The Risk of Choosing the Lowest Bid

We’re obsessed with price. Price seems to have become the single most important determinant in most purchases, with retailers offering to match each others’ price in a rush to the bottom. Similarly, price within the business-to-business marketplace has assumed an all-important position.  Given the realities of global competition, an emphasis on price at all levels of the business cycle is not only understandable, it is essential.  However, have we followed the historic human tendency and ‘carried it too far’?  How important is price; really?

Let’s admit right up front that price is important. When we compare competing proposals it’s a vital consideration, but what do you risk when it’s the only consideration?

When the cost of something becomes detached from the overall value proposition, it becomes the singular focus. Price is an honest measurement only when balanced against other factors.

Does price reflect quality?

When comparing the submitted proposals, is there a baseline quality that is presumed? Will some sacrifice the quality of material or design in order to achieve the desired price? When machine robustness, longevity, and ergonomics are important factors, sometimes it doesn’t pay to go cheap.

For every project within the manufacturing world, organizations are under a pressure cooker of dates, budgets and stringent quality controls.  Buyers run the risk of adversely affecting subsequent expenditures on maintenance, labour requirements, or the ability to sustain production if the initial investment was undercut. When equipment providers refuse to sacrifice quality to win the work, we protect our ability to provide sustained satisfaction for consumers in the long term.

Building more than custom automated machinery

Since equipment providers know we will be competing in the world of tight margins, we need to ask ourselves: Who are we selling to?  Does our customer truly understand the automated machinery world? Will they not only support their product but support our production personnel; or, are they responding to a price-only purchasing approach by providing minimal support?  A relationship with your customer is symbiotic, and in the end is most successful when common goals and best intentions are paramount.

We all know that there are substantial benefits to price competition.  Price competition drives efficiency.  Price competition drives innovation.  But does price justify our obsession with it?  A less than thoughtful response will cost us in the long run.

Industry 4.0 Explained

What’s in a name?

The term Industry 4.0 has been increasingly gaining popularity in the manufacturing world over the past few years. But what does it mean?  Simply, it is the emergence of digital manufacturing.

The digitization of manufacturing has drastically changed the way that products are produced. Referred to as Industry 4.0, it represents the 4th industrial revolution that has occurred in manufacturing. The first industrial revolution began in the 1790’s when power was harnessed through water and steam. The second came in the form of electrical powered mass production using assembly lines in the 1870’s. The adoption of digital technology in the 1960’s started the third industrial revolution, and the fourth continues this trend. The 2000’s started the next phase in manufacturing by focusing on automation and data exchange – highlighting cloud computing, machine interconnectivity, autonomous systems, and machine learning.

Image credit: Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com

Often dismissed as marketing buzzwords, Industry 4.0 has begun to make headwind with inarguable leaps in manufacturing technologies in this past decade. Advancements between the 1st and 2nd are clear and easily defined with marked leaps in technologies. But what makes the 4th industrial revolution different from the 3rd? The differences can be explained by advancements in connectivity, computing power, and automation.

What does Industry 4.0 bring to manufacturers?

Proactive Responses – connected machines give companies tremendous volumes of information in order to analyze data, recognize patterns, and identify opportunities. This allows manufacturers to optimize operations by knowing exactly what area of their business required the most immediate attention.

Supply Chain – up to the minute information of variables, which include weather, traffic patterns, etc., give manufacturers the ability to connect their systems. Production priorities can be consistently adjusted given the influx of data to accommodate these changes.

Autonomous Equipment – from logistics to material handling, the emergence of autonomous vehicles redistributes the labour force and opens up a whole possibility for the future of production operations.

Robots – considerably more economically priced than in the past, more manufacturers have the opportunity to add robotics into their production facilities.

3D Printing – while still in its infancy, 3D printing will continue to give manufacturers new way of producing goods.

Cloud Computing – connected devices allow for production facilities to produce goods in a connected, informative, and intuitive manner. Management can now leverage the insights provided from the aggregated data, and optimize their operations to be as efficient as possible.

Want to learn how your facility could benefit from advanced IIOT technologies? Contact us today to learn more.

Source: Forbes

Building More than Custom Automated Equipment

At TCA we are dedicated to going above and beyond to help our customers succeed. We’re expert problem solvers, and understand that our value to customers goes beyond the delivery of new automated equipment. Over the years we have developed a multi-level approach to customer service that has enabled us to be a knowledgeable, accessible, and valuable resource to our valued customers.

Here’s how we can help:

Customer Support

First and foremost, we make ourselves available to customers. We have 24/7 phone support that is answered by knowledgeable and skilled technicians who will help solve your problem. Support is available in a variety of languages should you need it. We also have a number of our skilled technicians who are ready to travel to our customers’ facilities immediately. Our service team will travel anywhere in the world; if you urgently need us, we will respond.

