Sport Systems Unlimited of Ontario, Canada, is proving that every day by using SolidWorks(R) CAD software to drive robotic production of rink board systems that look better, last longer, and are easier to maintain.
SolidWorks, at the heart of a recent lean manufacturing transformation at Sport Systems, automatically generates robotics and CNC code from 3D solid models. The new manufacturing approach has slashed production time of custom rinks at one of Canada's fastest-growing companies from approximately 1,200 staff-hours per rink in 2006 to 450 staff-hours in 2009.
"We can now produce more hockey board systems more efficiently with the same amount of staff and virtually no overtime, all of which has set us apart in the industry," said David Staines, Sport Systems director of sales and marketing.
Lean manufacturing, robotics, and SolidWorks have also allowed us to branch out into new markets like indoor soccer, one of North America's fastest-growing sports, and even pharmaceuticals, where partitions prevent cross-contamination of drug batches. Efficiencies realized from our new manufacturing program also positioned us for a merger that allowed us to become a preferred rink equipment supplier to the NHL." Sport Systems has distinguished itself among architects, builders, and rink managers with product advantages in both aesthetics and usage. Sports Systems hockey boards are made of mechanically fastened anodized aluminum frames, high-density polyethylene puckboard, tempered safety glass, and stainless steel hardware. This contributes to a highly polished, rust-free appearance using the same materials as retail storefronts. It contributes to a comfortable, family-friendly atmosphere.
"Switching to SolidWorks software was a critical move in our manufacturing transformation," said Chris Henhoeffer, Sport System's project manager and design coordinator. "Prior to embracing SolidWorks and 3D, the knowledge for producing a set of boards was in shop floor drawing templates and with manufacturing employees, requiring arduous fabrication steps and intensive training. Now the knowledge is inside the engineering office. SolidWorks software streams data out to robots and CNC machines via its Visual Basic for Applications interface. Line workers simply set up raw stock, punch in the SolidWorks part code, and watch the panel, part, or aluminum member be machined in a fraction of the previous time." Sport Systems uses DriveWorks(R) knowledge-based engineering software, a Certified SolidWorks Gold Partner Product, with SolidWorks for configuring customized board sizes for the job.