Streamlining Vinyl Fencing and Decking Development with SOLIDWORKS Software


Outdoor Technologies Inc.

The Company

Outdoor Technologies Inc. (OTI) manufactures vinyl fencing, decking, and railing products. The company originally used AutoCAD® 2D design tools, but believed it could increase productivity and improve product visualization for its customers by moving to a 3D CAD system. OTI initially chose the Autodesk® Inventor® 3D CAD package in 2003. Because the company had used Autodesk software, it believed upgrading to Inventor represented the most economical option due to discounted pricing, according to Stan Hathorn, engineering/technical manager.

The Challenge

"At first, we believed Inventor software would meet our needs," Hathorn recalls. "But after using Inventor for six months, we became dissatisfied, especially when we tried to use it to develop extrusion dies, which are specialized pieces of machinery that we use to manufacture our products. Our extrusion dies involve complex geometries that require the use of lofts and sweeps. Inventor could not do the operations we needed, and would crash frequently. We also were not satisfied with the way Inventor handled files, configurations, bills of materials (BOMs), and assembly operations. After encountering one problem after another, we decided enough was enough, and began to look at other 3D CAD packages."

The company evaluated SOLIDWORKS® and Pro/ENGINEER® 3D CAD software before purchasing a trial seat of SOLIDWORKS software. "We went with a trial license to make sure we were making the right decision," Hathorn notes. "We fell in love with SOLIDWORKS software because it's a much more powerful and easier system to use."

The Solution

OTI selected SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software, adding two seats to its initial trial license, because of the software's ease of use, stability, assembly, design tables, configurations, modeling, and automated BOM-generation capabilities.

  • Reduced design cycles by 66 percent
  • Increased throughput fourfold in less time
  • Streamlined development of extrusion dies
  • Improved product visualization and communication

"With SOLIDWORKS software, it takes about a third of the time to complete our designs."

Stan Hathorn
Engineering/Technical Manager