ENGINEERING NINJAS: D3 President Kevin Schlack says the rapidly changing world of computer-aided design requires constant learning and customization.
SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON
Business Spotlight: Efficiency Engineers
In manufacturing, efficiency is the name of the game.
The staff at D3 Technologies understand that notion well. The Springfield-based 3-D design consultancy and customized technology firm built a client base of manufacturers, helping them produce their products more quickly and with less staff time.
A gold partner of San Francisco-based Autodesk Inc. (Nasdaq: ADSK) – the second-highest rank out of four – D3 resells the company’s 3-D-engineering software, often with customizations, and provides ongoing training to make sure its clients are well-versed in the products.
“We’re experts at the software,” says President Kevin Schlack, D3’s majority owner. “We are the largest Autodesk partner dedicated to manufacturing.”
Schlack says D3’s services are necessary given the complex nature of Autodesk solutions.
Even established and skilled engineers, he says, can get tripped up navigating Autodesk’s computer-aided manufacturing solutions.
“It’s beyond a learning curve because the technology is changing so quick,” Schlack says. “I refer to it is as a martial art. You don’t just take martial arts to finish. You continue to work on your craft.”
Expansion by acquisition
A spring acquisition further solidifies D3’s dedication to its manufacturing niche. It also grows the company’s client load by 80 percent and its revenue by over 90 percent.
On May 1, D3 bought what equates to roughly half of Madison, Wisconsin-based MasterGraphics Inc. for undisclosed terms.
Through the deal, D3 took over MasterGraphics’ Autodesk manufacturing and plant business assets, and the Springfield firm gained a foothold in the Great Lakes area.
The combined operation now led by Schlack and minority owner Mark Lackovic, a former MasterGraphics executive, is expected to produce $30 million in revenue this year with 6,000 clients, including 332 locally. That’s up from D3’s $13 million revenue in 2016 and the roughly $12 million from the MasterGraphics division, says Schlack.
It also brings the company’s workforce up to 70 – with 20 coming from MasterGraphics – spread across 19 offices and training centers nationwide.
A strategic partner of D3 for a decade, MasterGraphics now will focus on its architecture, engineering, construction, civil and imaging equipment businesses.
“I am confident that our Autodesk manufacturing clients will be in great and capable hands with D3,” MasterGraphics President Michael Wilkes said in a news release.
The purchase of MasterGraphics represents D3’s largest to date, but it’s not the company’s first expansion by acquisition.
D3 partially acquired Spokane, Washington-based PacifiCAD Inc. in 2016, bought the business assets of Lafayette, Louisiana-based Vector Graphics Inc. in 2014 and purchased CADVisions Inc.’s Autodesk manufacturing business in 2007.
Organic growth is still important, though, Schlack says, pointing to regional expansion into Kansas City and St. Louis, as well as farther away in Denver.
“I would say it’s a blend,” he says of organic and acquisition-driven growth.
D3’s client list represents a who’s who of area manufacturers: Paul Mueller Co., EFCO Corp., Tamko Building Products Inc. and Bass Pro Shops’ White River Marine Group, formerly known as Tracker Marine Group.
Neal Messer has worked with D3 since its inception, most recently as a manufacturing engineer at Monett-based window manufacturer WinTech Inc. and formerly with EFCO.
When it comes to Autodesk, he says D3 is his first point of contact. D3 customizes training sessions for continued education, and currently is working on an engineer-to-order system to provide WinTech customers pricing through its website without having to talk to employees.
“They’re the guys that know the program in and out,” Messer says. “They can guide you in making good decisions.”
For D3, the ultimate goal is push-button manufacturing, Schlack says, meaning manufacturers can load schematics into the Autodesk software and, from there, make products to the same standards and measurements each time.
That allows manufacturing employees to focus their energy elsewhere, freeing up what Schlack says is the most valuable resource.
“Where it would take two days to just quote a job, we have brought that down to 10 minutes,” he says. “Where it would take two weeks to do the engineering, we’ve brought that down to four hours.”