Automated Manufacturing and the Need for Flexibility

In our last two blogs we’ve talked about the changing mindsets of consumers, and the effects those changes have had on manufacturing. In particular, we’ve looked at how access to a global market has made consumers more discerning with their tastes and purchasing habits. To compete for a consumer base with more options than ever before, companies have to offer more diversity in their product lines. Increased product diversity has created a need for more flexible manufacturing systems.

In the past, systems have been geared towards high volume output of a singular product. More and more, companies are looking for machinery that can accommodate smaller runs across a wider variety of parts, materials and manufacturing operations. This can mean allowing for different types of product inspection as well. To achieve all of this, flexibility needs to be built into the base manufacturing system. In this way, the door is open for new and different manufacturing cells and tooling to be added down the line. Allowing for these additions can mean investing more in the base machine. But the cost of that base machine is spread across more parts, and a longer life span as the machine can evolve with your product line.

Flexibility allows manufacturers to not only handle different products, but product improvements as well. Today, companies are presented with a tremendous amount of feedback on their products, requiring them to constantly update and upgrade those products. Flexible manufacturing systems allow manufacturers across an ever widening spectrum of industries to handle the changes and upgrades that invariably take place over a product’s lifecycle.

Process Validation and Vision Inspection – Increasing Quality with Immediate Feedback

Today, consumers can choose from products manufactured almost anywhere in the world. As a result, manufacturers are tasked with providing higher quality products at lower prices in order to stay competitive.  Automated process validation systems offer a way to achieve both goals simultaneously.

Process validation is the inspection of each part at every station in the production line. The results of each inspection are recorded, and each part is given a unique identification number. Before a part can be processed by station 2, it is inspected to make sure that it has passed station 1. At station 3, the part is inspected to make sure that it has come through both stations 1 and 2 exactly as it should. If there is a defect, you’re aware of it immediately and the problem can be corrected before production continues.

Process validation is built around the use of vision inspection equipment. In the past, this equipment was “high end,” and thereby expensive to incorporate into an automated manufacturing system. Today the price of the equipment has come down, making its use much more commonplace. At the same time, the technology has continued to evolve and it boasts more features now than ever before. Vision inspection systems look at each part, compare them to a master template and look for any variations.

As we mentioned in our last blog, the immediacy provided by process validation systems can be contrasted with the spot checking “Go, No Go” systems of the past. Using “Go, No Go” you open yourself up to down time in production as you search for the station where defective manufacturing occurred. In addition, you end up with potentially large batches of defective parts. And if you miss a defective part, it could go on to hinder your client’s production chain, or cause them to issue a recall on their own products. Wasted time and wasted product are things no business can afford, and process validation systems are essential to avoiding that unnecessary waste.

Quality control, inspection and traceability are no longer luxuries afforded to only the biggest companies. They’re tools available to every manufacturer, and they’re essential for survival in a global market.

The Manufacturing Challenge: Increasing Quality while Driving Down Prices

Quality has always been a focus of manufacturing, but now more than ever there is a trend toward increased quality control, inspection and traceability. This mandate has come from consumers, who are now exposed to a global rather than a local market. Whether they’re shopping for a car, a DVD player or the year’s newest gadget, consumers have become more discerning and demanding.

The advent of the critical consumer has hit at the same time that companies from every industry are trying to drive down prices. A global market means global competition. Manufacturers are faced with the challenge of increasing quality dramatically while at the same time pulling down cost structure and pricing.

The way to meet both of these goals is to squeeze waste out of the system at the same time that you improve quality. Automated process validation systems check each part as it’s manufactured, allowing you to halt production at the first sign of error. This replaces the “Go, No Go” checks of the past, whereby parts were periodically pulled off the production line and manually inspected. In that scenario, a defective part meant that a number of potentially defective parts could have been produced causing a major hiccup in production. In our next blog, we’ll cover the benefits of process validation and vision inspection systems in more detail.

