Category Archives: Custom Industrial Automated Equipment

Designer & Manufacturer of Custom Industrial Automated Equipment for:
Automotive Industry
Building & Construction Industry
Components Industry
Consumer Products Industry
Electronics Industry
Pharmaceutical / Hygiene
Plastics & Composites
Printing / Publishing

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.

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.

The Question: To Retrofit or Rebuild

blog_retrofit

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

 

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: TCA + ASSEMBLY AUTOMATION

assemblyblog

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.

The TCA Approach: Building Relationships Along with Custom Automated Solutions

At TCA Technologies our goal is to not only deliver exceptional solutions, but also provide an unmatched level of service to our customers. We ensure each customer receives the highest level of attention and care by breaking down the project plan into a multi-step procedure. Our 7 step Approach will move the project through each stage guaranteeing the successful completion and delivery of your custom automated solution.

Custom Automation Solution Process

The TCA Approach

Step 1: Conceptualize

From our first meeting with a customer, we try to understand exactly what their needs are. We work diligently to define the scope of a project and come up with a proposal that matches their specific requirements. Once the high level concept is created, we’ll estimate the costs associated with the project to avoid any surprises down the road.

Step 2: Refine

Once we’re all on the same page, we begin putting everything in motion. Our engineering teams come together to offer insight and come up with a process development plan. Once we have concept approval, we can move onto the next steps.

Step 3: Engineer

This is where “the meeting of the minds” happens and our team comes up with mechanical, electrical, controls, and finish designs for the custom system. Once design approval is received, we finalize a production schedule, hammer out the details, and get things moving to the production stage.

Step 4: Build

And here’s where the fun really begins. After the plans and details have all been worked out we can start to manufacture the system. This involves a large amount of custom machining, assembly, wiring and piping before eventually starting up the system.

Step 5: Test

This is when we start to put the system through its paces. Functioning is simply not enough; the machine must work at optimal level with consistent and repeatable results. If there are any issues, this is the time to find and address them.

Step 6: Install

The moment our customers have been waiting for. Once all of the bugs are found and fixed we can safely install the system at their facilities. A team of skilled technicians will come to your location for system installation and help get everything up and running at optimal levels. We’ll also provide detailed training so that whoever is operating and maintaining this equipment will be able to do so safely and properly.

Step 7: Support

Our relationship with our customers doesn’t stop just because an order is completed. If there are any questions or problems that come up later, we’re always available to help. We offer 24/7 support to ensure that even if something happens during third shift, someone will be on hand to talk you through it.

Stay tuned for next month’s blog when we detail how we can help customers with their manufacturing process development.

 

 

 

The Importance of Ergonomically Designed Assembly Fixtures

You may have heard that September is National Preparedness Month. With this month-long event comes a string of tips to help prepare for major emergencies – including weather related incidents, power outages, contagious disease outbreaks, etc. But some emergencies are more preventable than others. The trick is to identify problems before they’ve happened, and prepare an environment that can actually prevent them from happening in the future.

Turn Key Automation System for Automotive Industry

Turn Key Automation System for Automotive Industry

Taking advantage of ergonomically designed assembly fixtures is one way that facility managers can avoid unnecessary injuries in the workplace. Repetitive motion injuries are a common issue for factory workers, and yet may not be widely recognized or addressed. They happen when a part of the body is forced to undergo strain or stretching on a regular basis. If a worker is constantly bending over and lifting objects, for example, a repetitive motion injury is a serious concern.

To avoid these types of injuries, it’s important to make sure that machines are ergonomically designed with operators in mind. This means that proper functioning of the machine or tool should reduce the amount of bending, lifting, and stretching that is necessary to operate it. It also means that managers should take a look at which processes might be worth automating. If there’s a job that requires constant heavy lifting and moving, see if there’s an automated system that could be implemented instead. TCA Technologies’ team of engineers is well-versed in crafting ergonomically designed assembly fixtures for our customers. The system will still require regular set up, maintenance, and observation, so the jobs themselves will not be replaced – they’ll just be less likely to cause long-term damage.

If there isn’t an automated process ready to take on your particular project, you should consider implementing custom industrial automated equipment that can be designed and manufactured to fit your needs.

For more information on how a customized assembly system can reduce workplace injuries, contact TCA Technologies at 519.824.8711. You can also follow us on Twitter for additional tips and news items, and request a quote online.

Customized Conveyor Solutions Using Standard Products and Unmatched Expertise

Custom Conveyor for Automotive Assembly Line

Custom Conveyor for Automotive Assembly Line

When a customer comes to us with a unique assembly line project, we’re always up for the challenge. Recently, TCA faced a number of challenges in the design of an assembly line for an automotive components manufacturer. Floor space was limited, the production cycle time was aggressive and the parts were conveyed on large custom pallets. This meant that the system in-feed could not be handled by a typical power and free accumulation system.

TCA met these demands by designing and producing a custom pallet transfer conveyor. The solution combined the speed of an indexing conveyor with the flexibility of a pallet conveyor. The result was a high speed indexing belt design capable of transferring the large pallet .8m in under 1 second while allowing pallets to engage and disengage as required. This provided the reliability and speed of supply required to feed the assembly system.

