Small car manufacturers report that it becomes more and more difficult to pick the right technologies for the shop floor. Product manager of US car maker Ringbrothers explained why taking risks is crucial for a business.
“The vision behind our business is simple: we take a 1960’s or 1970’s vehicle and consider how it could look like today or in ten years’ time.
“Then we try to implement as much of the current technology as possible, such as modern machining or 3D printing,” said Matt Moseman, Ringbrother’s product development manager.
The company, headquartered in Spring Green, Wisconsin, pulls double duty, serving as a collision and repair shop to the community in addition to delivering only a few custom-built cars a year.
Moseman explained: “We build street machines, but not a whole lot of cars; on average two, or three vehicles a year. However, what is more important to us; we really relish the collaboration with our clients, because we enjoy working with people who know exactly what they want.
“And we only stick to vehicles and models, we really want to make. We love to work in as much technology as possible, be it 3D printed material, or all the other opportunities our CAD program provides us with, to modify the vehicle in exactly the way we want it to be.
“Apart from deploying the newest software, we work with the latest material innovations – from carbon fibres to different plastics. But we adopt authenticity as our maxim, meaning, we apply the most advanced technology on the heritage of the vehicle without changing the spirit of the car.”
The company Ringbrothers has now customers all over the world, it shipped cars and parts to Canada, Australia, Mexico, Belgium. Within the US, Ringbrothers has delivered products in almost every state, from west coast to east coast. And the company has just delivered its second car to London.
The exponential growth of the business, as Moseman said, came about only in the last couple of years; Ringbrothers is still a small business with only 15 employees, which owes its success to its attitude to the concept of innovation.
Moseman said: “Innovation is the future. When I am looking at the way technology changes, it is very easy to fall behind. And it can be very exhausting sometimes because there is so much happening right now in the market place.
Paralysis by analysis
Paralysis by analysis describes probably best the state, product development managers are in, when it comes to making decision where, when and how to deploy new technologies on the shop floor.
Ringbrother’s development manager explained: “There are so many different tools becoming available. It has become harder and harder to pick the right ones, but at the end of the day you must take a decision. If you don’t take a risk, you are not going to get anywhere.”
Moseman underlined that it is not only about the possibilities, new technologies themselves offer. “It is also crucial to find the right partners; you evaluate the existing tools and then start digging deeper into the possibilities the products offer.
“But when you suddenly encounter a technical issue, you start making a call, and then the companies come into play which stand behind the products we rely on.
“Microsoft and SOLIDWORKS are only two partners in the technology arena we work with. It is important to get to know the team and to realise their core values, their view on the business and to check if their goals align well with our own goals.”
Partners can be more important than the product
Moseman said that after a while the partners become a higher value than the product itself. “You create a relationship with the partners through the current product and the technology, which is growing as part of the collaboration.
“We have always been focussed on picking the right partners and it has always been a lot of fun to do business with partners which become your friends.
“We have learned so much, and it is so invaluable, that you cannot put a dollar amount or somebodies salary on that. A good collaboration with partners is something you need to experience as a business. It is exciting because a good partner knows always what is happening next.
“We are passionate about building cars and those products we do. And our partners are passionate about building the tools we need to build the cars.”
Moseman gives an example: “As we grew, we ended up with a few suppliers making our parts; resulting in a lack of control of delivery deadlines, quality, and speed of new products.
“With increased frustration with this process, we knew the future of our business was dependent on being our own supplier.
“Doing this, we built momentum with a great team that is cross-functionally collaborative providing our customer with the best product based on a blend of design and value of manufacturing.”
Moseman said that Ringbrothers had been extremely cost conscious during this process. With the company’s firm belief in purchasing quality products Ringbrothers only wanted to rely on sturdy partners like SOLIDWORKS, Microsoft, Surface, CamWorks, Cimtronics, Fisher Unitech, 5th Axis, and several more.
From Zero to 4 vertical mills
“In return, we can leverage our brand recognition and social media to help drive traffic between our media. CamWorks, Cimtronics Midwest, and SOLIDWORKS made it possible for us to get a CAM package that not only works within SOLIDWORKS but is changing the speed we can go from design to manufacturing.”
Moseman explained that the company started two and a half years ago with nothing. No machines on the shop floor. Now, they have a small team of talented individuals operating on 2 shifts operating 1 5-Axis and 4 vertical mills.
Moseman added: “For 2018 our goal is to maximise capacity on these machines, add PDM, MBD, inspection, and release more products than we have done in previous years. The future of this process is remaining digital. We are hopeful that SOLIDWORKS and Microsoft are willing to help.
“Our vision is to have a surface device mounted to every machine displaying a 3D inspection document of what is running. We know that building this architecture is crucial at this point in our business as we add more team members and products since we want to maintain our momentum.”
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