“I have a creed that the truth remains unaffected by our willingness to believe it,” says Ken Merritt, chief operations officer of SolidCAM (IMTS booth #339265). Merritt’s beliefs about truth and integrity evolved from customer training, where he learned that the customer is the most important person and that the software selected must fit his or her needs. The realization that SolidCAM could enhance parts and production 10 times better than the software he was reselling prompted him to sell the company he co-found to his partners and go to work for SolidCAM. He’s never looked back.A History Forged in ManufacturingMerritt was born into a world of manufacturing technology. His dad was a design engineer working on missile guidance systems and operated a construction company on the side where Merritt worked starting in the fourth grade. After high school, he worked on pipe welding on nuclear power plants, and then in machine shops exposing him to CNCs. He taught himself AutoCAD 9 (released in 1987) on an old IBM computer from his father. Learning CAD software propelled him into 3D surface design, and he landed a job in a moldmaking shop for aluminum wheels. He became so proficient using the shop’s SURFCAM software that he was eventually promoted to application engineer at its maker.“CAD-CAM opened up a whole new world to me,” he recalls. “I began to understand things that I never imagined about our industry, how things are done, and how customers work. It’s been a great growth path. I’ve seen the software advance more than I ever anticipated it would.”His career at SolidCAM includes moving through the ranks from application engineer to senior application engineer to trainer and on to vice president of partner affiliates. Today he is chief operations officer.Customer-Centric InnovationStaying ahead of the curve is one of the greatest things about what we do at SolidCAM,” says Merritt. “We get to talk to customers — such as Shamrock Precision — and find out what they’re looking for, to understand the parts that they’re working with, understand the machinery that they’re working with, and then try to find solutions for them in our software.”Shamrock CEO Corbin Embrey was also born into a world of manufacturing. As a second-generation owner, some of his earliest memories involve dinner table business discussions. Shamrock started as a fastener distributor in 1981 in Dallas. Machining special fasteners for one customer has now grown into a precision machining contract manufacturing business with AS9100 certification and operations in Malaysia. “Shamrock put a team together to look at different CAD-CAM software for our Swiss equipment and selected SolidCAM,” says Embrey. “We are implementing SolidCAM from the ground up. As we face new challenges, we reach out to our applications engineer at SolidCAM, and they guide us on how to implement a new function. Sometimes Ken personally is speaking with our programmers to help us speed up cycle times or extend tool life with hard materials. That’s how we learn new technology with our partners.”Synergizing Automation with Human Expertise“The direction that I see growth happening is towards automation, but not towards complete automation,” says Merritt. “Redundant tasks need to be more efficient, but there are so many different types of parts that full and complete automation will never really happen in this industry.”Where he does see the industry moving is toward a model-based enterprise (MBE). With MBE, “whatever part we’re building, whether it’s a singular component or it’s one of many components within an assembly, the validity of that part must be current.” Challenges occur because all parts see design iterations as discoveries occur in field implementation. “The ability to keep the machining process and the manufacturing process in tune with that model is extremely important. However, there has to be the flexibility to incorporate human expertise into automation instead of it being decided from some outside source.”Unlocking Data Wealth: Shamrock's Journey with SolidCAM“Data is the new oil. So, what data do you collect? How much of it is valuable? We’re still working on that,” muses Embrey. “In 2020, Shamrock invested in a new ERP system that allowed us to take data that used to be in different silos, and we connect those different elements together. Then we started collecting machine data to determine if the machine really is running optimally. That’s a very big challenge, and that’s where we’re grateful to work with companies like SolidCAM. For example, how can we go from this cycle time to a faster cycle time? SolidCAM has some really cool technology, and we’re just scratching the surface.” One such technology is SoildCAM’s patented iMachining Technology Wizard, the industry’s first and only Wizard that automatically calculates optimal cutting conditions for every segment of the iMachining tool path. The wizard provides synchronized values of feed rate, spindle speed, axial depth of cut, cutting angles, and chip thickness, based on the mechanical properties of the workpiece and tool, while also taking into account the technical limits of the CNC machine.“When we face challenges, we reach out to application engineers at SolidCAM. Sometimes Ken personally speaks with our programmers on how iMachining, a technology that is exclusive to SolidCAM, helps us address certain characteristics on parts and speed up cycle times. And then we follow a crawl, walk, and run method. We go slow and then we speed it up a little bit before we apply it across the shop.”Factory of the Future“A lot of things come into the factory of the future. It’s more than just technology providers. It’s more than just a machine tool provider. It’s more than just the tooling. It’s interdependent technologies,” says Merritt. When these things come together, technology advances and customers advance their capabilities. “It’s this marriage of the different areas of technology taking our industry into areas that we’ve never seen before — we advance, but always with integrity,” says Merritt.What is the world according to Corbin Embrey? “Credibility,” he says. “I need my customers to view me as credible. I need my team members to be credible in what they do, and we look for partners like SolidCAM that are credible in how they interact with us.”
What is the world according to Ken Merritt? “Integrity” is championed by  Merritt as the compass guiding our future.  Merritt emphasizes the importance of seeking truth and aligning our actions accordingly, especially with customers, as we navigate the intricate relationship between integrity and technology.