In the small town of Spring Green, Wisconsin resides Ringbrothers, an automotive restoration company that has propelled itself to one of the top American car builders. The company was founded by brothers, Jim and Mike Ring, who shared a passion, imagination, and innovation for building cars from a very young age. The brother duo and the employees within wear many hats, as the company serves as a collision and repair shop to the community, as well as produces high-quality billet accessories, custom fiberglass, carbon fiber pieces, and custom-built cars.
Streamlining Design Pipeline and Processes
Traditionally at Ringbrothers, the engineering, design, and manufacturing for numerous car parts were contracted off-site among third-party vendors. This meant that Ringbrothers was at the mercy of other companies to adhere to its high levels of quality control and meet required deadlines. Some vendors fell short, requiring Ringbrothers to invest additional time to manage a range of different suppliers and taking resources away from the company’s quick innovation.
“Having numerous outsourced components created a bottleneck and an energy drain for Ringbrothers,” said Matt Moseman, Product Development Manager at Ringbrothers. “We wanted the ability to shift more of the design and prototyping in-house and to vertically integrate to better support our vision and growth plans.”
Scaling Requires the Right Tools — and the Right Partners
Ringbrothers wanted to make its manufacturing and design processes as transparent as possible, with little opportunity for human error. To support this mission, Ringbrothers sought an architecture that would enable the company to scale at its own pace — adding more equipment, personnel, and software as desired. But, the company was strategic about which design and product development tools to deploy — and from whom.
“I had a bias towards SOLIDWORKS CAD, as I was familiar with the product and knew it would help shorten our product development time and improve quality,” said Moseman. “The software had the powerful functionality we wanted, but was also simple to use, and most importantly, could serve as the foundation of our product development solutions moving forward — seamlessly integrating with other SOLIDWORKS software.”
For Ringbrothers, finding the right partner was just as important as the product itself. The company was focused on longevity and trust, selecting a technology provider who could provide service and support for the long term and help the company identify new opportunities to advance manufacturing. For Ringbrothers, Fisher Unitech was the ideal co-pilot for the company’s road to continued growth.
Investing in Improved Product Data Management Proves Priceless
Once Ringbrothers moved many suppliers back in-house, the company faced challenges related to duplicate files, part numbers, and documentation. To get design and manufacturing data under control, Ringbrothers deployed SOLIDWORKS PDM with the help of Fisher Unitech’s PDM specialist. SOLIDWORKS PDM not only improved Ringbrothers’ product data management process, but it also supported the company’s goal of evolving to a paperless environment.
By having a single source of product data for design and development, employees gain better insight into which parts have been checked in and out, the current parts inventory (eliminating unnecessary orders) and the most up-to-date part numbers. Plus, if an issue does arise, employees can quickly access an audit trail of product development activities, rolling back to the exact area of concern and driving more efficient resolution.
“Reducing the labor is really where SOLIDWORKS PDM comes into play and implementation has been priceless for our organization,” said Moseman. “At the end of the day, we are still a small shop and this solution has given us control and scalability advantages of a much larger organization — a true game changer.”
To further the management benefits, Ringbrothers plans to deploy a Microsoft tablet on every piece of equipment, giving employees instant access to the SOLIDWORKS PDM Viewer to document equipment setup activities, inspections and more.
Simulating Real-World Behavior Delivers Immediate ROI
In 2018, Ringbrothers faced a performance issue with one of its billet hood hinges, requiring the company to do a light product recall. The risk was that if the hinge was altered without the proper insight — relying on flow charts and gut instinct — it could ultimately affect other products, compounding the issue from a single part to three.
Using SOLIDWORKS Simulation, Ringbrothers pulled the hinge into a test environment, subjecting the part to real-world conditions to assess for strength and safety. The software immediately identified exactly where the part was failing, allowing the team to determine the most efficient way to make corrections.
“SOLIDWORKS Simulation immediately proved its worth, allowing us to hone in on the issue, and optimize design to avoid product issues in the future,” said Moseman. “For us, it wasn’t about saving money, but more about making the best decision to ensure our parts are safe for the long term.”
An Infrastructure and Support Team for Real-Time Manufacturing
Having the SOLIDWORKS architecture in place, backed by the service and support from Fisher Unitech, sets Ringbrothers up for continued momentum. The company’s employees now identify as a team, — versus specialized CAD or CAM professionals — which creates the desired transparency, as design and manufacturing processes are no longer tied to specific tasks.
“With SOLIDWORKS in place, our entire floor is interactive and our processes are vertically integrated, enabling real-time manufacturing,” said Moseman. “And, Fisher Unitech helped us get to where we wanted to go, providing the fastest and most responsive support we’ve seen.”
The company credits SOLIDWORKS with its measurable growth, as the tools and efficiency improvements have enabled the company to employ five additional people and purchase more equipment. “If you are trying to build a scalable business and grow a team, that’s where SOLIDWORKS really shines,” concluded Moseman.
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About the Author
Christa Prokos is a marketing manager at Fisher Unitech. She researches and writes about the latest business trends and technologies impacting manufacturers, including 3D printing, SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD design and product data management tools, product lifecycle management, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things. Christa has worked as a high tech marketing and communications professional since 2000. You can follow her on Twitter: @ChristaProkos.