Product Support

Every system we manufacture comes with the promise of support from TCA. Through extended system warranties, replacement parts or spare parts, TCA ensures your system is well maintained. In addition to our onsite customer support, we offer remote support systems for rapid troubleshooting. A remote connection device is available for the systems we build, allowing us to log in remotely to your system. This way we can either resolve the problem remotely or guide you to do it yourself.

Production Support

We understand that keeping equipment in production is critical to our customers’ success. That is why we provide a full preventative maintenance program to ensure the equipment is running optimally. Should they wish it, we can provide comprehensive training and documentation so customers can perform the preventative maintenance themselves.  In order to extend the lifetime of your automation equipment, we also offer equipment refurbishment and retooling.

If requested, we can assist in speeding our customers’ products to market by providing limited production, allowing the products to be qualified and marketed as early as possible.

At TCA we build more than custom automated equipment, we build relationships with our customers. Contact us today at 519-824-8711 to learn more about our world-class service and support.

We’re Hiring!

Thinking of making a change? We’re looking for new talent to join our team.

TCA is hiring multiple positions at our Puslinch facility – check out the job descriptions below and apply at careers@tcatech.com.

Intermediate and Senior Controls Engineer

This highly motivated individual is responsible for creating electrical drawings and designing controls for custom automated solutions.

Read more about the position here.

Applications Engineer

Responsible for actively driving and managing the concepting stage of the sales process, this highly skilled individual works as the key technical adviser for our customers.  If you want to be a product advocate identifying and providing reliable solutions for all technical issues, this may just be the role for you.

Read more about the position here.

Senior Project Manager

This engaged individual must be highly organized and have a passion for working collaboratively with technical teams. Responsible for fully managing the project, this person will be the customers go-to guy for up-to-the minute information on their projects.

Read more about the position here.

Electrician

We’re looking for a licensed electrician with a keen eye for detail and general love for the job. This person will be responsible for wiring, panel building,  and commissioning of automated equipment.

Read more about the position here.

Machine Builder

This position requires someone who loves the challenge of putting together complex equipment. Our machine builders work closely with out technical team to fit, assemble, and debug technically advanced machinery.

Read more about the position here.

Are these not the right fit, but you’re still interested in TCA Tech?

Even if we don’t have a posted vacancy, we still urge you to submit your resume! We are always interested in talking to great people with specific skill-sets.

Other positions we typically are looking for:

  • Mechanical Designers
  • CNC Machinists

Send your resumes to our Human Resources Department at careers@tcatech.com

 

The Question: To Retrofit or Rebuild

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It’s a question we get all the time: should you retrofit your equipment or rebuild? Each time a customer confronts us with this question we examine the situation with one particular thought in mind: how do we best help customers conserve capital.

In order to find the best balance of costs, we try to determine the comparison of initial cost versus downstream efficiencies.  Simply, what’s going to cost our customers less in the long run.

Retrofitting Existing Equipment

Many times a customer will come to us needing to add a new part type to a production line or want to improve certain tasks in a process. Often, TCA can find a solution to upgrade tooling or certain components to minimize cost output. This typically works best for customers who have a product with a limited product life cycle or when the line that is being upgraded was built with modern design and programming principles.

Choosing to Build

Depending on the production environment, it may be cheaper for customers to redesign the equipment. By rebuilding the equipment, customers can typically resolve inefficiencies that they currently face. Customers likely will target reducing cycle time, eliminating operator input, reducing scrap, and improving future flexibility of the line.

When our customers come to us with this challenge, we examine all solutions available to try and give them the best overall picture of their options. If conserving capital today means continuously higher operations costs, we can examine how long it will take for a rebuild to pay for itself.

At the end of the day, the best solution is one where TCA can help customers achieve their wanted outcome at the best possible price. Contact us today to learn more about the options available to you.

Email: info@tcatech.com
Phone: 1.519.824.8711

 

2016 In Review

This year has been jam packed with fun at TCA! Celebrating our 20th anniversary, we spent the year giving back to the employees and community of customers who made it happen.

Lets take a look back over the highlights of 2016!

BUILDING EXPANSION

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TCA was excited to open its new building addition in April of this year which broke ground in 2015.

FRIENDLY COMPETITION

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Once the snow began to melt, TCA staff gathered to partake in some healthy competition on the track.  A four hour, round robin race separated the men from boys, and coworkers used their skills to run others off the track to stay in the race.

