DECKED design team optimizes large assembly work and PDM tools with help from TriMech

When slowdowns started happening at DECKED, they turned to TriMech to help them optimize performance and restore peak productivity.

When your SOLIDWORKS engineering team expands beyond one or two users, processes that once worked fine can become cumbersome and ineffective. When slowdowns started happening at DECKED, they turned to TriMech to help them optimize performance and restore peak productivity.

From job sites to camp sites, farms to fishing holes, DECKED products allow pickup truck owners to improve storage capacity, protection from weather, organization, and ergonomics. The idea is to put more in your truck and retrieve all of it without stretching over the bed rail or crawling over everything you’re carrying.

DECKED truck storage

DECKED products allow pickup truck owners to improve storage capacity, protection from weather, organization, and ergonomics

In business for about nine years, DECKED continues to operate with a dynamic team and start-up culture. In earlier years, they focused on designing and building truck bed drawer systems and accessories; today, they are expanding product offerings, such as a new toolbox that sits behind the cab and includes an integrated ladder.

DECKED has grown to a team of 70 people and is on track to sell 50,000 drawer systems this year. Design, sales, and marketing are in Ketchum, Idaho and manufacturing is in Defiance, Ohio.

Calvin Allan is Principal – Product Development for DECKED. He said a midwestern, Idaho work ethic is built into the company’s DNA.

“We’re proud of our attention to detail and we must get it absolutely right. We could stop at good enough, but we don’t. We always make it stronger and better than we have to. Our company prioritizes that.”

Solving the slowdowns

As the DECKED design team expanded, they were wasting time opening and rebuilding large assemblies. The OEMs supply massive, detailed models of their truck beds. Add that complexity to DECKED’s own complicated models, and integration and manipulation of assemblies wasn’t happening fast enough.

“Customization is our magic and the key to our profitability,” Calvin said. “Our configurable SOLIDWORKS models need to be updated quickly. I knew we needed to go deeper into how SOLIDWORKS is running and learn how to optimize accordingly.”

To investigate, TriMech did a Large Assembly Performance Audit and a PDM Health Check and Audit.

They recommended that DECKED take advantage of TriMech’s Large Assembly Productivity Service, to teach Calvin and his team how the software operates “under the hood” during opening and rebuilding phases, how to identify what causes slowdowns, and how to solve those problems. It was also important for users to learn best practices for creating fast and clean large assemblies.

“TriMech didn’t just do the work,” Calvin explained. “They taught us what levers they pull to make a difference. We learned the implications of how we were doing CAD, such as how display states and section views were affecting our work. Unused elements and suppressed components were creating errors and bloated models.”

Calvin’s team learned that when they don’t need great detail, working with resolved (unsuppressed) assembly components is unnecessary.

“When vendor models come in, there is excessive detail. Now we know that if we don’t need to see a detailed thread pattern, we get rid of it. We didn’t know we had so much control over opening individual parts.”

The team now works faster than they ever have before.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say our opening times are 10 times faster. Files that took 30 minutes to open now open in a few minutes and files that took a few minutes now open in seconds.”

Custom, relevant training

TriMech delivered team training remotely from Canada and it was recorded for anyone who couldn’t attend live (or for future new hires). Even Calvin, an advanced user, learned “golden” tips during TriMech’s training sessions.

“The training was custom to our work, geared toward what we were seeing every day. They didn’t use canned examples. You could spend years doing something one way, never knowing there’s a better way.”

Work faster and reduce errors using PDM features

Calvin also noted that TriMech’s PDM Health Check and Audit revealed areas for improvement. Again, the DECKED PDM system was organized well enough for one person but not efficient when multiple users contribute to the same files.

“TriMech didn’t come in with a prescribed recipe. They said, ‘show us what you’re doing.’ Their audit report recommended improvements, then their services team built them right in front of us.”

Overall, that meant modifying the existing workflow to suit current business processes. DECKED now has a faster, better file search function, automated processes (such as file conversion) using SOLIDWORKS PDM Tasks, and email notifications to speed up drawing review and approval.

“We were using PDM for file storage, like you would use Google Drive,” Calvin said. “We weren’t using it to manage our workflow and we had no gating. Now, our file structure is efficient. It’s fast and easy to find files, see if they are checked out, and understand what stage they’re at. We can tag files to bypass review or demand review. We can see if files have been to the vendor or parts have been released.”

With PDM use elevated, more people at DECKED are beginning to understand how it can be a meaningful tool across the company.

Devote the time to learning

DECKED started benefiting from their investment in training and services quickly, putting new methods into practice right away.

“There will always be emergencies competing for your attention,” Calvin said. “You have to devote the time to learning to be better off in the long term. And TriMech has been a well-oiled machine. They have what I need – the people and processes for deployment and follow up.”

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