How often do you make updates on your smartphones? “As soon as there is a new update” might be the answer of most people. This is important as it is known that old software versions provide points for hackers and malware to attack. The same concept should be applied in the working world as well, especially, if large and valuable data sets are involved. However, the reality looks different: In companies, one version of CAD-tools is sometimes used 7 to 8 years. Not only security issues can be a reason for the decision to migrate into a new tool, also problems with the customer support or missing features can cause that as well, since user-friendliness or data management can be better in other tools. To put it in a nutshell: Various reasons can lead to a desire to change the CAD-tool.
For a migration into another tool, the data of the old tool need to be converted in anew format before entering the data in the new tool. This can also be necessary if a major update is needed in one tool. In that process, there can appear losses or damages in data, which makes it important to check and compare all data in the end. This can be done manually or by automated software. Because of that extra effort, the migration can take several days or even weeks. However, the greatest expense is to train the employees to be able to use the new tool – it can take1-2 months until everybody is familiar with the new tool and the workflows are running smoothly again.
The expenditure of time for a migration is high and – depending on the software that is used – also very expensive. One problem are databases containing large amounts of data being individually structured. Those need to be migrated correctly and without a loss of quality, which makes it a very costly process. Essentially, there are four possibilities to proceed with the migration:
1. Adding the data manually into the new tool (time-consuming)
2. Converting all data into another format and implementing them into a new CAD-tool (loss in quality)
3. Using an external software, so-called CAD translators (often cost-intensive)
4. Developing an individual tool (high financial and personal expenses)
Those options all offer a certain degree of possible individual adaptation and financial or personal expenses. Keeping that in mind, one needs to evaluate where the individual priorities are, how the internal database is structured, and additionally which internal design practices are common.
If one is facing the project start, it might seem impossible to manage the effort and as often, the hardest thing is to start. Based on the experience of big companies in the electronics industry the best way to start is a pilot, for example with a single product line. Through this, you can learn which strategy fits best for the internal workflows and database. Afterwards, this strategy can be rolled out in the whole sector or company. Another tip from practice is to take enough time to get to know the tool in detail, e.g. through workshops. Also, other preparations need to be done in the initiation phase, for example building up a team and defining strategies. After the project’s kick-off, the planning phase can start: To be able to migrate them appropriately, it has to be analyzed, what the workflows are and how the database is structured. In the preparation phase, this database needs to be cleaned and validated, so no unnecessary or wrong data are transmitted to the new tool. Furthermore, the project scope, costs, and requirements need to be captured. When all those preparations are finished, the product phase with the actual migration can start. During this process, the data cleansing needs to be continued as it is important to find mistakes and damaged data.
The CAD migration procedure
This might seems like a process, that can be faced step by step. However, in reality, one needs to deal with complex processes and huge amounts of data. But this is not the only challenge. Often, there are different design practices in the development groups, which makes it hard to meet all requirements. This adds up to the fact that some data usage scenarios cannot be implemented into the new tool, because of different features. An extreme case would be a migration from a 2D to a 3D CAD-tool. In addition to that, the quality of the data is another important aspect – some data might be transferred, despite they are damaged. This makes it clear and understandable why companies avoid changing the tool or its version and stick to their CAD-tool as long as possible.
These challenges can be avoided by engaging an external service provider. Those companies promise individual solutions and completely take over the data checking after the migration. Besides, for the usage of CELUS, there is no data migration needed in that sense like using a new CAD tool. For every needed component the user can upload his block of components, so it is a step by step process. If someone for example needs a LED as component, every available LED in the database can be uploaded as a block – including their properties. CELUS’ database is based in a cloud, which makes it accessible from any location while being extremely safe. If the uploaded component block was chosen by an electronics engineer, CELUS can choose the best fitting version fully automated. Once the block diagram is done, CELUS can then export a finished PCB Layout into a CAD tool of your choice.
Recommendations for process optimization
In the end, all these steps are taken to prevent mistakes and unnecessary work. What is most important for a successful migration is the involved employees. Already in the preparation phase, the employees’ support is decisive. They need to describe their design practices and procedures as precisely as possible to enable the team to accordingly set up the new tool. Therefore, it is of crucial importance to point out why this change is important and to offer educational training, so the employees get help when user problems appear. Also, they should back and support the change, which can mainly be reached through education.It often makes sense to train one specific employee as a pundit, who can support his colleagues if questions appear. As the success of the migration depends on the employees’ education, one can say: The more importance is attached to the training, the smoother the migration will be. Another tip of practice is to be very thorough when cleaning the data before the migration. All data should be marked, so no unnecessary data are taken into the new tool. Also, they should be categorized and tagged in groups, for example which data are updated regularly, and which are contemporary actively needed. This means a lot of work in advance, but it saves a lot of effort during and after the migration, which pays into the actual goal: The migration should be completed as fast as possible with the best possible quality, since in the end time and quality are cash. The migration itself is indispensable since a software update or change is needed from time to time to be sure to keep the database as valuable and safe as it is now.