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Fresh from winning The Queen’s Award For Enterprise, The PCE GROUP welcomed Innova Systems to our Suffolk HQ, to share why we invested in SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD in 2006 and how it has helped power design, innovation and development within our award winning business.

PCE Automation was founded in 1961 by the Grandfather of current Managing Director James Cook (Ernest James Cook) who was a boat builder here in Beccles.   James has grown up within the business and has built an ethos of disruptive innovation,  which sits at the core of what we aim to achieve as a successful business,  We are disruptors in the markets of Fast Moving Consumer Goods, Ocular & Medical Automation, Industrial Packaging and Industrial Automation, adapting our solutions to apply in a variety of sectors.

Innova Systems and PCE formed our relationship in 2006 when we were exploring options in switching from 2D to 3D CAD.  James recalls  “I remember talking to Innova Systems and they said SOLIDWORKS allows the designer to design”, said Cook, “I was unsure about this, you know, coming from a drawing board and 2D CAD background, but almost from day one, it allowed me to see first hand on the screen, 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.  All of this was now all in front of me”.

James Cook, Managing Director of PCE Automation – Part of the PCE GROUP of Companies

“SOLIDWORKS has really allowed PCE Automation to concentrate on design, you know the important things: Improving efficiency, speeds, everything our customers look 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. Our Mechanical Design Manager, Chris Booth said that one of the reasons for choosing SOLIDWORKS was “The intuitive nature of the program, decreasing the learning curve” and that  “…a lot colleges, Universities and education providers now teach it as a standard.  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 to a 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”.

Bowl Feed testing at PCE Automation

Using SOLIDWORKS from concept to manufacture

PCE Automation use SOLIDWORKS to produce professional 3D renders, which feature within our manuals and marketing tools, then are later used to present conceptual ideas to our customers, before moving into fine detailing prior to manufacture. On the subject of manufacturing, Chris Booth said: “Since we have invested in our new CNC machine, it’s really sped up the manufacturing process. Our designers are able to export a STEP file from SOLIDWORKS, sending it across to our 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 also invested in an Arburg Freeformer 3D Printer, to increase our additive manufacturing capabilities, allowing us to  ‘Conceptualise the product, print and then test in a vastly reduced timeframe, in conjunction with SOLIDWORKS”, said Booth.

“Time to market is an imperative requirement for 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 a competitive edge.”

Effective Data Management for any company is paramount, especially when multi-disciplinary teams collaborate on large projects.  PCE engaged Innova in sourcing 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, but were also able to generate accurate costings for us, allowing me to efficiently 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, translating 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 an investment in them.  Their annual SOLIDWORKS subscription package means we know that we can benefit from full assistance and support in any event.  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 to keep loss of productivity to an absolute minimum. With the support being live throughout the day, if we have an issue which requires assistance,  it is very easy for them to remote onto our systems to highlight and resolve issues first hand”.

Large assembly design in SOLIDWORKS.  

It goes without saying that SOLIDWORKS are a vital piece of the puzzle for PCE Automation, just as much now as in 2006.  We were delighted to welcome Innova Systems into our home to show how SOLIDWORKS has helped us to evolve and how much we value their contribution to our success.  “In 2020 we were awarded The Queens Award For Enterprise.   Whilst it is an award PCE has won, we acknowledge our prominent alliance partnerships and that both SOLIDWORKS and Innova Systems are right up there as key factors in our success”  commented James Cook.

To find out more about PCE Automation, take a look at our video case study below, or visit our website here.


The original article was written and published by Innova Systems and has been adapted for a PCE Audience and for SEO purposes.  All writing credit remain with the author.  The original article can be found here

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