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12 Nov 2016, 11:21

Is your design solution running you ragged?

Global research has shown that many electrical designers and engineers are using inappropriate solutions to draw their projects.

If you are right now using either:

  • An office suite tool
  • An off the shelf graphics package
  • A generic 2D CAD package
  • A partially functional or outdated electrical CAD package, or
  • A paper based solution
  • to draw your electrical control systems for machines and panels, then you are using an unbeneficial solution.

In doing so you are missing out on a whole host of benefits.

By asking yourself the six simple questions below you will start to see how this is impacting you.

Q1. How many hours do you spend in a typical week manually numbering or renumbering wires and devices in a project?

The process of manually numbering devices and wires, or renumbering them after a design has been modified, can easily take hours per day during that phase of the project. Not only is it a very time consuming process but it is also inherently vulnerable to human error. Everyday distractions such as phone calls or queries from colleagues can cause loss of concentration which means focus on the task is momentarily lost. Numbering sequences can, as a result, include gaps in the numbering sequence, or even duplicated numbering of wires or devices. These errors are likely to go unnoticed at the design stage but will become evident during build, generating unnecessary confusion and creating critical issues which you as the designer will be called upon to resolve, usually under stressful and time critical circumstances.

A fully functional electrical CAD package will include automated wire and device numbering, removing this task from your checklist and allowing you to concentrate on those parts of the project which deserve the attention of an experienced and qualified engineer. It can be particularly frustrating when numbering projects manually to have to renumber a whole project after a few small amends have been made. Automation will correctly and accurately number, or renumber, a whole project in a few seconds, not only allowing you to complete projects much more quickly but also to be confident they are not carrying errors through to the build stage.

Q2. How long do you spend searching or researching for parts details while creating your designs?

If you are using an improper design solution for your electrical projects you will have had to assemble your own symbols and parts libraries as none will have been provided with the tool. This will present an unwanted and time-consuming task from the outset and will go on to waste your time as long as you continue to use that solution.

Purpose built electrical CAD solutions will include a broad range of symbols ready for you to use and will make it easy for you to create custom symbols as needed for your designs. Alongside the symbols will be a wide-ranging set of manufacturer’s parts ready for you to select from. In this way, applying your engineering principles is made into a speedy and simple process, allowing you to quickly and confidently select the parts you need based on a range of key data provided for each part.

Q3. How do you know that your designs are functionally correct?

With your current solution, can you be 100% confident that the finished projects you pass on to the client or to the build team are correctly configured? Are you totally sure you didn’t accidentally place a Normally Closed (NC) device where a Normally Open (NO) version was required? Are you sure your voltage drops are all within acceptable tolerances? A true electrical CAD solution will continually check the configuration of your design and highlight any issues to you on the screen. The integral functional intelligence of the software will help you to ensure that all of your designs are valid and that you are not pushing issues down the line which will come back and bite you at some point. Mistakes or oversights in projects will surface either during build or, worse still, following commissioning, when issues such as excessive voltage drops could lead to overheating causing critical failure of electrical systems in such a way as to not only bring down systems but also endanger human life.

Q4. How often do you forget to add items to the Bill of Materials for the project?

With the best will in the world we are only human and mistakes do happen. When compiling a Bill of Materials manually it is so easy to miss off some items from the list, or create duplicates, so even though the design drawings are complete, when it comes to build, the job comes to a halt due to missing parts which haven’t even been ordered.Using a specialist electrical CAD package will provide you with automated reporting, including Bills of Materials, which will not only save you time but will also ensure that all parts in the design are included in the list and can be ordered ready for successful build.Using a specialist electrical CAD package will provide you with automated reporting, including Bills of Materials, which will not only save you time but will also ensure that all parts in the design are included in the list and can be ordered ready for successful build.

Q5. How often do you get calls from the build team over problems with a project?

Using any of the unsuitable design solutions as listed above will mean working in the absence of built-in intelligence and specialised functionality of true electrical CAD and will place an unsustainable reliance on human vigilance when processing designs. By the very nature of human behaviour, errors will slip through the net due to time pressures or distraction, leading to negative consequences later on.

Demands on your time can be minimised and unwanted stress reduced by switching to an electrical CAD solution which provides a Quality Assured design process, with inherent accuracy. Angry calls from confused installers can become a thing of the past, meaning you as the designing engineer can focus totally on your current project and work with maximum speed and efficiency.

Q6. How much does your work erode into your personal time and impact your family life?

As every year goes by it gets harder to protect our personal time and maintain a positive work life balance. There are a number of ways using an unsuitable electrical design solution can contribute to that erosion of your time and lifestyle. It may be out-of-hours phone calls which impact you most obviously, with calls coming from installers regarding problems with jobs. Being in this situation on a routine basis can make it hard for you to “switch off” while at home leading to sleepless nights worrying about jobs and distractions taking you away from family activities. The simplest one of all is time itself. Failing to use a professional electrical CAD package will mean that your end-to-end design process takes much longer than it should, typically 2 or 3 times longer, to complete a project.

How many times have you had to stay late because a project wasn’t finished in time? The combined effect of these issues is likely to have had a negative impact on you and your family, stopping you from enjoying time with your loved ones in the way that you should. Moving across to a purpose built electrical CAD package will bring a host of professional features which will not only dramatically speed up your workflow but will introduce a new level of accuracy and consistency to your projects. You will reap the benefits in terms of shorter days in the office, reduced stress, less out-of-hours calls, smoother installations and even optimised procurement solutions with accurate Bills of Materials which can be used to order parts directly online.


To access all of these benefits and, even better, experience them for free, why not download DesignSpark Electrical, a free yet powerful electrical CAD solution brought to you by RS Components and Allied Electronics:





My broad based technology degree equipped me well for a range of roles including project engineering, training, change management and marketing engineer. My career has included a rich variety of experience in industry sectors including food packaging, automotive, robotic vehicles and materials handling. I have taught electronics and product design in schools as well as implementing new technology for students such as laser cutters and 3D printers.

12 Nov 2016, 11:21


March 8, 2017 09:52

Hi Gary, thanks for your feedback. Your views are very important to us and we would like to know more about your experiences. Have you accessed the software tutorials in the support section? What sort of "real simple stuff" do you find unintuitive? We understand that with any software there will be a learning curve before the benefits can be properly experienced but we believe the benefits are worthwhile once a level of competence has been reached. We are keen to hear more from you such that we can look at improving aspects of our infrastructure if necessary. It is also worth mentioning that direct training could be an option if that is something you are interested in. We look forward to hearing from you in more detail.

0 Votes

March 3, 2017 15:47

Unfortunately my experience is that you are better off with a pen and paper. This software in NOT suitable for use without some form of training or handholding. Whilst is handles things like wire and component numbering brilliantly, the real simple stuff is so unintuitive as to make the whole thing a nightmare.

0 Votes