March 2010 / Volume 62 / Issue 3|
Changing CAM software
By Rob Hassold, Cimquest Inc.
Many good reasons exist for changing your CAM software: achieving the flexibility to program a wider range of machine tools with one software product, having a product compatible with all the CAD files customers submit, acquiring more user-friendly programming tools to expand the number of proficient users on a staff, increasing programming productivity, and leveraging software tools that take better advantage of equipment’s high-precision and high-speed machining features.
Once you’ve determined why a change would be beneficial, figuring how to do it is equally important. “How can I successfully change CAM systems on the fly without incurring downside penalties, such as a dramatic initial loss of productivity or staff demoralization because of unfamiliarity with the software?” The solution lies in mapping a transition process that is right for your shop.
Ideally, a shop will receive its new software about 3 weeks to 10 days before training occurs. The best software products have extensive tutorials built into them, so new users can avoid entering a training situation cold.
There are many types of training and ways to deliver that training. It can be customized to meet special requirements. However, overly customized training early on is counterproductive because new users need to find their way around the product features as quickly as possible. Training in the basics is better.
New users can attend a scheduled class or one can be created for them at the vendor’s or customer’s facility. Some trainers prefer to have new users come to a classroom at their own facility because the dealer’s training tools are on hand. However, the advantage of having dedicated classes at the user’s shop is that the types of projects the shop typically works on are close at hand and can be incorporated into the training.
Financial considerations also exist. When at least three or four students require training, costs for travel and accommodations favor training at the user’s location.
It is usually wise to have a project in place that students must do after training is completed. This requires them to implement the software in a way that reinforces skill sets learned during the training.
One of the biggest problems with an implementation is that either the end users who are going to be working with the product haven’t bought into using the new software or management is not realistic about how much time will be required for implementation. You will never be proficient in using a new software tool during the first month or so. Unfortunately, situations where management expects the same amount of work to be done right after training as was achieved with the old software cause new users to get frustrated and revert to familiar methods.
Another mistake is thinking you can make a successful transition without training. New CAM software licenses are frequently package deals that include training and service, yet some users avoid training. This jeopardizes not only the investment in software but also the opportunity to optimize a substantial portion of a shop’s operations.
The good news is that nearly all shops that devise and follow a realistic implementation plan are over the hump in 1 or 2 months. They get most of the benefits they expected and do not even consider going back to their old CAM software. CTEAbout the Author: Rob Hassold is president of Cimquest Inc., Bedminster, N.J., a Mastercam, SolidWorks and Stratasys reseller. For more information, call (866) 277-8778, visit www.cimquest-inc.com or enter #360 on the I.S. Form.
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