Get To Know a Mastercam Reseller: Meet MECAD
MECAD Systems has been the machining support company in South Africa since its foundation in 1989. From the very beginning, MECAD has been a Reseller of Mastercam CAD/CAM software, even when Mastercam was still a version running inside CADKEY. MECAD’s three branches in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban are designed specifically to provide a far-reaching and wide range of technical support for sub-Saharan manufacturing shops. It has earned such awards as Top Ten International Reseller and Top Ten International Reseller for Growth, and the smart money is on MECAD earning more in the future. Robert Milne (Senior Business Development Engineer), Pieter Gouws (Previous Product Manager), and Mats Booysen (Current Product Manager) recently sat down to share MECAD’s philosophy and its keys to success.
What services do you offer?
Gouws: The primary service that we’ve offered to our customers is technical support. For example, if you get into trouble with Mastercam or have technical questions, we’re here to help. That means onsite training in some cases, or we’ll offer training at one of our branches. Training courses cover subjects like multiaxis and essentials. For customers with old or unique machines, we can develop post processors for them. We also help design parts and create programs on a consultation basis, as well as doing some quality process analyses. We’ll look to see if a shop is using their tools correctly and getting the cycle times they need. If not, we offer guidance to get them back on track. Often that’s by finding a new tool, application, or machine.
What makes MECAD unique as a Reseller?
Milne: What makes us unique as a Reseller in South Africa is that we also provide products like SOLIDWORKS and Robotmaster – we’re actually the sole distributor for Robotmaster in South Africa – as well as CIMCO and Verisurf. So, we’re not doing just one thing for our customers. Mastercam is our main focus, but we like to provide full shop support and offer all of the extra add-ons that can improve their software experience. I think what really stands out with us is how long we’ve been a Reseller. We’ve been connected with Mastercam from the very beginning and have some incredible loyal customers who have stayed with us since that start. They’ve transitioned along with us from a simpler program to the latest and greatest. In this industry, it’s odd to have clients from the 80s still be with you today.
Booysen: What stands out to me is the philosophy of MECAD and the integrity of the people here. When our team goes out to customers and gives them quotes, there’s a deep honesty there. I’ve seen other companies make some false claims, just trying to grab clients for a quick sale. If something is going to be more expensive, we will tell our customers, and we make sure the value for their money is optimized. We are selling so much more than a product.
How would you describe your customer base?
Milne: The largest industry we currently serve is the mining industry, but we also serve the automotive, medical, and aerospace industries. Globally, we are proud to support two of the largest aerospace companies in this area: Boeing and Airbus. Even though they are competitors, they both use Mastercam. We also enjoy helping robust small engineering shops, small start-ups, and the education sector. One of the areas we really try to involve ourselves in is the education facilities in South Africa. Mostly we’re helping in universities, colleges, and private training facilities. We really enjoy it to see more skilled programmers enter the workforce.
Gouws: Our customers use this software in incredible ways and with so many applications. For example, I was in Cape Town recently working with a shop that specializes in prosthetics. We were dealing with a kneecap prosthetic made of titanium. I got to see the entire process, from the scans of the patient to the finished part. It was so important to meet those super tight tolerances and to keep everything finished perfectly so that it won’t cause any infections or motion issues. Standing there, seeing those very specific needs for a specific client was remarkable. This same customer also makes heart implants and other complicated medical parts, which is outside of what most people assume is possible for countries like South Africa. We are proud to be a part of it.
Are there any challenges unique to your area?
Milne: Some of the challenges we tend to face surround our smaller engineering companies. If the economy loses stability, they tend to get the worst of it. We saw this with the pandemic. They are hit first and hardest. Often, they have to close down because of it, because they don’t have that international support to act as a buffer. Many of our international customers go through those times unharmed. Our smaller engineering customers, mostly job shops, those are the ones who truly suffer when times get hard. What we like to do is find simple or cost-effective ways to keep them afloat. That doesn’t mean selling more software or pushing bigger machines on them. We strengthen their skillsets and their technical knowledge so that they can more effectively use the tools they already have so that they can take on more jobs. We find ourselves in a position to help them get up and running again.