Movember – Team TCA: Mission Accomplished

TCA Movember Final Day


TCA Technologies Inc. would like to thank all those employees that participated in the 2012 Movember campaign.  The 32 TCA employees who grew moustaches throughout the month of November in support of male cancer research and men’s mental health surpassed their goal of $5000 by raising over $6,300.

Our top fundraiser raised over $600.

Team TCA would like to thank everyone who supported us throughout this fundraising initiative.

With their “Mo’s” these employees raised vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and male mental health initiatives.

                                 Movember LogoMovember LogoMovember Logo



Movember – Team TCA at Day 0

Team TCA - Movember Day 0

TCA Technologies Inc. is excited to announce our participation in the 2012 Movember
campaign. 30 TCA employees will be growing moustaches throughout the month of November in support of male cancer research and men’s mental health.

Everyone can make a donation and help Team TCA in their fight for a cure by visiting
our home page to make a donation, or by donating at the donations boxes set up in the lobby at
TCA. The goal for the month is to raise a total of $5,000.

The funds that Movember raises are invested in programs that address the strategic
priorities Movember has identified, related to both prostate cancer and male mental

We would like to encourage everyone to support this initiative and would like to send a
big thank you to everyone who has supported and continues to support Team TCA.

Worldwide Customer Service

Here at TCA we work hard to take care of our customers. Our service has three elements that combine to form a superior support system.

1)      Customer Support – First and foremost we support our customers. Our service line is open 24/7, and we are able to answer in a variety of languages. We also have a number of our staff who are ready to travel at all times to our clients’ facilities in a matter of hours. Hungary, France, China, Mexico or anywhere else—we’ll be there.

2)      Product Support – We provide support for every system we manufacture. We offer warranties, replacement parts and wear parts. We also provide field service in two forms. In addition to facility visits, we can provide an implanted modem in the systems we build. This lets us log in remotely to see what’s going on with the system. Our clients explain to us what’s happening—or not happening—we see it in the software and we make the appropriate adjustments remotely, or we walk our clients through solving the problem.

3)      Production Support –We’re here to support our clients and keep them in production. We can provide preventative maintenance to make sure that equipment not only keeps running, but keeps running optimally. We can also provide training so that our clients can perform this preventative maintenance. We also offer equipment refurbishment and retooling.  Additionally, during the manufacture and testing of new equipment we are sometimes able to speed our clients’ product to market by providing limited production so that the product may be qualified and early marketing activities can begin

Our job is never done here at TCA. With every system we build we form a partnership. We’re here to support our clients and their systems in whatever way they need.

The Many Benefits of Automation

Automation of a manufacturing process provides many advantages that help make a business more competitive, and open up new avenues that weren’t available before. We’d like to walk you through some of the benefits of automation:

Increased Consistency – Automation produces parts in a reliable, repeatable and identical fashion each and every time. This lack of variation in manufacturing leads to a more consistent quality in the parts produced.

Less Scrap – Automated processes can be tightly controlled. This results in less scrap per part. In addition, a more consistent manufacturing process leads to less defective parts, decreasing scrap overall.

Improved Safety – Some operations are inherently dangerous. By automating these processes you remove employees from this danger.

Data Collection and Reporting – By tracking each and every part manufactured, automated systems offer complete traceability. They can record information during testing, during assembly—really at nearly every point in the manufacturing process. This automation is capped off with a serial number printed on each part. Through this recorded data and serial number system, information can be retrieved on a defective part. Using the data you can determine where in the process the defect occurred. And if a large number of the same product is defective, this data can help you discover the problem in your manufacturing process.

Better Use of Physical Space – Automated systems take up less floor space than manual systems. As a result, you get a better return on the capital you have invested in facilities.

This last point leads into the most exciting benefit of automation—providing your company with the ability to grow. Replacing manual systems with smaller automated systems frees up more of your facility for additional equipment. You can add more of the same equipment to increase output, or add a new machine entirely to enhance your capabilities.

