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Revolutionizing the way food is grown

Combining state-of-the-art LED technology and automated equipment to grow food in urban areas.

The planet has lost some 40 per cent of its arable land over the past few decades, and we’re rapidly depleting the rest. The farmers at We the Roots grow leafy greens for chefs like O&B’s Anthony Walsh in a hydroponic, automated vertical farm just off the DVP, using less space to cultivate more food year round. They’re boosted by some out-of-this-world technology from the University of Guelph, where researchers are developing plants that can thrive in hostile environments like Mars. The trick is tailored LED light combinations: scientists can tweak the lights’ colour and intensity to alter the nutrients, growth and even flavour profile of arugula, chicory and kale.

Source: Toronto Life, Photo by Derek Shapton

The Next Generation of Automation Experts

TCA is delighted to host student’s for “Take Our Kids to Work Day”

Since we opened our doors in 1996, TCA’s been committed to championing young talent and training the next generation of automation experts. With a critical shortage of skilled labour across the manufacturing industry, we believe educating our youths to the possibility of this career path is vital to sustain our local thriving automation industry.

Every year across Canada, students in Grade 9 are urged to spend the day in the workplace of a parent, relative, friend, or volunteer host. Through exposure to the workplace, student’s are prompted to focus on early career planning and given insights to make informed decisions about their future goals.

TCA’s safety culture means that our student’s were required to undergo Health & Safety coaching about safety in the workplace, and given instruction on how to safety interact with large and sophisticated automation equipment.

We had a great day with our group of kids, and left them with some knowledge of how Canada’s manufacturing industry works, along with a souvenir for their hard work on the job.

The BBQ Life at TCA

Those close to TCA team members or their families are very familiar with the food obsession fondly cultivated throughout the company. This may be the only company in existence where new employee’s are required to read the Donut Handbook before reading the Employee Handbook. Each year a calendar of events is created by the TCA Social Committee. This is when the planning for team events is done, and employee’s can vote on the employee-engagement events that are planned.

Beginning in May, the last Thursday of every month is BBQ day. Lovingly cooked by team members, a full spread BBQ is prepared for lunch every month until the end of September. We say a final farewell to BBQ season mid-October during the annual Oktoberfest BBQ and patiently wait for the next BBQ season to begin.

Each season the team looks for new ways to make BBQ days special. This years improvement? Games!

Kudos to the Social Committee for giving a fun and healthy break for the team working so hard designing and building exceptional equipment.

Happy Retirement Wendy!

Our steadfast and diligent administrator is finally off the clock. This month we are saying good-bye to an instrumental member of TCA’s staff; someone who played a crucial roll in our company’s history. Wendy started with TCA almost 16 years ago. When she joined us, we were experiencing rapid corporate growth – and all of the growing pains that come with it. Many of our internal processes weren’t designed for scale and she happily jumped into the chaos. Wendy helped develop and streamline our internal structure with a laser focus on our customers’ needs.

Though Wendy’s work over the past 16 years has been exemplary, her strength of character remains her legacy. One of TCA’s most talked about corporate value is integrity. Our President Dave Nelson, refers to integrity as making the right decision, even when it is hard to make. Wendy’s character is integrity personified. She could always be counted on to do the right thing, regardless of the extra work, complication, or friction it may cause. With an attention to detail that is almost super human, Wendy easily navigated and organized complicated corporate contracts, maintaining customer records and ensuring a level of accuracy that could always be counted on. While her work skills are undisputed, Wendy was also a genuine, kind, and trustworthy friend to many. She was momma-bear to our sales team, working diligently to simply make their lives easier.

When such a tenured and respected member of the team retires, it is always bittersweet. Everyone here will greatly miss her, but she leaves a legacy behind she can be proud of.

Enjoy your travel and your gardens Wendy-loo!

Automation is the thing of the future, but what does that mean for future careers?

