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3-D wizards.

Software Sellers with the Right Spin

In the corridors of Winnipeg-based CAD/CAM Solutions of Canada Inc., the atmosphere is positive and buoyant these days. Recessionary times have not dulled the iridescent light in the eyes of three square-jawed, entrepreneurial superheroes -- the kind deeply loved by chambers of commerce and business school professors.

The rise to prominence of most successful companies can be credited to intelligence, well-schooled leadership and a desire to go it alone. CAD/CAM Solutions is that kind of company. At a time in Winnipeg's history when young people are fleeing the scene, this company is a rainbow in the leaden skies of commerce.

The company's principals, Bruce Waschuk, 31, Dale Murphy, 31, and Kevin Routledge, 34, have the credentials to be what they are; leading Canadian consultants in the field of computer-aided drafting.

Says Waschuk, "Our security is running our own business. When we worked for other people we realized that our concern was for our clients and now we have the resources to serve them well on our own."

In 1991 CAD/CAM won recognition from software supplier, AutoDesk Canada, as the leading seller of its product of among 110 Canadian dealers. That recognition is a pivotal indicator that three-year-old CAD/CAM is a seminal force in Canada's infant electronic drafting business.

CAD/CAM is poised to rise to prosperous heights in offering turnkey training packages to architectural and TABULAR DATA OMITTED engineering companies.

In the past five years, computer screens have been replacing paper and drafting boards, speeding up the art of drafting by light years. By offering three-dimensional computer images for product design, moving parts in machinery, for instance, can be better assessed to see if they are touching. Blueprints can be quickly altered on the screen rather than rendering new drawings.

CAD/CAM Solutions is on the front lines of the emerging technology. The young company is winning its place because it puts its own spin on the ball, tailor-making packages to suit specific industries.

Says Routledge, "We're selling intellectual skills and product knowledge. In fact, we've educated some clients to have better in-house skills than our competition."

There are unmistakable hallmarks of confidence and accomplishment. Both Waschuk and Routledge were schooled in drafting technology at Red River Community College. Waschuk also has a degree in applied math from the University of Manitoba. Murphy was initially involved in commercial banking but now has added knowledge of the computer design process to his personal skills.

One of the company's main strengths is its training programs for drafters. At anytime their training rooms are filled with professional students learning the new technology.

While using computers in architecture or in manufacturing has been around for 10 years, many companies are only now realizing that not to make use of electronic drawing boards is to lag behind the pack.

Routledge and Waschuk worked for two companies before they realized they had the potential to go it on their own because of their strong aptitude for the technology. When they left the same firm to go into business, they realized that it was the best thing to do.

Routledge sees the strength of the company in its ability to do a need analysis on their clients. "We take basic design software and enhance it to fit the specific needs of a company."

Since cash flow is important, particularly for a young business, Murphy's banking background loomed important. Murphy says banks like to know you're talking their language. "I filed the business plans in the proper fashion which helps when you start up in a risk economy as it was three years ago -- and isn't much better today."

Murphy says the three partners didn't pay much attention to the overall economy and drove straight ahead.

Driving straight ahead has meant sending Routledge to teach three-and five-day courses to Canadian Forces Base personnel in Gander, Newfound-land and Comox, B.C.

A special intellectual zing and pleasant style of client relationship is winning the CAD/CAM Solutions a long list of clients. Their clients include electrical transformer maker, Federal Pioneer Limited; architectural firm, The Ikoy Partnership; the Department of National Defence; mining giant, Falconbridge Limited; Schmidtke Millwork Ltd., Steinbach; Manitoba Hydro and Standard Aero. It has meant working with industrial drafters like John Leah, a transformer designer at Federal Pioneer.

Leah, the manager of design at Federal, has high praise for the young company. Leah says Federal wanted to change from manual drafting using computers but didn't have expertise in the field. CAD/CAM was brought in.

Says Leah, "They are not perfect, but they are very good at what they do. I don't hesitate to recommend them to others and in fact, I do." He gives an example of CAD/CAM's customer service.

"We were working on a Saturday and had a problem so we called Dale at home. He came right over, fixed it in a few minutes and left," says Leah. "That's the kind of service you can't ignore."

With that kind of praise, the challenge will be to stay abreast of new CAD software and retain high service standards clients have come to expect.

Unicity Distribution Systems Canada Ltd.

The secret to Unicity Distribution Systems (Canada) Inc.'s outstanding growth during the past three years seems so simple you wonder why others don't do it this way. The company picks up goods in Canada and the U.S., trucks them to the border, handles custom clearances through its sister company Unicity Customs Brokers, then distributes the goods throughout the country. Most competitors only perform one of those functions. Ken Kotowich, president and general manager of Unicity says, "We do it all. All the customer has to do is call a 1-800 number."

Such specialization only became important to manufacturers following the adoption of just-in-time inventories by North American companies. JIT was a boost to a company like Unicity.

Any delay in shipping time-sensitive goods could mean the closure of a factory. Pressure like that makes Kotowich thrive. "We're innovative in everything we do," he says. "We look for niches in the market we can fill."

The signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement could mean more opportunities ahead for the company. Kotowich says he is ready. "We're a cohesive company and we're light on our feet."

Nutrilawn International

Dick Nelles was already a successful businessman in Winnipeg when he went looking for a company to buy. As owner of Managro Harvester Systems (1977) Ltd., a cattle-feeding equipment company, he wanted to diversify. "I looked at doughnut shops, pizza parlours -- there was lots of stuff for sale," Nelles recalls.

One day in 1985 he came across a small lawn care service named Nutrilawn. Nelles bought the company and with partner Derek Riley, has sold more than 26 franchises in Canada at $150,000 each. Nelles would like to see Canada knee-deep in healthy lawns with tiny Nutrilawn flags stuck in the foliage. Nutrilawn attendants in yellow caps, green shirts and grey pants are now in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. The company is also listed on the Alberta Stock Exchange.

Nelles says the success of the operation pivots on a good product and superior service. "Nutrilawn has researched the best possible health care plan for grass called IPM -- integrated pest management," says Nelles. That means beating weeds, adding fertilizers, and includes drilling holes in the lawn to get oxygen into it. Says Nelles, "Once you have a healthy lawn, just like a healthy human being, repelling disease isn't difficult. But you have to get to that point."
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Title Annotation:CAD/CAM Solutions Canada Inc.
Author:Gage, Ritchie
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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