Using a standard indexing belt from TCA’s preferred belting supplier allowed for a shortened lead time and considerable savings. But the positional requirements of the process required more accurate locating than the belt alone could offer. TCA developed and implemented a simple solution by incorporating a lift-and-locate system in the conveyor structure. These lift locates were designed with very short strokes to minimize cycle time impact, falling well below that of other standard pallet conveyor vendors. Since the system was designed to be positioned anywhere along the conveyor structure, the design and build cost of controlling the positional accuracy of the stations serviced by the conveyor were drastically reduced. The addition of the external lift and locate system also allowed for increased running clearances of the conveyor drive dogs and pallets underside; long term this means more cycles between inspection and service.

While other conveyor vendors can supply standard conveyance with a fixed product selection, TCA was able to supply a custom solution to a unique challenge using standard product and creativity. The result is a tailored solution at a standard product cost to the end user. The conveyor has already completed over a million cycles and is still performing according to customer demands.

Innovative custom designs can take full advantage of standard resources while maximizing return on investment. At TCA Technologies, this is always our winning formula.

Introducing the Servo Torsion Spring Machine

spring machine 1Proper manufacturing of torsion springs to specific tolerances can present unique problems for spring makers who are supplying furniture manufacturers. Our solution for one spring maker was to design and manufacture an exceptional machine that can form ASTM A401 chrome silicon wire in diameters from 0.250″ to 0.438″, into torsion springs with inner diameters ranging from 1.25″ to 3.00″. This Servo Torsion Spring Machine was manufactured entirely in-house and designed in 3-D with Solid Works. All programming development was also done in-house. A totally custom solution! The Spring Machine, with a footprint of 12 feet by 20 feet, was supplied with a powered wire uncoiler, a 2-axis wire straightener, pneumatic wire feeder, and a 2,000 PSI hydraulic power unit. Full operator and maintenance training was also provided to the customer. spring machine 2

Used for the manufacture of chair mechanism springs, the Spring Machine was supplied with a 1 year warranty up to 3,000 hours of running time as well as installation, training, and digital & print manuals. Our testing included the processing of multiple spring and endform designs to ensure that we were delivering a state-of-the-art, flexible system. By taking our customer’s unique specifications and utilizing 3-D design and simulations, we were able to produce a Spring Machine that optimizes their spring making operations.

Price, Innovation & Integrity: Partners in the Custom Automated Equipment Business

In an earlier blog we talked about pricing and asked whether our focus on price has become an obsession that is costing us in ways which are substantial but not always obvious.

One of those less-than-obvious but costly impacts can be the loss of partnership between vendor and purchaser.  At TCA, our Statement of Core Values includes the statement that “We seek true partnerships that create value for all participants”. It is our conviction (supported by many years of experience) that a true partnership relationship between vendor and purchaser will produce the best result for both parties.  This is not some namby-pamby arrangement where accountability is thrown to the wind; rather, obligations and commitments on both sides are fully recognized and diligently honored, but the spirit of a shared goal including the need for both sides to create value from the transaction underlies the relationship.

This is particularly true in an environment like the designing and building of custom manufacturing machinery and systems.  The purchaser is spending large sums of money and will be depending on the equipment for extended periods of time.  Also, the equipment will directly impact both his ability to serve his customer and his ability to be profitable.  A supplier like TCA will also invest significant dollars not only in developing and maintaining the infrastructure and systems required to design, build, test and support custom automated production machinery, but also in the development of staff who remain technically and technologically current and who are capable of, and are encouraged to, think innovatively on behalf of our customers.

Of course, price is part of the value equation but where true partnership exists, there is confidence to “pursue creative solutions as a means of providing increased value to all stakeholders” (that’s how we define innovation at TCA) and there is confidence to “say what we mean and mean what we say” (that’s how we define integrity).  Stakeholder value rises to the top in an environment of partnership because all parties are freed to focus on how we can be valuable (innovation) rather than how valuable we can be (pricing).

At TCA we have many customers who recognize the value of a purchaser/vendor partnership.  Indeed, there are times when an outsider would be hard-pressed to know which staff on a project are from TCA and which are from our customer; this is exactly as it should be because we are all working toward the same goal.  The benefits have been so readily recognizable and the level of trust so deep that a major manufacturer in business for over 50 years named us as their exclusive supplier of custom automated machinery.

It has been widely acknowledged that an adversarial relationship between labor and management will not work in the ‘new economy’.  However, the relationship between purchaser and vendor can be just as adversarial if the focus on price is allowed to set the tone for everything that follows.  A classic adversarial relationship was changed when Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly said to Ronald Reagan in 1987 We have a secret weapon – we shall cease to be your enemy”.  This changed relationship between the world’s superpowers allowed a huge redeployment of resources and facilitated previously unimaginable levels of partnership in areas like the space program.  The move from protagonists to partners by purchasers and vendors can also redeploy strategic corporate resources and not only restore value that has been lost, but create value that has never been envisioned.