BBQs

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BBQs

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AND MORE BBQs

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As TCA staff know, summer is all about the barbecue. Manned by the talented staff in our machine shop, a feast is cooked on the last Thursday of every month – from May to October.  Hamburgers, sausages, sauteéd mushrooms, onions, and jalapeños, are all part the menu for these legendary events.  Rain or shine, we love our BBQs.

OFFICIAL AND UNOFFICIAL TEAM MEETINGS

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Whether an impromptu meeting includes cake or a visit from the ice cream man, TCA always appreciates a good state-of-the-union address.

 FAMILY FUN DAY

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As part of our 20th Anniversary Celebration, TCA held its first family day at Bingemans Big Splash Waterpark. The team gathered with their families for some good old fun in the sun before getting together for a barbeque lunch.

ANNUAL GOLF TOURNAMENT

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This event is the staff favourite! Our annual golf tournament, a nine-hole “best ball” tournament followed by dinner and prizes

FALL POTLUCK

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There’s no better way to shake up the monotonous lunchtime routine quite like a potluck.  It’s a great way  for everyone to showcase their impressive cooking skills to coworkers.

TCA FOOD DRIVE

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There’s no better way to prepare for the holiday season then to focus on giving back. This year, the team decided to collect food items for the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank. Almost 200lbs of household items were donated this year on behalf of TCA staff and family.

TCA CHRISTMAS PARTY

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TCA invited its staff and their special someones for a night out to celebrate the holiday season. Held at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, we spent the night enjoying the interesting exhibits, eating a delicious meal (not of the insect variety), and playing some games. A competitive white-elephant gift exchange kept everyone on their toes. Someone left with a drone for under the tree, and one lucky fella got a new snowman hat to keep him warm while shoveling.

GIVING THANKS TO THE MAN WHO STARTED IT ALL

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Throughout the year, the TCA leadership team planned lots of special events and activities to celebrate the milestone 20th anniversary together.  Those staff members were keenly aware of the driving force behind TCA’s 20 year success – our sage leader Dave Nelson. Staff will wax poetic about the leadership qualities and compassion exhibited by Dave to every member of the team, but how do you show thanks to a man as down-to-earth as Dave?

A perfect idea came from Dave’s loving wife. You see, Dave is an avid car fan. He long ago mentioned an old Corvette engine block that he would love to re-purpose for his office. His wife Suzanne mentioned this to the TCA elves who came up with a plan. The machine shop manager worked under cover of darkness to turn Dave’s engine block into a coffee table. The gift is in fact not the custom built coffee table – the gift to Dave is that Suzanne actually agreed for his new coffee table to make its home in their living room!!

What a wonderful year it has been for everyone at TCA! The holiday season is the time most fitting for us to say thank you. We’re sending the warmest, most heartfelt of thanks to our exceptional staff and their families, to our steadfast vendors, and our deeply valued customers. Without all of you, the past 20 years would not have been possible. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.

 

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INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: TCA + ASSEMBLY AUTOMATION

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The business of designing and building custom industrial equipment is a complicated, detail orientated, and exciting industry to be in. Over the past twenty years in business, TCA has developed thousands of innovative and groundbreaking technologies for our customers. From material handling and machine vision, to leak testing and composites, TCA has a wide portfolio of experiences to draw from when designing new equipment for our customers. This blog series will highlight some of our current and past projects where we advanced automation standards.

First up in this series spotlight: Assembly Automation

In manufacturing, assembly refers to the process of putting together all components and sub-assemblies in order to create the end product. Arguably the most in-demand type of automated equipment in industrial manufacturing, assembly automation will help customers reduce man-power, increase throughput, and maximize efficiency.

WIRE FORM AND ASSEMBLY
form-assblogDesigned and manufactured by TCA to produce concrete-forming ties, this 10′ x 25′ wire form and assembly machine has the capability to process wires with walls of 200, 250, and 400 mm, with a 1/2″ hexagon across the flats and 120 or 210 mm end lengths.
Offering high throughput operation, this machine features a hopper that holds up to 1,000 raw wires. TCA designed and built the 80 ton servo forming press to deliver highly accurate speed, motion, and position control in order to keep the parts within tight tolerances.

Two cold forming operations (coin & bead forms) are performed as a one-up forming cycle in the press. Dual thermal-upset hex form positioning slides are also servo-driven to maintain the same accuracies throughout the entire process. A chain conveyor moves the formed ties and stages the packaging boxes to further speed operations, and floor mounted perimeter guarding completely ensures operator safety.

TCA was able to design, build, test, and install this high speed automation system in 24 weeks. We provided a fully programmed Allen Bradley interface and PLC, and commissioned the system at the customer site.