This same opportunity for increased production or product diversity occurs not just on a facility level, but on a system level as well. Automation dramatically increases production output. For that reason, it takes much less time to satisfy orders. With this added time, you can continue to manufacture the same part and supply a larger customer base. Or, by purchasing additional tooling you can provide a variation on your part, or produce a new part entirely.

There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your company grow and expand. So if you’re looking to take your business to the next level, consider automation and the many benefits it holds.

Prototyping for Production

Here at TCA, our mission is to fulfill the needs of our customers. A couple of weeks ago we posted some kind feedback we had received. We’d like to take a minute to talk about the process that made that project such a success.

The equipment we build here is top of the line. The prototype system we made for this client, meant only as a precursor to their finished system, was able to produce prototype product. That meant that they could send it off for testing and approvals before their final system was ready.

Once we had settled on the prototype machinery we started building the first production line. But the product coming out of the prototype machinery was of such high quality that we ran it two shifts a day for months to create our customer’s initial inventory. It meant that they got to market faster than if they had waited to start production until the first finished line was built.

Running production on the prototype unit was invaluable, giving us copious feedback to improve the first production line. And when the customer said that demand for their product would justify a second production line, we were able to repurpose much of the equipment from the prototype line. Overall our machines went to work faster, which got our customers’ orders out the door sooner. That meant savings in both time and cost, and a very successful project outcome.

Some Kind Words

We recently completed a major contract for machinery to manufacture a critical component for electric cars (EV).  The success of this equipment as well as the timeline for the manufacturer was absolutely essential.  Our customer was comfortable awarding this project to us because of their confidence in our development capabilities and our ability to meet the stringent timelines.  This project involved a complete development cycle from R&D through to a first production line and then multiple production lines.  The Director of Process Development for another customer (an international corporation in the construction components field) for whom we did a project involving an even more complex development cycle said the following:

“As you are aware [we] established an aggressive timeline for completion of this multi-million dollar project.  The challenges were diverse, including elements of product development, process development, manufacturing system development and supply. The ability of the TCA team to quickly prototype various manufacturing options and perform proof-of-principle trials was invaluable, both in terms of timeline and cost containment.  TCA’s capacity to provide a significant level of production from the prototype process allowed us to perform product and market tests as well as supply commercial product to support our early sales activity.  Additionally, your ability to remain flexible in the design/build process of the production line equipment allowed us to take advantage of what we were learning as we worked together to refine and optimize the prototype process.  The fact that all of these activities could take place side-by-side in the same facility with the same project team resulted in a synergy that provided a positive impact on our ability to bring this product to market in a timely and cost-effective fashion.  We are now in the final stages of bringing this project to a successful conclusion and … Without your help, we would not be where we are today …”

Conservation of Capital

When a customer brings us in to look at their production equipment, we have a choice to make: whether to upgrade existing systems or build entirely new ones. The driving principal here is the conservation of capital. And that number, the amount of money a customer is saving, is an outcome of cost balancing. That balance comes from comparing the initial cost to downstream efficiencies.

To put it simply: what’s going to cost less in the long run? Sometimes, rebuilding or retrofitting an existing system to handle a new product is cheaper than constructing an entirely new system. And sometimes, an upgrade is the right way to go. But many times, the increased cost of a new system will pay for itself. If conserving capital today means blowing it on higher operating costs in the future, that’s not the best option. Examples of this are when an upgraded system would have a longer cycle time, or an increased scrap rate, than a system designed from the ground up for the task it will be performing.

At TCA we can price both options out for you. We work out which system will be more efficient—and thus more cost effective—in the long run. It would be quicker and simpler to be a company that does one or the other—we could upgrade every system or build something new every time. But that wouldn’t result in what’s best for our clients. So we give you both options, and we find the solution that’s right for YOUR needs.