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Inside Mathews: A Manufacturing Powerhouse

July 18, 2013 - Mathews Inc

When you pick up a new Mathews, many elements are apparent: innovation, engineering genius, unparalleled accuracy and American-made craftsmanship.
What isn’t as apparent is the technology and manufacturing powerhouse behind every Mathews bow, and specifically the new Creed and Chill. A no-corners-cut philosophy and a huge investment in research and development continue to raise the bar. Here’s a look at the ever-improving process that brings Mathews’ revolutionary new archery concepts to fruition each year.

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Inspiration to Organization
_MG_8738Although Mathews is the acknowledged leader in archery and a legend in bow technology innovation, the company never rests on its laurels. Every year, it tries to improve on its success and give consumers a better bow. That starts when Matt McPherson, Mathews’ founder and CEO, designs new models for the upcoming year.
“Right from the beginning of the design process, we’re always aware of the consumer and their needs,” McPherson said. “We’ve got to consider the way the bow draws, the feel of the bow in the hand, the weight of it, the balance of the bow and the entire experience of the bow. There is so much that goes into our testing, research and design process.”
When the designs are finished, the work begins.
“It’s always a little crazy when Matt is showing me the new designs, and I’m thinking, ‘How are we going to do that?’” said Jerrod Hoff, director of operations for Mathews.
_MG_8262That’s especially true when you consider that Mathews produces nearly 300,000 bows per year, including models in the Mission, Genesis and crossbow lines. Many models are customized and made to order. Further, the company does everything in-house, including research, development, manufacturing, finishing and lifetime-warranty service. This vertical integration leads to faster production, and stricter standards, flexibility and quality control. Therefore, everything at the company’s huge facility (soon to be almost 200,000 square feet) must run like clockwork.
Hoff said he works with Jeremy Sauer, Mathews’ master scheduler, to create a 12-month rolling calendar that’s so precise it predicts to the day when workers will build specific parts for specific models. Further, the company also does three- to five-year forecasts to examine future growth possibilities. The amount and scope of planning required is astronomical, but that aligns with Mathews’ philosophy of innovation.
“We’re not going to be happy just doing what we do today,” Hoff said.

Production and Finishing
_MG_9287After McPherson has finalized his new bows for the year, he hands the specifications off to the employees in Mathews’ machine shop.
“We take the designs from Matt and put that into software that basically talks to our CNC machines,” said Scott Jenkins, machine shop manager.
The plans are essentially converted into a three-dimensional model, from which employees build the tooling necessary to produce the new bows. To get exactly what it needs, Mathews often has to build the tooling itself, which has led to numerous patents proprietary to the company.
When production starts, the machine shop rolls 24 hours per day five days a week, making risers, limbs, cams and almost all of the other nearly 60 parts that go into a bow.
Parts go through rigorous quality-control testing, including examinations with an incredibly precise coordinate-measuring machine that measures dimensions down to five decimal points. That’s one reason Mathews bows perform as well and shoot as accurately as they do.
_MG_8956Newly manufactured and assembled bows go to the finishing department, where they’re powder-coated and film-dipped in Lost camouflage. A riser, for example, will receive five layers of finishing and be camo-dipped twice, passing through eight work stations before it’s finished.
Later, bow limbs are stamped with limb graphics and receive other final touches.
“It’s really a state-of-the-art manufacturing center,” said Aaron Brooks, finishing manager.

Never Satisfied
_MG_8613Despite the company’s many accomplishments, McPherson and Mathews’ employees are never satisfied. In fact, they’re always focused on honing and refining their continuing success story.
“We are striving for constant improvement all the time,” Hoff said.
Mathews frequently holds rapid continuous improvement focus groups, in which four to five employees meet for three days and then implement changes. And the company just completed a challenge of implementing 1,000 kaizens (a Japanese term that means making positive changes on a regular basis). That saved substantial money, which was then reinvested into the company.
Mathews even reaches out to retailers that sell its bows, offering its Mathews Academy program. The effort is in its seventh year and has instructed almost 800 retailers, thereby reducing warranty work through a better understanding of the bows’ technology and improving customer service because retailers have increased understanding of the product.
_MG_9920Of course, Mathews’ main investment is in its employees, who create the bows, continually make improvements and keep the company moving forward.
“The bottom line is we have a group of outstanding people who work well together,” Hoff said.

 
Mathews By the Numbers

4: Number of football fields that fit in Mathews’ nearly
200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.
55: Approximate number of parts on every bow.
90: Number of limb graphics available from Mathews.
119: Number of prototype cams created before finalizing the
original Perimeter Weighted SoloCam.
400: Miles that Mathews’ finishing conveyors travel during the year.
420: Approximate number of Mathews employees who call Sparta, Wis., and the surrounding area their home.
1,100: Approximate number of Authorized Mathews Retailers nationwide.
10,000: Pounds of powder-paint finish Mathews uses per year.
275,000: Feet of Lost Camo and Lost AT film.
2 million: Pounds of aluminum Mathews uses annually in manufacturing.
920 million: Number of possible string combinations.

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