Raising a Business On A Budget

Westlake, Louisiana (population 4,668) is not exactly a thriving manufacturing community. But that hasn’t prevented Don Ford, owner of Ford CNC, from following his passion, which happens to be manufacturing. To grow his business, he invested in a solid, used CNC mill and advanced CAD/CAM software. He’s learning to use these tools for all they are worth and relying on an abundance of inexpensive or free resources to get him over the inevitable bumps.
Challenge
Transform a part-time machining business into a full-time operation.
Solution
Mastercam X CAD/CAM Software combined with inexpensive or completely free educational and training resources.
Benefits
  • Improved workflow
  • Improved productivity
  • Increased capability translating into higher profitability
  • Low cost educational resources conserves capital which can be invested in hard business assets

Project Details
Ford CNC is a very small shop located in rural Westlake, LA. The owner, Don Ford, operates the business during his “spare” time, taking advantage of a unique 14-days-on/14-days-off work schedule at his full-time chemical plant job.

Soon he hopes to transition this work into a full time business and Mastercam is helping a lot. Since installing his Mastercam Seat at the beginning of 2007 he has nearly doubled the amount of work he is handling with his Ocuma Mill. This is because he gets parts programmed so much faster. In addition, quality has improved since he has been using a number of toolpaths designed to improve surface finish.
Don Ford’s plan is to continue building up his applications knowledge and CAD/CAM skills. That should take his business to the next level. His self-directed training program takes advantage of an abundance of free or nearly free resources available to every Mastercam user.
Here is Ford’s personal list low- or no-cost business-building resources for small shop owners:
Friends. Don Ford has a lot of them. A shop-owner friend in another part of the country gives him all kinds of good advice about machining and workholding strategies, equipment and software. Friends can also keep you out of trouble. Ford recently handed off a very complex part to a friend in the business because it was a little bit out of reach for him in terms of his current equipment. This allowed him to keep a good customer happy.
Resellers. Basic training came bundled with his CAD/CAM software seat. Ford also plans to invest in advanced training, but until he does his distributor has been more than happy to answer questions when Ford ventures into unfamiliar territory.
Net Viewer. Ford’s Mastercam Reseller is located about 75 miles from his shop but that is less of a problem than you might think. “If I am having trouble with a part, we both log onto Netviewer on the Internet (http://www.netviewer.net/). He can either look at my screen or I can look at his. He can run mine or I can run his. When I’m starting to struggle and I need to get work out, it’s like he’s sitting right beside me.”
Books and Articles. There are all kinds of books and articles that have helped Ford improve his machining skills. But reading is not enough in his case. He picks up new information much more quickly if he can read about it and then see it demonstrated.
Steaming Video. For online demonstrations, is very excited about a web site called StreamingTeacher (http://www.streamingteacher.com/). The site was started by a Mastercam Reseller who has posted libraries of show & tell videos on a wide range of subjects related to Mastercam and AutoCAD. Visitors can sign for unlimited access to a library of courseware by the quarter, half year, or annually.
Forums and Message Boards. Don Ford is even getting a helping hand from people he has never actually met. He meets them on forums and message boards. For example, he asked for some information about thread milling on eMastercam (http://www.emastercam.com/) and helpful suggestions from another user were waiting for him when he checked in the next morning.
Is this self-education program working for Ford? Let’s see:
  • During the first half of 2007 there have been several months when Ford CNC brought in more income than his full-time job.
  • Word is getting out about the shop’s good work and fast turnaroundAnd Ford CNC is growing a backlog.

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