Meet a Mastercam Reseller in the Carolinas: Q&A with Barefoot CNC
James Wakeford, President/CEO of Barefoot CNC, became his own boss in 1996 after 10+ years manufacturing everything from wood furniture to metal components to high-precision parts for the racing industry. Jimmy was honing his 5-axis skills before 5-axis was cool. Originally housed in a small building in Charlotte, he and his wife Katie, who runs the day-to-day operations of the business, moved Barefoot home to Morganton, North Carolina, deep in the heart of the mountains of Western North Carolina.
Since then, they have realized much success in no small part to the expertise of the Barefoot staff – applications engineer Jason Parks, Jamie Boyd who handles support and posts, Trey Speas in sales, and Toni Boyd in customer service – and their ability to establish strong relationships with customers, partners, and schools throughout the Carolinas. These relationships, coupled with those Jimmy carried with him from his furniture and teaching days (he was an instructor at Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton), have helped create a community of manufacturers dedicated to keeping the Carolinas bustling. In 2002, Barefoot became the exclusive Mastercam Reseller in the Carolinas.
Jimmy is passionate about manufacturing and education. In the following Q&A, you will see that he and Barefoot CNC are making a great impact by serving the needs of the manufacturing community in North and South Carolina.
Q. What Mastercam services do you offer customers?
A. We offer everything from sales to training to post processing to individual on-site help. We are available to answer questions at all hours of the day and night – and we do get calls at all hours. We will help customers find the best machines and tools for their shops and unlock the features of Mastercam that they don’t even know exist to help their shops run more efficiently.
We’ll also introduce our customers to each other to bounce ideas, collaborate, and support the community. We run classes constantly and assess the customer’s operations and needs. We host Lunch ‘n Learn sessions and more comprehensive training sessions, especially when a new version of Mastercam comes out. We also work with colleges and technical schools to help train people for successful careers in manufacturing. Our service goes well beyond answering technical questions.
Q. What is the latest, most exciting customer application you have?
A. The manufacturing community as a whole is embracing training like never before. Where a lot of people see the “skills gap” as a hurdle, it is really an opportunity. Companies are hiring students part time and training existing operators to become programmers. There are so many training solutions available now: camInstructor, Mastercam University, classes here at Barefoot, and other training options.
Schools are offering books, seat time, custom classes, and online training. I believe that if you currently have a “skills gap” in your shop, it is not due to lack of resources. We can set a customer up to essentially grow their own programmers with a custom training program that works for them. The fact they end up buying more Mastercam is definitely a bonus!
Q. What is your favorite feature in Mastercam?
A. There is nothing like watching chips fly when running highspeed toolpaths! Dynamic Motion technology allows my customers – and me – to push these machines as fast as they will go and cut shapes and sizes that were never before possible. I always like a challenge, and after 25+ years in the business, I am always amazed at how much “new” this industry offers. But showing customers how to cut complex geometries in record times, and run their operations a whole lot more efficiently, is a new experience every day. Dynamic Motion lets people push not only their machines but themselves to grow their businesses and be successful.
Q. What are you looking forward to?
A. I am looking forward to new approaches to education. Barefoot is part of a network of educators and manufacturing companies dedicated to getting training and education “out of the classroom.” We have put together quite an effort here in the Carolinas to recruit kids and adults who were never cut out for a four-year university but would excel in a hands-on environment.
Using camInstructor, people don’t need to sit in a classroom all day; they can come to us for training or train on their own and then apprentice in a shop for that real-world experience. We work with the community colleges and tech schools in both Carolinas and sit on the CIP (Curriculum Improvement Program) for both states.
Together, we are dedicated to getting these students on the machines as soon as possible and helping them find work with our customers while still in school. They are not only teaching the hard skills but also those soft skills like proper dress, showing up to work on time, showing up to work at all, that help create the ideal employees of good character and work ethic. It’s exciting to see what’s happening and we are all working together to make it happen. Our scope widened even more last June when I accepted the role of Chairperson for the NIMS CAM Standard Committee which credentials colleges around the country.
Q. What are some challenges that are unique to your region?
A. The Carolinas are very diverse – you have the mountains and the coast and then the areas in between. In a city like Charlotte, North Carolina, or Charleston, South Carolina, manufacturing seems to be holding steady. Coastal areas are well-populated, and businesses continue to grow. But most of the Carolinas are rural and retaining talent has been a challenge.
In Western North Carolina, the furniture making industry was its bread and butter until the companies shut down or downsized and moved most of their manufacturing operations overseas. When Heritage Home Group filed for bankruptcy and closed its Broyhill and Thomasville plants earlier in 2018, and Henredon shut its doors, they dealt a huge blow to the region. Caterpillar also moved its North Carolina manufacturing operation out recently. Now we have about 1,000 people or so out of jobs and residents who aren’t so sure they want to stay in Burke County or in western North Carolina for that matter.
Barefoot partners with economic development groups locally like Work in Burke, a cooperation of manufacturers, educators, and local officials who are working together to keep the talent here. We are educating parents and students about the job opportunities in Western North Carolina and how to obtain the skills that will make them marketable and valuable employees. We have a lot of manufacturing shops here, but no one knows about them.
In the Greenville area of South Carolina, manufacturing is strong, but again, retaining talent beyond Greenville in the more rural counties is a challenge. Educating the parents and students about alternative career paths in manufacturing is an uphill battle that we continue to fight and win.
Q. What are some unique issues that you can solve by being a local support hub for Mastercam?
A. Barefoot is always available to help our customers be it by phone, email, or in person. Recently, one of our customers – a small start-up job shop in Statesville – ran into some problems while manufacturing some complex parts. They were new at machining and Mastercam, and they needed on-site help in finishing the job.
Jason spent a few days, including some Saturdays, on-site, side-by-side, showing them the best features in the software and how they work with the machines in the shop. Sometimes problems just can’t be solved through a phone call or electronically, and our ability and willingness to actually spend time with a customer to solve their problems saves them time and money.
When our customers run into major trouble, or perhaps need a larger machine for a temporary job, we connect them with other customers, partners, or colleges with state-of-the-art equipment and the people who know how to run it, so that they don’t have to turn down a job. We can connect people to solve problems, learn new skills, and help each other out. We have a great manufacturing community here in the Carolinas. The region is small enough that we can service it in person, yet large enough for us to have very different customers who we call friends.
Q. Do you sell any other products besides Mastercam?
A. We sell only Mastercam, but we are knowledgeable enough to recommend and train on all 3rd party solutions offered by Mastercam partners.
For more information on Barefoot CNC, visit https://www.barefootcnc.com
You can connect with Barefoot CNC directly by visiting their website. To find a Mastercam Reseller serving your local community, please complete our Find-a-Reseller form.