When using CAD design services, there are many different considerations you must make. Due to the vast array of CAD programs available, you must choose which to use. Some companies opt to stick with a single program, while others may have a myriad of solutions. This is where problems can arise.
As you will see, using a multi-CAD setup can be time-consuming and counterproductive. There is a solution though – using CAD consolidation and CAD file conversion. In this article, we look at both terms and how they can benefit your business.
Multi-CAD vs. Streamlined Single CAD Operation
Before we look at the problem and solution, let’s first ensure we’re on the same page regarding terminology. What is a multi-CAD setup and a single CAD setup? This might be obvious due to the naming convention, but let’s look at both types below.
This type of setup is usually present in older design and mechanical engineering companies. A company will essentially have a variety of different CAD programs and files. They may be using SolidWorks, CATIA V5, Inventory, and Solid Edge, for example.
Why does this happen? If a company has existed for many years, their technology usage may have naturally evolved. For example, in the beginning, they may have started using one of the few CAD programs available. As new software and file types emerged, they may have switched to newer platforms with improved technology and usability.
This process could have happened several times and resulted in the business creating designs using a myriad of CAD solutions. Instead of consolidating their work, they may just continue to use older software and work with a plethora of different file types.
This type of setup is usually present in modern design and engineering companies – businesses that have been created when newer CAD solutions were available. Alternatively, it could be a design business that has simply consolidated their CAD operation. This type of setup will use only one CAD file type and/or piece of software. For example, they may only use AutoCAD.
The same program and file types will be used throughout the business – any older software and file types will have been consolidated to provide a full design catalog for that one CAD program.
The Problem – Multi-CAD Platforms Can Become Inefficient and Costly
Imagine trying to deal with a myriad of different CAD platforms. Let’s say you have four different design departments – each one uses a different CAD program. Furthermore, the R&D department and prototype designers also use different programs too.
You effectively run between four and five CAD operations – a multi-CAD setup. Just thinking about that process is mind-boggling – just think of what is involved. It can be an absolute nightmare. The following are some of the main problems with using a multi-CAD solution:
1. Increased cost for software licenses and training
First and foremost, the associated cost can be staggering. If you have only one CAD program, that is one piece of software to purchase and one business license to obtain. Moreover, you only have to train your staff to use the program once.
Consider the same scenario if you have a multi-CAD operation. Maybe you have SolidWorks, AutoCAD, TurboCAD, and Fusion 360. That’s four different programs you have to purchase and licenses you have to account for. Moreover, that’s four sets of training you have to provide for your staff. If you don’t provide the training, you may have to send your staff on courses, which are costly too.
Alternatively, you could have to hire staff with different CAD experience – this can be time-consuming and drain your human resources – either way, it’s going to cost!
By continuing to use multiple CAD files and programs, your expenditure will be much higher than needed.
2. Increased maintenance costs
Aside from the actual cost of obtaining the software and training your staff, there are associated maintenance costs too. To run CAD software, you will usually have to have a service or maintenance agreement with the software provider. This will include software updates, de-bugging, and other maintenance processes. These are generally required (if not required they are advisable) so that your program and team can work smoothly.
A service or maintenance place such as this is obviously costly. Paying for one such plan can be troublesome. Playing for a multitude of different plans for your multi-CAD setup can place a further drain on your resources. It can add to the problems you are already facing. Furthermore, managing the different plans can be time-consuming and problematic.
3. Slower sharing of information internally and externally
Transferring information in a multi-CAD environment can be tedious and difficult, while using one single program is simple. A document can be saved as the proprietary file type and simply emailed to another department/co-worker. That person could then open the file using the same program – easy.
How does someone using one CAD solution send a file so that another person using a different program can open and view it? This is where the problem arises. You need to be able to convert file types.
Alternatively, you need to be able to save the file-type as a non-proprietary version that can be viewed on any program. This isn’t always easy! Some programs may only be able to work with certain file types for example.
If you have a multitude of different programs all using different file types, it can soon become counter-productive to transfer documents. The whole process could be a minefield. Furthermore, sharing files and design ideas with clients could be difficult too if you have a myriad of file formats and platforms to work with.
4. Slower design and production time to create end-product
The final downside is that the initial product lifecycle time before retail is slower. The first factor is the aforementioned slower sharing of information. Different departments and developers will find it harder to share files – this will slow down the overall process.
Moreover, as you have different parts of the product being designed by different product design services using different software, the process is not as streamlined. This means that it will take longer to roll out a new product.
The Solution – CAD Consolidation and File Conversion
Now that you understand why a multi-CAD operation can be detrimental, we can look at the solution. In this section, we dissect exactly what CAD consolidation is, and how it can benefit your business.
We accept that each business is different and that it may not be possible to convert your files etc. Alternatively, your customers may require a specific file type or end-product too. It is still important to understand the process and benefits, however.
What Is CAD Consolidation and File Conversion?
This is the process of streamlining your CAD operation and moving to one single platform. If your business is using a myriad of CAD programs, consolidation will involve choosing one specific program going forward and phasing out all of the other software. Once the consolidation process is complete, you will only use one single CAD program, such as AutoCAD or SolidWorks, for example.
