Innova Systems customer, PCE Automation Ltd provide bespoke turnkey automation solutions to an ever-expanding resume of clients in a wide variety of sectors. Fresh from winning The Queen’s Award For Enterprise, we visited the PCE team at their head office in Beccles, Suffolk to find out why they decided to buy SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD from us way back in 2006 and why they’re still using it today to power design and development at their award winning business.
PCE Automation was started by Managing Director, James Cook’s Grandfather, Ernest James Cook in 1961. “he was a boat builder and I’ve grown up with the business”, said Cook, “the company ethos is very much built around innovation and it’s been at the core of what we do since those early days of 1961. Now we’re disruptors in the markets of Fast Moving Consumer Goods, Ocular & Medical, Industrial Packaging and Industrial Automation and the solutions that we provide can really be adapted to a number of different sectors”.
Innova Systems and PCE first crossed paths in 2006 when they were investigating switching from 2D to 3D CAD. “I remember talking to Innova Systems and they said SOLIDWORKS allows the designer to design”, said Cook, “I was a unsure about this, you know, coming from a drawing board and then 2D CAD, but almost from day one it allowed me to see first hand on the screen, so rather than carrying all these images in my head as to how things were going to work, like clearances, fits, etc, or trying to decipher different coloured lines in a 2D package, now this was all in front of me”.
“SOLIDWORKS really allowed PCE Automation to concentrate on design, you know the important things: Improving efficiency, speeds, everything our customers were looking for”
When it came to choosing a CAD system, the decision was pretty straightforward for the PCE team based on ease of use and it’s popularity in the 3D CAD world. PCE’s Mechanical Design Manager, Chris Booth said that one of the reasons for choosing SOLIDWORKS was “The intuitive nature of the program, decreasing that learning curve” and that “…a lot colleges and Universities teach it as a standard and the advantage to us is that our guys only have to concentrate on the automation rather than learning the CAD package as well”.
Mark Rothon, Mechanical Designer at PCE is also quick to praise the benefits of SOLIDWORKS, stating: “It’s incredibly useful as a very quick way to do concept design, bringing in pre-made blocks of components, for example. We use this near the start of a project for creating a 2D concept plan which will progress into 3D presentation. SOLIDWORKS is the perfect package for that, whether that’s (traditionally) at face to face meetings/site visits, or in more recent times screen sharing online”.
Using SOLIDWORKS from concept to manufacture
PCE Automation use SOLIDWORKS to produce professional 3D renders, which feature in their manuals and marketing tools and are then used to present conceptual ideas to their customers, before moving into fine detailing ready for manufacture. On the subject of manufacturing, Chris Booth said: “Since we’ve had the new CNC machine it’s really sped up the manufacturing process. Our designers are able to export a STEP file from SOLIDWORKS and send it across to the machine shop where they run it straight into the machine. The drawing can follow to check post machining, but that initial speed is greatly increased”.
PCE have an Aarburg Freeformer 3D Printer that’s been used on multiple projects in conjunction with SOLIDWORKS. “The advantage of having a 3D printer onsite here means we can conceptualise the product, print and then test in a vastly reduced timeframe”, said Booth.
“Time to market is an imperative requirement from our customers and SOLIDWORKS has allowed us keep pushing to keep ahead of our competition. The complexity of automation that we can deliver within short timeframes really gives us that competitive advantage”
Effective Data Management for any company is paramount, especially when multi-disciplinary teams are collaborating on large projects, and we were approached to find the right solution for PCE. Mark Rothon explains: “The Innova Systems sales team were incredibly helpful when we were investigating SOLIDWORKS PDM (Product Data Management). They not only showed us how it worked and how we could make the best use of it, they were able to generate accurate costings for us, which allowed me to present the project to our board of directors”.
“I’m pleased to say we now have a fully working SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional system in place, allowing us to directly transport data into our MRP system, which then translates into parts being ordered, parts appearing, being fitted and machines being built on our shop floor”.
The Innova Systems team work hard to make sure that every single customer gets the full benefit of their investment with us, and our annual SOLIDWORKS subscription package means customers like PCE know we’re there if they need assistance. Chris Booth explains: “I think the biggest benefit of having Innova Systems as our reseller is the after-sales support we get from them. The Technical Support from Innova Systems allows us to minimise downtime and keep loss of productivity to a minimum. With the support being live throughout the day, if we have an issue that Innova need to help us with it’s very easy for them to remote into our computers to highlight the issue or solve it first hand”.
It goes without saying that SOLIDWORKS is an important part of the puzzle at PCE Automation today, just as it has been since they started using it in 2006. It’s been fantastic for everyone at Innova Systems to see them continue to grow over the years and we’re delighted to have played a part in that success. “In 2020 we were awarded The Queens Award For Enterprise and, whilst it’s an award PCE has won, SOLIDWORKS and Innova Systems are right up there as key players within that”, said James Cook.
To find out more about PCE Automation, take a look at our video case study below, or visit their website here.