From time to time it looks like too much. All those things you should just know about Capital can be a little bit daunting. But you join the little pieces of knowledge with the bigger ones until you become an expert. One of the customers I deal with has staff who guide designs all the way from concept and architectural studies, through systems design in detailed optioned logical drawing to Capital Integrator topology views merged with Mechanical CAD data and on to harness BOM detailing. Oh, and electrical simulation too. Oh and I haven’t really made it clear. That’s the same person covering all of that ground. Many electrical design processes instead fix and compartmentalize these individual functions.
Interdependence in interdisciplinary flexible teams is a common. It is rare to see a single individual having end-to end responsibility for a design. If you operate in a work group, the more you know about the requirements of people working upstream and depending on you downstream; the better overall efficiency is acheived. The less you know of the full requirements, the more chance of miscommunication in the hand off between one person and another.
My own job is more collaborative in nature rather than having sole responsibility for things. I’m part of a multi-disciplinary team of programmers, product architects, managers, quality assurance, customer support and training professionals. I rely on them, they rely on me.
Here’s my recent experience with “things you just ought to know.”
On October 7th I got an email from a colleague sharing a little piece of information about Capital. Where you run in Capital the process to synchronize design data to a set of harness designs a.k.a. “build list” you get a dialog shown below.
So another one of the things already I “just knew” is that since this dialog was introduced into Capital to select an available source design (topology integration) or set of source designs (wiring diagrams) you double click the check boxes on the left of the window and you single click the ones on the right. Just one of those things eh? I had been caught out waiting for half a minute for something that wasn’t going to happen the first time I went in to learn how to use this little piece of Capital Harness XC.
My colleague informed the rest of the workgroup and I of a little feature that has yet to find its way into the help file. Use the “Control” and letter “A” on the keyboard and that will allow you, where you are following the wiring diagram-led design flow to select all the designs on the left portion of the dialog. A small time-saver.
Fast forward to November 23rd with a coworker from Mentor Graphics customer support looking together on a Web co-pilot session at an issue with some data troubling a customer. Sometimes there are many dozens of wiring harnesses in a form of transport. How about a cargo transporter aeroplane for example? Or an eighteen wheel truck? In our investigation we wanted to define a build list with every harness family named in it.
The Capital graphical user interface (GUI) consists of a common set of programming objects. So one of things I tried, knowing that “Control and A” worked in similar circumstances was to do the same thing in the build list manager interface. I knew it worked in the synchronize harness design dialog, and in many other places in the software.
What I was aiming to do was to set up for the first time a set of harnesses in a build list in order to synchronize them for the first time. For an entire car that was twenty-one composite harness family references to include.
Did “Control” and “A” work for me? Yes it did and it saved me perhaps 4 minutes.
Small idiosyncracies and inconsistencies are almost inevitable in a large software system. I have pointed out in the past when training customers, a trainee may be going to see more of Capital running on their computer day-to-day over the next few weeks than of your husband/wife/partner/significant other/domestic loved ones. Certainly that is what your managers hope when they send you to training.
You spend time with a piece of software untill you know all the little ways and most of the tips and tricks - get bonded with it. The observation about time spent with loved ones doesn’t hold exactly of course - analogies often don’t. I’m not suggesting that you should love Capital unconditionally and buy it a nice birthday present.
Here’s what customers using Capital do to know more than they thought possible:
- Work as a team - the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Worflow management in a modern complex organization is collaborative - everyone relies on everyone else - find out how and pay attention to the group dynamics.
- Learn from mistakes and inefficiencies and adapt. Ignorance is no defense in engineering. Allow learning to come from what has gone not so good. Permit people to work out positive lessons learned and pass the lessons around to stop others going there.
- Participate in improving the documentation steadily over time - help files, technical bulletins, add resources and techniques like the Mentor Graphics communities. In Mentor Graphics we put time and effort into these areas. It is a shame to let that opportunity for learning pass by. Customers often develop their own “in-house” written material around their design process. Intranet, E-rooms, SharePoint and Wikis. Sometimes Mentor Consulting is hired to help out. Get yourself immersed in and particpate in documentation activity. When you can teach other people a subject it is the confirmation you know it thoroughly yourself.
- Push the boundaries. It is helpful to have access to a safe area, a “sand pit” where you can experiment without risk of inadvertently changing production data. This software reflects the complexity of the design tasks it accelerates. It is good to have a neutral zone containing a known set of data to “try it out first.” Be experimental in a safe environment.
- Share information with each other. I am fortunate that my coworkers are exceedingly generous with their time when they come across something interesting in noting it down and circulating their findinging amongst the workgroup. This saves the entire group a tremendous amount of time in the long run. 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there multiplied by 20 people over three years is really worth having. Reciprocate and initiate information sharing generously.
- Extrapolate and deduce from what you already know. Prior knowledge generally is predictive of how things operate elsewhere in the same system. Exceptions are nothing more than that - exceptions. Be optimistic, things are usually going to be the same as what you already know in the software.
There you have it. You can know more than you ever thought possible. You can extend your brain power. The good news is that it is a social and friendly activity, not a thankless solitary experience to improve your intelligence.
Am I saying Capital makes you smart ? It may seem a lit like that - but of course not. You were smart before you ever saw Capital.