“Have a vision. Be demanding.” --U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell.
Matrix Packaging Machinery, one of the world's leading manufacturers of vertical form-fill-seal packaging equipment, certainly understands the notion of having a vision and being demanding…on both sides of the fence.
Matrix Engineers work extra hard to meet the constant and rather lofty demands of customers and their industry. The Matrix website clearly states its mission, “We appreciate and respect the fact that purchasing a packaging machine system represents a large investment. However, our desire is not only to provide that system, supported by thorough training and responsive service, but also to earn the trust, respect and continued patronage of our customers.”
In order to fulfill this company vision and successfully cater to industry demands, Matrix Machinery must pick and choose its vendors very wisely. Point blank, Matrix must also be demanding.
“We’re a tough customer,” comments Mike Krummey, Project Engineer, Matrix, who participated in a 2D to 3D CAD evaluation process in June 2002 that resulted in Matrix adopting SolidWorks and partnering with CATI.
Matrix compared CADKEY, Inventor, SolidEdge and SolidWorks, with the former duo being excluded from the search early on.
Matrix Engineers then proposed a simple test to front-runners SolidEdge and SolidWorks. They requested that both vendors load the software on a machine and get it up-and-running. The SolidWorks test performed by CATI worked great.
“CATI came in, put the CD ROM in, and within a few minutes they were going through the tutorials and I would say within an hour they had produced drawings that our machine shop could use to make parts,” recalls Krummey. “It was truly amazing.”
This test proved to Matrix that SolidWorks Corporation works hard to ensure its VARs are up-to-speed, and that CATI offers superior technical capabilities when compared to other industry VARs. Integration with a Product Data Management (PDM) solution was also an important part of Matrix’s decision. SolidWorks tight integration with SmarTeam’s PDM solution combined with the product’s ease-of-use influenced the decision to go with SolidWorks.
|The total time spent before we were making usable drawings was actually quite short, largely due to CATI’s training.
But would SolidWorks and SmarTeam enable Matrix Packaging to really cater to customer demands? A new project called the MX Series machines would become the determining factor.
The project started in June, and by mid-August, Matrix had already shipped the prototype machine to its overseas customer. “Without the ability of SolidWorks to really shake this design down on the computer, we never would have made that shipping date,” Krummey explained. “We literally did not have time to have 3 or 4 versions of this out there, some that worked better than others. We needed to get it right and get it right the first time.”
Krummey admitted that reducing lead-time is just one industry demand that Matrix Engineers regularly encounter. Not only do they have to deliver prototypes and machines very quickly, these machines must also be intricate, durable and compact. And they need to be affordable.
“Affordability is one of the things that is very important in any custom machine building industry. You have to be able to provide a machine that can withstand the rigors and stresses that are put on it, and at the same time, you have to be able to manufacture it in a cost-effective fashion,” said Krummey. He explained how SolidWorks helped reduce some of their manufacturing expenditure in terms of high-cost anodizing of the machine surface. “SolidWorks proved to be very beneficial for us because we realized that if we make these parts differently, the cost to have them coated is literally cut in half.”
So they got the prototype out in time, and they were able to reduce manufacturing costs and create more affordable machines. But what else do you get when you mix a very talented staff of engineers with highly intuitive technology?
“The goal was to create a machine that would easily fit into the back of a pick-up,” said Krummey. “We understood that many people who are starting up companies are doing it in limited space, perhaps even in their own garage. So the footprint of this machine had to fit in a relatively small confine.”
Also adding to the demand for compact machinery, Krummey designed the electrical system for the MX series machines entirely in SolidWorks. He actually put the electrics in the frame of the machine. The result is that the machines are much simpler, much cleaner, and can placed relatively close together in the plant.
The final phase of Matrix’s first SolidWorks project was to ship out the actual MX machines to customers who were trying to replace old, worn out equipment.
“In a situation like that, you literally cannot deliver them fast enough,” Krummey said adding that they were able to surpass their 8-week time-to-market goal. “Because of the flexibility that SolidWorks afforded us in testing designs, we were able to come up with almost a commodity version of the machine that we could mass produce very similar to an assembly line. Then when the orders for the machines would come in, we would only have to fabricate a handful of custom components to make them fit the application. This allowed us to bring these machines to market in 6 weeks.”
It wasn’t only expert engineers using SolidWorks that allowed Matrix to quickly manufacture and deliver small, reliable, cost-effective machines to numerous customers. Guidance from CATI also contributed to Matrix’s success and making the initial SolidWorks implementation smooth and quick.
“The total time spent before we were making usable drawings was actually quite short, largely due to CATI’s training,” Krummey comments. “Training plus CATI’s efficient Technical Support Department made the experience very easy for us to administer.”
So would Mike Krummey agree that CATI provides a complete technology solution for Matrix Packaging Machinery, thus abiding by its company vision and commitment to its demanding industry?
“It’s the first number we dial.”