3D CAD SOLIDWORKS Case Study Ford Meter Box

The Challenge

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a vendor as, “One that sells or vends.” But we all know there’s more to it than that. When it comes to selecting software vendors in particular, the engineers at Ford Meter Box know that there’s a lot more involved above and beyond the actual purchase itself.

Computer Aided Technology differentiates itself from other vendors in the engineering technology arena in many ways. Perhaps the most important differentiator is CATI’s unique ability to guide its customers in maximizing their technology investment to the fullest. After all, a box of software is just a box of software. It’s up to each individual company to decide if that box of software will end up sitting on a shelf gathering dust, or if it will become the cost-effective, process-improving investment it was meant to be.

Executives at the Ford Meter Box Company in Wabash, Indiana were determined to get the most of their SOLIDWORKS investment.

The Solution

“I learned the value of being properly trained to use any software long before joining Ford Meter Box three years ago. The people who are fortunate enough to go through training are miles ahead of the people who don’t,” said Rick Rogers, Product Design Engineer. “There’s no doubt in my mind that training pays off. We’re pretty lucky here that management let us take the training and saw the value in it.”

When Ford Meter Box began the tedious process of whittling-down various CAD programs, they compared vendor to vendor in their quest for a 3D design tool. They evaluated SolidEdge, AutoDesk’s Inventor and SOLIDWORKS, finally deciding to adopt the latter.

“One of the main selling points for SOLIDWORKS was the number of seats that were out there,” said Jerry Weekley, a member of the Plant Engineering Department and an 17-year veteran at Ford Meter Box.

“For me,” Rogers added, “SOLIDWORKS was a little more straight forward than SolidEdge as far as ease-of-use and being able to learn it.”

While SOLIDWORKS lived up to its reputation as an industry-standard, Ford Meter Box knew that the vendor they would partner with was equally, if not more important than the product itself. Ford Meter Box wanted assurance that once the sale was made, they wouldn’t be left on their own. Some vendors didn’t mention training and support.

There were a number of reasons why Ford Meter Box chose CATI as its SOLIDWORKS vendor: excellent technical support, quick response time and a seasoned staff with noticeable engineering backgrounds to name a few. However, a good portion of their decision was based on CATI’s exclusive CATalyst Program (a bundled training and support program).

A CATalyst user is entitled to take any of CATI’s wide variety of SOLIDWORKS core and industry-specific classes over the course of a year and also includes the Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional exam and unlimited SOLIDWORKS Support (CAT-PhD).

Weekley recalls having to balance overcoming the learning curve of a new technology tool, while eliminating as much downtime as possible. “SOLIDWORKS was loaded on my machine, but with my project load I really wasn’t able to take the time to sit down on my own and learn it,” he said. “Once I came back from the classes at CATI, I was motivated and felt like I was able to jump in and start doing some projects without feeling like I was falling behind trying to learn it at the same time.”

Ford Meter Box has put nine of its engineers through the CATalyst program since adopting SOLIDWORKS in 2001. Rogers even mentioned their Alabama-based facility that has 4 licenses of SOLIDWORKS. “They’ve been envious of us being able to go through the CATalyst program,” he said.

For Ford Meter Box, the beauty of the CATalyst program is that their engineers can take as many included courses as possible throughout a year, whether it pertains directly to their current responsibilities or not.

“I learned interesting stuff in some of the classes but didn’t think that I would use it, and then I find out two weeks later I’m applying what I learned,” commented Weekley.

The engineers at Ford Meter Box were also impressed with the personal attention they received from CATI. They appreciated the small training class sizes and in many instances they were actually able to incorporate their own specific part designs into the various exercises.

Ford Meter Box also takes advantage of CATI’s CATIpult sessions, which address various SOLIDWORKS-related topics, and are offered to all CATI customers free of charge. CATI has even hosted a CATIpult event at Ford Meter Box, adding even more value to the business relationship.

“Normally, we would have had a hard time getting our supervisors and management to agree to let everybody miss a whole day of work,” Rogers said, adding that even upper management was able to conveniently attend some of the on-site events. “Because it was so close, you could spend a couple of hours at the CATIpult session and then everybody goes back to work.”

Finally, one of the best ways to actually measure the effectiveness of a technology investment is by simple metrics.

“We have specific tooling layout tasks that previously took one to two weeks to finish, but having been properly trained by CATI , I was doing as many as 2 or 3 a day in SOLIDWORKS,” comments Weekley. “Tooling projects used to take about half a day. Now I can generate models within a matter of a couple of minutes.”

So, the next time you’re out searching for a new engineering technology vendor, “one that sells or vends,” remember the definition of value: “Worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor.” Don’t make the common mistake of settling for anything less than your company and your investment deserve.