Over the past few years, industry has been buzzing with talk about IIoT, automation replacing workers, and how machine learning and AI are the next big thing. A few weeks ago, IBM held a debate where their ‘Project Debater’ competed against a human professional. While the robot was not deemed the winner, it did showcase the robots’ ability to rapidly respond and pivot argument points based on the other person’s interaction. It was a lively and visual representation of what the future of artificial intelligence will look like. The world is now beginning to realize that AI implementation and mass availability aren’t too far off. For those thinking about the job market in the coming decades, we have to wonder: what future jobs are going to be available for the next generation?

While no one can know for sure, just looking at recent industry changes gives some foresight. A prime example is McDonalds; they’ve been a big provider of part time casual labour jobs. Recently they’ve adopted a self serve kiosk where customers are able to order and pay for themselves. The number of front line staff at the counter has greatly decreased. This is one example where simple and repeatable jobs are being replaced by technology. Does that mean that the restaurant industry will be fully automated – of course not. But it is indicative of the types of jobs that robotics and machines are prime to replace humans. Robots never take breaks, rarely act illogically, and don’t get distracted. This makes them perfect to take over the menial tasks that most humans don’t want to do.

The other side of this argument that many forget to talk about is the robot’s themselves! There is a complete industry in place that designs, builds, and programs these machines. For every single machine out in the field replacing menial tasks, a whole team of people have been involved to teach that robot the tasks it’s performing, design recovery procedures, and test to make sure they’re behaving as expected. Like every other machine, robots are not infallible. A complete service industry of field experts is in place to diagnose and repair these machines should a failure happen.

So while many worry that robots are going to replace workers and steal jobs, I would argue that they in fact are generating a much larger sub industry. Let’s let the robots do the job’s that no one wants to, and put our efforts into learning the complicated task of learning what makes these intricate systems work.

The careers of the future lay, as we’ve always believed, in the robotic and automation industry.

Introducing our new Director of Operations: Chris Draper

We are very pleased to announce our newly minted Director of Operations and Project Management: Chris Draper.

Chris joined our organization back in October 2017, responsible for bringing a formalized Project Management structure to TCA. His understanding of our customers needs has allowed us to remain nimble with our innovating designs, while adapting to changing needs within the industry.  His background within machining and design gives him a unique ability to make creative choices in order to meet our customer’s needs.

In his new role, Chris will be responsible for maintaining the exceptional quality of machines that customers have grown accustomed to from TCA. He will ensure that customers timelines and standards are met while making sure that the floor remains a fun and exciting place to work.

We’re excited to have Chris in our Leadership team, and look forward to his success.

 

TCA’s 2018 Christmas Luncheon

Every year TCA begins the holiday season by celebrating and giving thanks to the people who work so hard for our customers. This year, we gathered to eat and have some fun at the Aberfoyle Mill.

We began our luncheon with some fun raffle prizes, a game of Truths and a Lie, and Kahoot. We were also able to include some of the TCA family who were out at customer sites, via Skype.

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To get into the spirit, we held a photo contest where departments competed in creating an original Christmas Photo. Second place, a prize of team coffee and donuts, went to the Controls Department.

With our first place – grand prize, an all expense paid Pizza Party, going to the Machine Shop.

We finished our lunch off with a White Elephant Gift Exchange, where our VP of Finance was thwarted from owning a drone, for the second year.

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While TCA loves to give back to our employees, those workers also love to giving back to the community.  This year, we chose The Salvation Army Toy Drive. Everyone is pleased to be able make children’s Christmas morning a little more special.

Merry Christmas from TCA Technologies!

Annual TCA Sushi Championship

In late November, worthy TCA competitors responded to the call to arms –  ready to attend the Annual Sushi Championship. With nothing more at stake than honour, the competitors gathered to devour. Sadly, the competitor voted most likely to win found himself hampered by a cold. In surprise, a latecomer rose to the occasion and came close to winning it all. In the end, the coveted belt went to the mighty Mike. His slow and steady approach beat out the fast flurry of the piranha’s.

Check out some pictures of our event.

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