Mastercam Internationally: How CNC Software Localizes CAD/CAM Software

Since its founding in 1983, CNC Software Inc., the developer of Mastercam software, has welcomed customers from all over the world. Part of that globalization included translating the software into a multitude of languages, though the process has evolved rapidly since its inauguration.

“When translation first started about twenty years ago, CNC Software relied on Resellers in other countries to determine how to translate the product for their market,” said Christine Brouillard, User Experience and Localization Manager at CNC Software, Inc. With the translation happening outside of CNC Software, the software developers lacked data on the scope and quality of these translating efforts.

To improve the quality and consistency of localization efforts, CNC Software took on more translation responsibilities. Through these efforts, it became clear that localization called for a skilled and specialized team of localization experts, including localization engineers, quality control specialists, localization developers, and linguists to address the sheer complexity of the issue.

There are twenty-seven ways that a translation can fail, including grammar discrepancies, connotation inconsistencies, and simple mistranslations. Furthermore, many languages assign genders to their nouns, lack spaces, or simply do not have a match for a particular English word. Thus, the first member of the Localization Team was brought on in 2013: Internationalization and Localization Expert, Delphine Teboul.

“We now had a dedicated resource who was paying attention to how the structure of the software affected the ease of translation. She promoted consistency across products and raised our awareness of localization best practices,” recalled Brouillard.

There was much for Teboul to do. Blanka van Raalte, Localization Product Owner, shared, “Before a software product can be localized, it needs to be designed and built with translation and different markets in mind. It needs to be built so that it can handle multiple languages and cultural conventions without the need for re-design. This is called internationalization.” Teboul’s biggest effort was to educate on and advocate for the benefits of designing the product with localization in mind. “This also involved reorganization of the software development cycle to ensure smoother localization process and better user experience for non-English speaking markets.”

Teboul was more than happy to kickstart the changes to the localization process. “We’ve completely changed the process behind the scenes,” she said. “When I came on seven years ago, the translation method was disorganized and time-consuming and left the possibility for mistakes. Six months after the release of the English version, some customers were still waiting on their language, without ever having tested it.” Part of this reinvention was freezing the user interface (UI) of a version early enough that it allowed translators to start their work so that they could finish everything before release. “Reorganizing the development cycle was not easy and added complexity to the developers’ work. Not all companies would change their entire development process as CNC Software did.”

The first language to be taken in-house entirely was International Spanish, to cater not only to users in Spain, Central America, and Latin America, but also to those in the United States as well. Brouillard shared, “We translated the user interface and some key pieces of the documentation into this language and learned a lot along the way. We established relationships with language service providers (LSPs) who performed the translation, and linguistic reviewers who could provide feedback on the translation. We often use regional Mastercam Resellers as our linguistic reviewers, since they understand both the language and the industry that we’re working within.”

One such reviewer is Reijo Heurlin at Reseller Zenex Computing Oy in Finland. Heurlin is an important Reseller involved in localization, having consistently provided feedback and support to the Localization Team for years. “Our second customer ever said that they would purchase Mastercam if it were in Finnish. We said that we could do that, and they are still with us today, and that was 33 years ago,” he recalled. Now Heurlin is on hand to test new functions and toolpaths as they are translated into Finnish, as well as provide insight on general localization. As a Mastercam user and Reseller, he can anticipate customer needs and relay them to the developers. Heurlin encourages all users to alert CNC Software when they find grammar mistakes, confusing translations, or things that could be improved.

The Localization Team continues to work heavily with Mastercam’s international network of Resellers and depends on their expert advice. Localization Linguist Helen Wang shared, “Our Resellers provide the first level support to their end users. In addition, our in-country Resellers help review localized products and marketing materials for each release and provide valuable linguistic-related feedback.” Wang was brought on in 2018, when CNC Software added Simplified Chinese to its list of in-house languages.

“Taking on this language [Chinese] corresponded with our corporate strategy of opening an office in China and improving our market share in this region,” said Brouillard. “Since then, we have added Portuguese-Brazilian to our corporate languages and five additional team members: a product owner, another linguist, a developer, a quality control (QC) specialist, and an additional localization engineer.”

She feels that this growth of the localization team demonstrates CNC Software’s dedication to improving the user experience for CAD/CAM users around the world.

Today, Mastercam and much of its supporting media (surveys, End User License Agreements, etc.) have been translated into 16 languages, but the work is not finished. Moving forward, CNC Software hopes to improve the quality of translations and speed at which they are delivered.

Wang explained what that means, exactly: “Our long-term goals will cover areas such as providing better localizable materials, improving terminology consistency in context, streamlining automation process, and beyond.”

CNC Software will continue to support a growing demand for global support throughout the organization. As Teboul summed it up: “All Mastercam users deserve the same quality experience, no matter their language.”