Case Study

Zero Zone

Refrigeration display manufacturer reduces prototyping costs, expands product line, and increases sales with SOLIDWORKS software

Zero Zone, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of display coolers, freezers, and refrigerated merchandising cases. For years, company engineers used AutoCAD to design its products. In 1997, according to project engineer Owen Warr, Zero Zone hired an engineering intern who had experience using the SOLIDWORKS 3D mechanical design system.


  • 66% Decrease in design cycle time
  • 335% Increased sales
  • 85% Reduction in ECO Process
  • 78% Reduction in prototypes
  • $1.6M One-year ROI
  • $5.1M Three-year ROI

Using SOLIDWORKS software, Zero Zone is able to design complete lines of its refrigeration display cases in 66 percent less time and with 78 percent fewer prototypes.

“The intern asked to use SOLIDWORKS on the project he was assigned,” Warr recalls. “Within months, the amount and quality of his work was a real eye-opener. In one week, he was able to design a complete product with four different-sized variations. We were impressed with the intern’s effort and realized that 3D modeling could provide significant advantages over 2D.”

Although Zero Zone engineers had a good impression of SOLIDWORKS software, they decided to compare it against another CAD system to confirm their choice. “We also reviewed Pro/ENGINEER,” Warr explains. “But we wanted something that was easy to work with and ran effectively on Windows NT. We believe we made a wise choice.” Zero Zone standardized on SOLIDWORKS software because of its ease-of-use, sheet metal features, configuration capabilities, large assembly functionality, and compatibility with other engineering and desktop applications.

The Solution

Configuring sheetmetal assemblies
Zero Zone products comprise large assemblies of 1,000-2,000 individual parts, many of which are fashioned out of sheet metal, with a minimum of four different configurations per product. Warr says the sheet metal, interference checking, and configuration capabilities in SOLIDWORKS software have enabled Zero Zone to reduce prototyping costs, expand its product line, and increase sales dramatically.

“All of our products are variations on an existing theme, and we work heavily with sheet metal,” Warr points out. “With SOLIDWORKS, we can create a model once and use design tables to create several different-sized configurations automatically. In the past, we had to develop each configuration individually, which took time. We have also eliminated a large percentage of our prototyping costs. The main benefit is the ability to use collision/interference detection to check for fit and function before building a prototype.

“SOLIDWORKS provides the sheet metal functionality we need,” he adds. “We make extensive use of this functionality in combination with configurations. SOLIDWORKS has been very responsive in adding new features. We believe SOLIDWORKS is one of the best design packages out there for handling sheet metal.”

Founded in 1961, Zero Zone, Inc. has become a leading manufacturer of display coolers, freezers, and refrigerated merchandising cases for use by supermarkets, convenience stores, and other retailers with refrigeration needs. Headquartered in North Prairie, Wisconsin, Zero Zone develops refrigerated display systems that give consumers convenient access to refrigerated products, frozen foods, and floral arrangements while providing retailers with reliable, state-of-the-art refrigerated merchandising equipment.

An industry pioneer – the company was the first to introduce display cases with glass doors – Zero Zone is committed to leveraging technology to maintain its leadership position and provide customers with innovative, dependable refrigerated merchandising systems.

Slashing the design cycle, boosting sales
Zero Zone has reduced its engineering change order (ECO) process by 85 percent, slashed prototype production by 78 percent, compressed its product design cycle from nine to three months (66 percent), expanded its product line, and increased sales from 3,724 to 12,500 cases per year, an increase of 335 percent. Warr credits CATI, Zero Zone’s SOLIDWORKS provider, for providing the training and support services that helped the company successfully transition to 3D.

“There were uncertainties in 2D and tasks that are no longer necessary,” Warr says. “SOLIDWORKS makes us more efficient and enables us to do things that were impossible before. For example, we can customize our products on an as-ordered basis with fast turnaround. A customer can order a customized unit, and we can design, manufacture, and ship the special-order product in just four to six weeks.”

Leveraging compatible solutions
Zero Zone has also improved the quality of its products, accelerated the development of product documentation, and enhanced design communication by leveraging complementary applications, including elements of SOLIDWORKS Office. “We use SOLIDWORKS Simulation for component analysis and SOLIDWORKS Simulation for assembly analysis, maximizing our load capacity. We use analysis software to determine the effects of temperature on shelving materials,” Warr notes. “We also use SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software to evaluate our air curtain. When a consumer opens one of our freezer doors, it interrupts the air curtain. We use CFD to prevent condensation, ice buildup, and other adverse effects.”

Zero Zone uses components of SOLIDWORKS Office, such as Toolbox for purchased parts, PhotoWorks for graphics creation, and eDrawings for communicating with vendors and customers. The QuickSilver DDM PDM package, which the company uses for revision control, also generates eDrawings information automatically. Warr adds that engineers download models of valves, switches, and relays from 3D ContentCentral(SM) and use a combination of SOLIDWORKS, PhotoWorks, Visio, and Microsoft Word to develop product manuals.