The first part of this process involves identifying the different CAD solutions that you use. Once you have done this, you must then perform a cost-analysis and look at which CAD program would be the suitable end-choice for the consolidation process. You can then perform a file conversion process so that all of your business’s documentation can be used on the chosen program.
When you create a CAD design, it is saved as a particular file type. The SolidWorks file type, for example, is used in conjunction with the SolidWorks CAD program and is a proprietary file type. Alternatively, STEP is a vendor-neutral file type used on a myriad of different programs. If you have a multi-CAD setup, you will undoubtedly have documents saved in a myriad of different file types.
Not every file type can be viewed on every program. To that end, to perform a CAD consolidation operation, you must convert all file types into one readable format. This can be a truly complicated process and you may need outside help. By converting all your file types into one single format, it will ensure that your documents can be read on the new CAD program you choose.
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For example, you may have SolidWorks, Inventor, and Solid Edge file types. During the CAD consolidation process, these different file types would be converted to a neutral format if possible, such as STEP or IGES.
These two processes can take time and effort. Furthermore, you may encounter problems as you progress – it’s not always a straightforward operation to convert file types and consolidate your data. This is why you could consider enlisting third-party assistance from a business that specializes in CAD consolidation.
How Can These Processes Help Your Organization?
Finally, we will look at the actual benefits this process can provide to your business. You should now have a clear understanding of CAD consolidation, file conversion, and the negative aspects of multi-CAD setups. The following are some of the main benefits of consolidating your CAD setup:
1. Enables the reuse of designs
Once your business is using one CAD platform and file type, you will be able to reuse designs easier. You can use old models and designs that may previously have been inaccessible. Every model and design you have ever created should be accessible on that one CAD platform – this opens up a whole new range of creative opportunities.
It also means that you do not have to spend time re-making designs from scratch – this can be time-consuming and costly. Finally, it can reduce the need for testing and product validation. During the production process, it can also reduce the number of different suppliers you use for raw materials, etc.
In short, consolidation will make all of your designs usable once again. You may have had a host of useful designs, for example, sitting on an obsolete program that is no longer used. By consolidating your CAD platform, those files can now be used.
2. Improve best practices within your business
In a multi-CAD environment, you may have different teams working on different projects. As each team is using a particular type of software, they may have varying processes and practices. This can cause fragmentation within your business. It can also reduce productivity and mean that your process is not optimized.
When using a single CAD operation, you can promote best practices. All of your design, engineering, and manufacturing teams should be working on the same page. As they’re working with one program and file type, you should able to formulate standardized procedures and processes. A business whose employees are all working together towards common goals and using common processes is far more effective than a fragmented operation.
3. Promote idea sharing and collaboration
To build upon the above point, CAD consolidation can also promote idea sharing and both internal/external collaboration. Firstly, your business departments should be able to share ideas in a fraction of the time and in an easier manner. This is important for consumer product design firms who need to bounce around hundreds of ideas.
Before, they may have had to hold meetings or travel to different locations due to file sharing limitations. Now, using one file type and a CAD program, designs can simply be emailed or even placed on a neutral server location for anyone to access.
Secondly, you should be able to share ideas with your customers easier too. As you’re only working with one CAD program, and ideally one file type, your customers will only have to access that one file type too. If you have several different CAD programs, customers would need to have those programs as well to look at designs and prototypes.
By consolidating the process, you can keep your customers in the loop easier throughout the design stages – you should, therefore, create designs and products that meet your customer’s specs easier and quicker.
4. Reduce overall business costs
All of these processes and improvements should work together to improve your business costs. By using one single CAD solution, you do not have to pay for a plethora of different software licenses. Moreover, you do not have to pay for maintenance costs or a service plan for those same programs.
Thirdly, you will only have to pay for one set of training costs – you will not have to send your staff on different courses for the CAD software you run.
5. Streamline the design and production process
Last but not least, by consolidating your CAD operation, you should streamline the whole production, design, and manufacturing process throughout your business. Every aspect of your business should improve. Your designers will be able to create innovative products and ideas with ease.
They will then be able to share these easily with the production team or third-party manufacturers. Finally, you should be able to relay these ideas easily to your clients. You should see an overall reduction in the initial stages of the product lifecycle process.
We hope you have found this article enlightening! As you can see, using a CAD platform and different file types can be an involved process. We hope you now understand the benefits of consolidating your CAD operation and trying to convert your work to a single file type. This may require extra work and effort in the present. It will reap dividends in the future, however, and should help streamline your design process and overall business efficiency.
As we have explored, consolidating your CAD operation can help in several ways. First, it can reduce licensing and maintenance costs. Secondly, it can enable design reuse and eliminate the need to re-design everything from scratch. Thirdly it can promote collaboration within your business and allow for the easy transferal of designs. Finally, it can help streamline your business and design process. Remember these benefits when considering your own CAD design solution.
Cad Crowd’s the Place for File Conversions
At Cad Crowd, we can connect you with a network of freelancers who will be able to expertly convert any file types you may have. We have experience working with all types of CAD programs. Whether you need file type conversion or a fresh CAD design from scratch, connect with us today for a free quote.