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GK Machine: Success with Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk Vault, & KETIV

by Rick Garvey on May 2, 2017

GK Machine - KETIV Customer Success Story

GK Machine is an industry leader helping customers in agriculture, transportation, and other markets transform bold ideas into specialty equipment with Autodesk 3D modeling software and support from KETIV.

See how GK Machine uses Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Vault to bring their innovative ideas to life and build better products for their customers.

Helping Customers Improve Efficiency & Safety

GK Machine designs and manufactures specialty equipment, parts, and other machinery for a wide range of customers in agriculture, transportation, construction and industrial manufacturing. Founded in 1976, the company is dedicated to helping companies increase productivity, bring efficiencies to production, inventory turns, and processing time, and ensure worker safety.

The company’s engineering prowess enables it to take on projects that its competitors typically turn down due to their complexity. Many start as interesting ideas from customers, which GK Machine brings to life through a rigorous design process.

The Challenge: Turning Inspiration Into Reality

Some of the most compelling design concepts come from the people who interact with industrial equipment every day and have a unique vision for how to make a machine run more efficiently or align more closely with the demands of a very specific job.

For GK Machine, these ideas are a source of inspiration, innovation, and ultimately, growth. One of the most important ways GK Machine develops its business is by shepherding new ideas from the conceptual stage through to design and manufacturing.

“Having an idea is one thing,” says Nick Williams, engineer at GK Machine. “Then you have to look at what is feasible in terms of functionality and budget. We focus on finding the design that will make the biggest impact on the customer ’s business. Of course, we also look closely at whether we can take a one-off, customized idea and apply it more broadly to other use cases.”

Sometimes the challenge is relatively straightforward. Recently, GK Machine helped redesign a towel-sorting machine sold to restaurants and hotels, enabling it to be operated by just one person instead of four. Time studies and a meticulous engineering design process clarified how to achieve the goal: put clean towels in at one end, get sorted, bagged towels at the other.

GK Machine - KETIV Customer Success Story

In other cases, the task is more complicated. For example, a specialty onion grower approached the company about modifying a tractor to accommodate custom spraying equipment and chemical holding tanks after the original manufacturer refused to make the adjustments.

“The grower wanted a certain boom width, a certain height for the adjustable sprayer, and many other ideas, all incorporated in the same project,” Williams says. “To do this effectively, you have to be able to show them what you’re thinking and how everything fits together.”

The Solution: Autodesk Software & Expert Service Streamline the Sales Process

Working with KETIV, GK Machine added 3D modeling to its operation with Autodesk Inventor software. The ability to visualize custom projects with it has improved the sales process.

“The balance we have to strike is not spending too much time on engineering unless the customer is committed to moving forward,” says Connie Bradley, marketing manager for GK Machine. “At the same time, the customer can’t make that commitment without knowing how we intend to solve the problem. KETIV and Autodesk Inventor have helped us get there faster.”

Specifically, 3D modeling spurs collaboration between customer and engineer. It allows customers to get a better sense of what the preliminary design looks like and how it will operate. They can ask sharper questions and GK Machine can make more insightful suggestions, which means fewer iterations and a more efficient design process overall.

GK Machine - KETIV Customer Success Story

“3D modeling is what allows us to take on these complex specialty projects,” Williams says. “Working in 2D simply takes longer. With Inventor, the process is streamlined and simplified. You can detect parts that may be interfering with each other and easily correct them. And from the customer’s perspective, a 3D model that you can spin around seems much more real.”

3D modeling is more complex than 2D, which makes the design process more challenging to manage as teams work on different parts of the same system in parallel. To track work in process, organize documentation, and maintain version control, GK Machine relies on Autodesk Vault. This collaboration and data management application integrates directly with Inventor.

Getting these software tools up and running and keeping them fine-tuned over time is where KETIV comes in. As specialists in Autodesk software, the KETIV team is uniquely qualified to handle implementation, training, on-demand technical support, and ongoing education.

“We see KETIV as our strategic partner,” Williams says . “If we have a question or a problem or if we need to know how to get the most out of the software, we call KETIV.”

One of the most popular sources for getting tips, tricks, and updates about Autodesk software is KETIV’s Autodesk Virtual Academy, a free online training program with thousands of subscribers worldwide. A short information session is available weekly, giving GK Machine’s engineering team ample opportunity to learn directly from KETI V experts and Autodesk partners.

“The Virtual Academy has been a good resource for understanding new processes that I have not had the time to explore on my own,” says Ray Jentges, agricultural engineer for GK Machine. “The Q& A sessions allowed me to get answers extremely quickly. The videos are very valuable as well.”

The Result: GK Machine Drives Growth Through Innovation

Working with accurate 3D models regularly creates opportunities for GK Machine to develop more effective designs and improve existing products. Autodesk Inventor software helped the GK Machine team change the design of a blueberry harvester, for example, increasing its pick rate from 100 to 450 pounds per hour.

In another instance, when a three-point mounted fertilizer spreader that was originally designed in 2D was converted to a complete 3D model, engineers immediately recognized a substantial labor-saving design change.

GK Machine - KETIV Customer Success Story

“We adjusted a part to make the manufacturing process for the whole machine more efficient,” Williams says. “You can’t always see everything in 2D. After the conversion, we saw how to rework the design in a way that would reduce questions from the shop floor about how to fabricate it.”

Changes of this nature, which happen all the time given the company’s workload, are what GK Machine keeps under control with Vault.

“The Vault software has saved our bacon more than a few times,” Bradley says. “It ensures we’re using the correct drawings, and it helps our teams on the shop floor understand exactly what’s expected, so there is less back and forth. If they have a question, they can look at the 3D model on screen. It’s making us more efficient and reducing errors, which means fewer warranty claims.”

Unlocking the benefits of Vault, however, required hands-on assistance from KETIV. Nobody at GK Machine had ever implemented an application like Vault , so the expertise and advice of the K ETIV team was essential for a smooth transition.

This kind of support is ongoing, too. When GK Machine migrated to a new version of Vault and needed KETIV’s assistance with permissioning issues, they called the KETIV “Lifeline.” This priority support service provides personalized assistance from engineers who are familiar with the software installation and GK Machine’s business needs.

In the end, the real advantage of Autodesk software and support from KETIV is the ability to visualize new ideas more quickly and more effectively, which propels the design process.

“Our customers can come in with any idea to make their process more efficient, stable, or safe,” Williams says. “And we have the freedom to turn our brainstorms into assemblies and get the customer’s reaction right away. It’s especially critical for prototypes. We just completed a custom lettuce harvester, for example, which we couldn’t have done without 3D modeling. And we expect that single prototype to help us generate several more jobs for us in the future.”

Download the GK Machine Case Study


Join GK Machine every Thursday for Autodesk Virtual Academy - free, ongoing training webinars offering tips and tricks, information on new Autodesk releases and capabilities, and insight on how to make your processes more effective and efficient.

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Topics: Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk Vault, Vault Pro, Customer Success, Vault, Inventor, GK Machine

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