Gouws: Often we find that when larger companies have to go to these smaller shops for their parts, they’re happier with the overall result than if they’d gone with an overseas manufacturer. They end up with a higher quality part that is sometimes even less expensive because it’s made locally. This is where you start seeing smaller shops making a name for themselves in a particular niche. Then more people notice, and all of the sudden they’re growing and taking on more and more jobs. We love accommodating that.
How does being local help MECAD solve customer problems?
Milne: We can assist anyone in the country, whether that’s out of our Durban Branch, our Cape Town branch, or the headquarters here in Johannesburg. No matter where they are, we can help them find what they need. And as much as Mastercam is our focus, we offer so much more. If a customer phones in saying they’re having an issue communicating to a particular machine and that their OEM isn’t getting back to them, we can go there in person and help. We can assist with their tooling and machining needs. We really like knowing when our partners are having specials so that we can hint to our customers, “Machine partner X is doing a promo right now, maybe you want to take a look at that.” We’ve got feet on the street to help our customers with troubleshooting software and with training on machines. What it boils down to is that we can support our customers in any stage of manufacturing.
Gouws: We are essentially a hub of industry connections, as well. If one of our customers’ needs to outsource something, we know who to send them to. If they’re stuck on a part, we can share techniques that we know are working for other similar companies. We know which specific people to send them to at different tooling and OEM companies.
What is your favorite feature in Mastercam?
Milne: It’s hard to pick a favorite, because each application calls for its own “favorite”, but the Push/Pull feature and Model Prep are ones that I use frequently. Those stand out for me and many of the applications guys here, because it was such an exciting feature when it came out. I can’t ignore Dynamic Motion, either. That tool was very new and intimidating for a lot of people, but once it went live, it was definitely one of the most sought-after features for our team to access.
Is there anything that the MECAD team is looking forward to or working towards?
Milne: Many people don’t realize this because they don’t see it on the TV, but South Africa is a relatively strong country when it comes to getting back on one’s feet. When we have been at the lowest our country’s ever been, we seem to climb up the ladder and return to normal – irrespective of whether that’s from a pandemic or a political issue – fairly quickly. Even now, we’re going through electricity outages every single day, and we’re finding a way to work through them. What everyone else sees as chaos, we see as normal. But what I am looking forward to is the continued return to a less chaotic normal.
Gouws: One of the things I’ve noticed in this industry is the amount of international business our customers in Africa have been doing. Maybe that’s making valves for companies in Australia or wind turbine blades for companies in Germany. These jobs are characterized by the fact that only those specific manufacturers can meet the quality expectations of their customers for whatever that project may be. It’s exciting that these jobs with exceptional quality standards are being sent to Africa. We are looking forward to helping to continue that trend.
Booysen: Exactly, and that’s actually why I joined this team. I think this company and the people here can make a real difference in the industry. That’s something I look forward to, and I think the whole company does as well. We want to improve and expand African manufacturing with our products and support. Our technical ability is so important. Myself, I’m excited to train more people and get more of these tools out there so that we can improve the South African economy, if you can go that far. Keeping work here or even having international work sent here is hugely beneficial to the people living in South Africa and even in Africa as a whole. We’re bringing a very essential service to this country.
We are also working on some exciting new things here at MECAD. We’re looking at developing add-ons for Mastercam, tailoring the product for our customers to improve efficiency — whether it means creating a tool that can do repetitive tasks quicker or creating a speeds and feeds optimizer for specific machines and tools. We are also looking at doing more in-house post development, up to 5-axis. We are building our team and expanding our capabilities to ensure we stay elite in the manufacturing software space. We are looking forward to implementing these products to the benefit of our customers.