CADDManager on May 31st, 2012
This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series The Trials of a New CAD Manager

Trial Five:  A CAD Meltdown

A nuclear meltdown is a term for a severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating.  Accidental damage can happen in CAD also.  A meltdown is when the project gets a major derailing, a critical piece of hardware fails at the most inopportune time, software explodes in your face, files become corrupt or people just do not know how to unravel the chaos they may have created.  How a CAD Manager reacts under pressure makes or breaks careers.  Get it right and you are the hero. Get it wrong and you are the goat.

Symptoms of this Trial: 

As mentioned already, there is some failure that happened in the CAD process that has threatened to derail a project deadline.  Everyone turns to you first or maybe they come to you after they have tried everything.  Either way, you are expected to perform under pressure.   Everyone is looking for you to get this derailed train back on the tracks.

When this Trial comes your way:

You may have been here before, but each event has its own set of challenges.  You need to act quickly, but also make the best choices.

First: Stop and think.  All others are in some form of panic.  Don’t lose your head too.  Be methodical and calm.

Second: Address they effects of the trouble.  If a server crashed, get access to the data first, then start figuring out how to get the server back up.  Restore files to local machines or another location.  Get the data back.  If a plotter has broken, find access to another one (if you have redundancy).  Find an outsourced option if need be.  The priority is to get past the initial event and get things running again.  If it is a desktop hardware failure, get the user on another machine and back to work.  Don’t spend too much time initially on finding the root or cause of the problem, get things moving again quickly.  Get people back to work.  Alleviate the biggest fear (we can’t get the job done on time)

Third: Find the cause of the problem and get it fixed.  Once you have the team back at work, you can then turn to getting the “reactor back online”.  Now you can slow down a little to investigate what happened and why.  Most times it will be obvious, but other times you may have to search for the cause.

If the fix is quicker than finding the cause, then get the fix in place first.  Examples would be corrupted files where data is lost.  Sometimes fixing a bad file will be slower that just redrawing the data.  Users may not like it, but there are times when they can recreate a file faster than you can resurrect it.  Most times they can do it faster and they even improve the file or the design in the process.

Last: Address the long term issues.  Let’s say that your plotter keeps going down at the worst times.  Address that replacement of a bad piece of hardware close to the time of failure.  Memories will be fresh and your budget may get some extra funds.

All in all, if you keep a cool head and can get people back into production quickly, you can avoid the “overheating” that accompanies a meltdown.

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