When Mike Petrushkin, owner of Fixture Logic (formerly WC Cabinets), purchased new CNC equipment to meet the growing demands of his clients, he soon learned that it was not enough. Although he reduced manpower in the Eugene, Oregon, plant with the new machines, the labor needs shifted to the engineering department where staff struggled to keep up with design requirements of new projects.
"We had extremely sophisticated equipment and we were running it with a rock and a chisel," he says.
Software that could do the design and integrate all the elements of manufacturing was the answer. He says that implementing the right software has made "a night and day difference in what we can provide for the client. Providing the client with exactly what they asked for on the date that they wanted it is what built this company." Petrushkin says it became tougher and tougher for the company to do that, until it made the recent changes.
In 1993 when Petrushkin started WC Cabinets, he saw the venture as a temporary fix to the immediate need for the construction casework needed by his construction company. Starting in a neighbor's garage with simple tools, his efforts grew to an enterprise that builds sophisticated commercial casework and fixtures using the latest technology. Recently the company changed its name to Fixture Logic to better reflect the scope of its abilities and the changes it has made to meet the needs of its growing clientele.
The change really began for the company when it moved to a 60,000-square-foot plant in January 1999. Although it began as a leasing agreement, when the building became available for sale a short time into the move, Petrushkin decided to take the plunge and buy the building.
"Buying the building changed everything," says Bob Lloyd, vice president of operations. "We had this potential that was unrealized."
With all the space they now had, the decision was made to go after some bigger jobs.
With the successful bid for a large job, the company suddenly had a lot of parts to cut with only a couple of table saws, a vertical panel saw and small moulder/edgebander to do the job, says Lloyd. In March 1999 a Holzma Optimat HP-81 CAD with Cadmatic controller was purchased to facilitate the cutting of the job. When he had an entire building filled with men with hand drills drilling holes to put these panels together Lloyd realized that the automation process wasn't complete. So in June 1999 a Weeke BP-120 point-to-point machine was purchased.
Although the work moved at a faster pace, Lloyd says that the company was soon doing what a lot of companies do - working in multiple software programs to design, generate a cut list, optimize and control the machines. "We were drawing the cabinet door in the CAD program; cutlist the cabinet parts in an Excel spreadsheet; optimizing it in the optimizer; and then redrawing it in Wood Wop to do the machining instructions," says Lloyd. "With that and our normal casework and our bid work, there were more people in the engineering department than there were in the shop on some days." It became apparent to Lloyd that integration was necessary between all the systems to allow the company to continue providing the clients with the products they wanted in a timely manner.
The search for integration software led the company to Microvellum, based in Medford, Oregon. It was the location of the company, the strong technical support offered, their willingness to work with Fixture Logic's hodgepodge collection of software and machines, and the cost of the system, in comparison to others researched, that resulted in its selection.
"What it meant to me in my position is we were able to sit down, draw a cabinet, push a button and generate cutlists, building materials and purchase reports, saw time and managing report, optimization and machining code - all at the same time," says Lloyd. Fixture Logic had also recently purchased a new server, new computers and Windows NT because it didn't want to put any more money into the company's older computers. This and the purchase of AutoCAD 2000 actually caused Microvellum to go back to the drawing board to get its system to work with these upgrades.
A design and engineering integration system is composed of many elements. The Microvellum system uses AutoCAD, developed by Autodesk for CAD design, Microsoft Excel and Access for spreadsheet and database technology, Crystal Reports by Seagate Software for reporting, CADCode Active-X by CADCode Systems for G-code generation and labeling, and Ardis, provided by Eurosoft Inc., for optimization. With these components Microvellum has created a product that reduces the steps between the design of a project and the machining.
"The whole concept is once you have it drawn, it's done. When you're drawing in AutoCAD, you're communicating with our program. The end result is producing a set of shop drawings with all of the information necessary to generate a bill of materials along with the machining information. When you have the drawing and you can visually check it and know it's right, then your parts are right," says Taylor Grimes, vice president of Microvellum.
The design process begins with AutoCAD, so it is significant to note that nobody at Fixture Logic knew AutoCAD, with the exception of Don Sook, director of engineering, who had taken about three months of coursework in AutoCAD.
"What we recognized right away is that AutoCAD is so powerful, and it has all this other stuff that doesn't even pertain to this industry. So we just give the guys the tools they need to work, hence the tool box," says Grimes. Along with on-site training, Microvellum provides a company with a 2-1/2 hour tutorial to get users up to speed with using AutoCAD and to become familiar with its toolbox.
"What amazed us is that these guys in three days were actually generating useable, submittable shop drawings," says Grimes.
A complete AWI/WIC product library was built by Microvellum using the construction methods of Fixture Logic and tailored to the company's specific requirements before the system was even installed. A copy of this library and operating parameters are kept by Microvellum, which also requires companies using its software to be connected to the Internet.
"They have to have Microsoft NetMeeting on their computers and we teach them how to use it," says Grimes. Microvellum's ability to connect to a customer's machine to provide technical support is a valuable aid that facilitates speedy resolutions to any problems that arise, according to Sook.
When users draw in the program, actual live data is created in multiple layers, storing the information before the user determines how to use it, says Grimes. Changes can be made to the drawing as a whole or a part can be isolated, worked on and then returned to the original drawing. Tools are selected, the program updated and the drawing can be reviewed to determine if the machining is correct.
Reports are generated, optimization is done and the information is sent to the shop floor, all with the push of a couple of buttons. A report gives the operator of the saw a list of the raw material required, quantities and the order the saw is going to cut it in. The sawyer pulls up the program, which has already been transmitted automatically to the machine, and starts cutting. After the parts are cut, labels are created at the machine, which the operator then applies to the parts. All the machining information is bar coded on a label along with a picture that illustrates what machining is required. The part is then edgebanded at the IDM edgebander, with the orientation of the piece and the edges to be processed clearly illustrated. Finally, the part goes to the point-to-point, where the label again provides the operator with visible instructions.
"The value of the picture is that it tells the operator what field to put it in on that machine," says Grimes. The bar code then tells the point-to-point what program to run. Finally pocket holes are made using a Castle Pocket Drill machine for assembly.
Fixture Logic is in the process of buying a dowel insertion machine and a case clamp to expedite the assembly process. Petrushkin sees that the time it takes to individually process parts using the pocket screw system is becoming prohibitive and not as cost effective as the dowel insertion system. He does not hesitate to incorporate more technology after the success of his recent purchases.
Successful integration of all the systems occurred within a six-week period, according to Lloyd, although it took approximately six months for the company to completely transition all projects to the new system. "You can't jump into it because you have ongoing jobs and we had released portions of them in the old system," says Lloyd. Some jobs were released in Microvellum and some jobs were done in the old way until a full switchover could be implemented.
Microvellum also has in-house engineers, from the industry, that are available to assist in the implementation of the new software. When a company is trying to get the new system up and running at the same time it's trying to carry on business as usual, Microvellum is there to get them over the hump.
"If they need it done, they give us the job and we'll draw it up with their library so that they can actually use the data," says Grimes.
Fixture Logic continues to find additional benefits to its new system. Prototypes, for example, are easy and quick to generate and recently played a role in winning a new client. The ability to call up job data and reproduce parts quickly adds to the company's ability to provide replacement parts quickly. "We take the hassle out of it because we have the software," says Petrushkin.
"We keep re-training employees within the system. We can continue to grow, increase the quality of our projects and products and keep our clients happy," says Petrushkin. "Financially this company is in great shape because we've been taking these steps."
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