Mastercam Reseller Profile – Q&A with Axsys Incorporated
When the Axsys, Inc., was formed in 1994, its Mastercam sales were under $750K in its first year. Today, that number is $5 million. Over the years, the company has managed through economic uncertainty, adapting strategies for success. Headquartered in Wixom, Michigan, the company serves the automotive, aircraft, and energy industries throughout the state.
As automotive-related businesses closed or left the state of Michigan, Axsys generated additional revenues by focusing on customer service and the energy and aircraft markets. We caught up with owner Steve Braykovich to learn how Axsys stayed the course during tough economic times in the Great Lakes State.
What Mastercam services do you offer customers?
We have our own training department and two dedicated rooms with 12 training stations, electronic weight boards, and a variety of “high-tech” communication tools. We host webinar demonstrations, web-based support, and call-in support. Our five applications engineers focus on on-site and off-site support as well as customer training.
If customers have a problem that cannot be effectively handled remotely, our engineers will go on-site. We also offer on-site support products with prepackaged services as well. When customers first buy software, they come here to receive training. When they get back, we offer additional on-site support to kickstart their operations.
What is the latest, most exciting customer application you have?
We were able to penetrate a very large opportunity with a customer whose main business has turned from automotive to aerospace and defense work, mainly large weldments, using another software in the CAD/CAM room. ProDrill was the closer in this deal, as they need to be able to machine holes by color to a complex standards chart, which includes a mixture of inches and metric dimensions.
The original order was for two network Mastercam Mill licenses with ProDrill and a post processor for a Dayton 5-axis mill for a shop-floor operation initiative. Shortly after, they added a Mastercam Wire EDM license to replace the previous solution. This was followed by the purchase of a Mastercam Multiaxis Lathe license that is used with a 5-Axis Breton mill with a VTL table mounted on the mill table. Most recently, they added an additional three Mill licenses and six CIMCO (CIMCO Integration) licenses for use on the floor.
We also have a customer in Northern Michigan, Van Dam Boats, that builds large, custom wooden (hull, deck, interior, etc.) boats of any size and style for speed or pleasure use. They build maybe six to eight boats a year and were previously outsourcing all the metal components of products. They eventually decided to venture into the world of metal manufacturing to produce these parts in-house.
Van Dam Boats purchased Mastercam Mill 3D and a Haas mill to accomplish this objective. This proved a challenge as they had no metal machining experience.
We were able to help them as we could leverage our decades of machining experience to help the identify which parts were suitable for machining on their machine and how to fixture, tool, process, and program their parts in the most effective and efficient way. Their boats are beautiful and, of course, quite expensive, giving credence to their claim of building “The world’s finest wooden boats.”
What is your favorite feature in Mastercam?
To me, the biggest valued-added feature is Dynamic Motion technology. It shows leadership in the market and proves that technology is advancing, not stagnant. With this technology, not only can you increase production and reduce cost, a customer does not necessarily have to invest in new equipment. Customers can use their current equipment with Mastercam and see a minimum of a 10 to 20 percent increase in efficiency—the typical increase a shop owner wants to see to justify an investment in his or her business. That’s an exciting feature for me.
What are you looking forward to?
It would be completion of comprehensive Mill-Turn software for complex mill-turn machines. This opens up a new market for us. As we move forward, we see a saturation the market in terms of traditional milling and turning solutions. As a result, to achieve significant growth we’ve got to look for something new that enables us to pursue an application or market that we previously haven’t been able to penetrate. That’s the biggest thing I’m looking forward to. Outside of that, I’d love to see core technology advancements to allow faster processing and simplification of the user experience.
What are some challenges that are unique to your region?
I don’t think Michigan is any different than other places from the standpoint of how we generate sales, but our challenge is trying to find more applications. Serving automotive companies means we have to present solutions that are effective in a variety of manifesting disciplines such as: mold, dies, fixtures, and discrete parts utilizing a host of different machine tools.
For example, if an automaker wants to build a door panel, the completed panel also needs a variety of molds, fabric, switches, electrical components, etc. The automotive company may give its production, as a “package” to another company or do all or part of it themselves.
In the case of a plastic part, like a door panel, the door panel goes to a plastic company (customer molder) that builds or buys molds from a tool builder, acquires material, paints, assembles, and inspects the door. The molds may be outsourced depending on size to one or more mold shops. The door panel gets parted out. For its next project, the automaker might do it all and use its own suppliers.
The real challenge is that suppliers have disappeared, because in the last 12 or so years, they’ve lost automotive business. They have either gone out of business or moved their operations south or out of the country. The resultant work was absorbed by large suppliers who then had excess capacity. This results in less opportunities with many competitive software distributors and direct sales forces vying for the business.
Another side-effect of the loss of automotive-related manufacturing is the decision of community colleges and other institutions to scale back or eliminate manufacturing programs which presents a challenge as when the current favorable economic conditions present new sales opportunities (as we are experiencing today), we find it difficult (and sometimes impossible) to fully capitalize on the opportunity. This is because much of the experienced labor force has relocated out of state with little “new blood” coming out of school as replacements to operate newly purchased machines and software.
One of the largest opportunities in our market is in mold and die shops that do large intricate work and currently have many seats of other CAM software (often more than one) to address their large 3- to 5-axis, 2 dimensional, EDM, and lathe operations. Many of these shops, have funds and are looking to reduce operating costs and standardize on one or two CAD/CAM applications. These businesses would potentially purchase many seats of software presenting a large software, training, and service revenue opportunity for us.
We have a challenge to grow our presence and our revenue in this vertical market by addressing their large, complex work. That’s what is exciting about going into these new opportunities and introducing them to Dynamic Motion technology. The challenge is to get them off their current system and show them that they can get a significant performance and resulting profitability increase with Mastercam while enjoying the benefits of a large pool of programmers to choose from—likely at a significantly lower cost per hour. The challenge being our ability to effectively manage and process large data sets and provide the surface finishes and editing capabilities they are enjoying with their current solutions.
What are some unique issues that you can solve by being a local support hub for Mastercam?
Some of our competitors don’t have the local capability so they really cannot offer timely quality support to their customers. Local support helps us sell. If a customer needs someone from one of our competitors to come out and address problems or issues related to a particular job, the competitive solution provider will typically have no resource available, long lead times, or will do so at significant expense to the customer.
Additionally, much of the training these providers offer is over the web. Effective training of CAM software and post processor development cannot be accomplished through a web-based training program. When things go bad, they can go really bad, and users must be able to get their software or post processor related issues solved quickly or have a support specialist available to come to their site to sort out their problems.
For example, if a customer has to deliver parts on Monday but can’t get the machines to run properly, they call us for help. In another example, maybe they lost an operator and have no one available to take over. We have the ability to send our highly-skilled engineers on-site to provide our customers the ability to fill the gap, so they can maintain their lead-times. The ability to do this helps us sell as it creates a significant, referenceable value proposition.
Of course, when we first pursue a Mastercam sales opportunity and present this value proposition, customers may not realize the full value of this type of service or that a competitor may not have this type of service. It is important to communicate this value, so our customers clearly understand how we are different from competitors and our commitment to helping them in achieving their quality, production, and profitably objectives.
Do you sell any other products besides Mastercam?
We sell products that complement Mastercam, including Verisurf® (Verisurf Software), 3D gages, inspection equipment as well as 3D printers. Also, we have a dental division that offers CAD/CAM software, machine tools, and consumable products.
For more information about Axsys Inc., visit www.axsys.inc.com.
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