best practices, etc. I can't really program other than batch programming (DOS commands) which I still use for installing software automatically for users. Pretty amazing what you can still do with DOS commands.
I fell into the PDM admin role after years of trying to get the holders of the purse strings to pay for it. Talk about a crash course in new skill sets I wasn't expecting. The configuring part, while challenging is something anyone technical and attention detailed can learn but nothing beats knowing your processes which is something I think someone with just purely an IT background would miss out on. Now on the back end its a different story dealing with database backups and server upgrades. If you have in house SQL people use them. If not, take a class.
We write our own add-in's and I'm fortunate enough to have a member on my team who has a SolidWorks modeling background, worked in our engineering processes, and also has skills in VB.net and C.
In hindsight though I wish I could start over......I would do a ton of things differently. There's not really a good set of guidelines on how to set the system up (besides this forum) and there are many pitfalls you only learn from experience. So one trait of a "good" PDM admin.......they've done it before.
Jason Capriotti wrote:
So one trait of a "good" PDM admin.......they've done it before.
Good one, Jason!