SUB-ASSEMBLY LINE
sub-assblogA customer in the automotive industry needed a second assembly line to handle increased production volume.
TCA’s challenge was to use as much engineering as possible from the existing TCA-designed line so the two could efficiently run in tandem. Working from the customer’s part specifications, we created 3D designs for all the components and arranged the second line in a Z-configuration to facilitate loading and changeover. In addition, we designed a second flux supply line with a separate set of tooling to enable both lines to operate independently.
Occupying a 20 ft x 30 ft footprint, this assembly line has three main subsystems – a feeder, flux applicator, and a stacker. Handling 6 parts per magazine, 6-axis robots are used to feed the parts to a servo index conveyor for pick and place transfer – a careful process monitored by machine vision cameras.
Next, a dual-head spray system electrostatically applies the flux while a reclaiming system removes the excess. After air drying, the parts are fed to the assembly system, 2 per magazine in a nested position.

Want to learn more about TCA’s assembly automation solutions? Email info@tcatech.com today.

Machine Safety: How to protect your workers and your bottom line

SAFETY

Whether you are looking at purchasing a large automated production line or are investing in new machine work stands, something that is likely top of mind is whether or not the equipment is safe. Even the most simplistic automated function can be hazardous if proper safety protocols and tools aren’t in place.  So how can you make sure operators are protected from harm, and the company is protected from liability, all while reducing costs? The answer is simple – design it to be safe in a smart way, not necessarily the standard way.

Many companies have long adopted machine guarding and fencing as standard safety protocols for their machines. This approach to safety can at times greatly hinder worker productivity, increase downtime, and increase machine footprint on your shop floor.  Newer technologies such as light curtains and area sensors, when implemented correctly, can save you valuable time when experiencing downtime.  While highly discouraged, machine guarding can easily be overridden to allow workers to enter the cell without stopping the machine. Light curtains and other presence sensing technologies have a safety redundancy built in, ensuring that if breeched, the dangerous machine activity will immediately cease.

It is important for any machine builder to be experts at performing safety assessments right from the project proposal, into design and build, and through run-off and training. By utilizing a combination of trusted perimeter guarding, fixed guarding, and presence sensing technologies, companies can be assured that what they are getting will pass even the strictest of safety regulations.

Want to find out how to cut project costs and increase operator safety? Call one of our experienced machine designers today +1.519.824.8711.

TCA Family Day at Big Splash

familyday_blogLast month we hosted a staff event at Bingemans Big Splash in Waterloo – it was about time that we brought the team and our families together for a little fun in the sun!

TCA Families spent their day enjoying the large wave pool, splashpad, and waterslides for the big kids. A mid day break to enjoy BBQ and watermelon slices was a welcomed reprieve from the 100 degree weather.

Check out a few pictures from TCA’s Summer Family Day!

The Demand for Skilled Labour in Manufacturing

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Over the past couple years a common topic of conversation between manufacturers in Canada and the US has been the shortage of skilled labour.

A report published last year called “The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing 2015 and Beyond” projects that, “Over the next decade, nearly three and a half million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled, and the skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled.”

The challenge in the Advanced Manufacturing sector is the high demand of skills that manufacturers look for in the labour force. As an example, below are the necessary skills of workers in the Automation Assembly field:

  • Large mechanical competency, with knowledge of assembly, drilling, welding, sub-assemblies,
  • Knowledge of pneumatics and hydraulics
  • Ability to read and understand mechanical and electrical prints
  • Ability to use troubleshooting methodologies for all equipment in the plant
  • An understanding of all programmable logic controllers, including troubleshooting ladder logic and re-programming
  • Ability to rewire machines and understand variable drives, device net, ether net, and control net systems
  • Practical use of Word, Excel and PowerPoint to train customers and write reports

So can can we anticipate and plan for this ever increasing skill shortage? We believe that answer lies in education and  training.

Specific programs have been created that directly address training requirements for the Advanced Automation fields. Seneca College, with the help of Siemens Canada Engineering and Technology, introduced the Mechatronics program in 2015. Mechatronics is known as the amalgamation of ‘mechanical, electrical and computer technologies.’

Conestoga College has created a Mechanical Technician and General Machinist program which offers scholarships for students to help with tuition costs, and comes with the bonus of an offer of full-time employment upon successful completion.

The Ontario Government has also invested $35M of funding to create a manufacturing consortium with McMaster, Waterloo, and Western universities, focused on developing new technologies, training, advances in the manufacturing sector.

TCA Technologies is also committed to further investing in the training and education of our team of skilled workers. If you are interested in employment or an apprenticeship in Assembly Automation field, please email careers@tcatech.com!