Innovative Automation

Taylor-Winfield Technologies, Inc.

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Original equipment manufacturer Taylor-Winfield designs and builds next generation machinery for a wide range of market-leading, advanced manufacturers. The family-owned, Ohio-based business delivers unique solutions that are individually designed for a specific application, giving customers a significant competitive edge and long-term cost savings.
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Customers utilize Taylor-Winfield’s solutions to produce a variety of brand name products, from appliances and automobiles to electronics, firearms, and medical equipment. The company specializes in automated assembly systems, welding machines, induction heating power supplies, material handling/packaging systems, robotic integration systems, parts handling, and processing solutions.

We checked back in with the team this month after profiling the company in April 2016, and automation remains a major area of interest for customers seeking cutting edge solutions. “The overall trend is that people are looking to bring more automation into their manufacturing processes to improve product quality, reduce cost, and improve response time from build to market,” says Blake Rhein, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “They want to increase manufacturing production, maintain or improve quality, and reduce cost by making investments in capital equipment and automation.”

Marketing Manager Katie Denno adds, “Everyone is looking to make their process faster, smarter, and more robust to gain a competitive advantage in their market.”

The team recently exhibited at the Automate show, North America’s largest solutions-based showcase of automation technologies (previous known as the International Robots, Vision & Motion Control Show). The hunger for automated solutions was more apparent than ever. “From a marketing perspective, we got the most leads we’ve ever gotten from a show,” Mrs. Denno says. “Most people have a positive outlook on incorporating automation within their manufacturing environment – not to replace people with robots or automated machines, but to hire people with more sophisticated talents.”

At the show, Taylor-Winfield demonstrated the potential for robotic integration into traditional welding and other metal processing technologies. The booth turned many heads. “There was a tremendous amount of people walking around the show with a lot of interest in automation,” Mr. Rhein says. “A lot of our customers are looking for us to automate what would have been, in the past, a very labor-intensive process.”

New customers from the Automate show will be added to a substantial customer base that relies on Taylor-Winfield for automated manufacturing solutions. One typical current customer is a tier one supplier to General Motors that recently approached Taylor-Winfield in search of a way to automate its manufacturing processes. “In the past, theirs was a very labor-intensive, dedicated, single cell type of manufacturing process,” Mr. Rhein says. “They’ve never gone to this level of automation before in their manufacturing plant. We are creating, through robotic integration and material handling, a way to automate multiple cells all at one time. In doing so, it is going to help them reduce their manufacturing cost, improve their product quality and help them to position themselves to be more competitive within their industry.”

Humans are still involved in the process, but they are removed from the most dangerous or strenuous aspects. “There are still operators that are woven within this system,” says Sales Engineering Manager Jeff Bell. “But the complex, heavy parts of it have all been automated.”

Mr. Rhein adds, “They were not necessarily looking to reduce labor costs; that may be a secondary benefit. What they were looking for is to improve safety and handling within their plants.”

Another new project for Taylor-Winfield is the development of a robotic banding system. This next generation solution can recognize different shapes and sizes in order to quickly and efficiently package material. “Pallets come out shaped differently, configured differently every time,” Mr. Bell explains. “[The robotic banding system] can adjust to any size pallet or container that is coming down the line and the robots will automatically band it.”

The robotic banding system is an integrated solution, a complex concept in which Taylor-Winfield specializes. “Our company’s ability to bring in multiple processes into an integrated solution for our customer is a capability that not many companies have,” Mr. Bell says.

The robotic banding solution includes a vision system, which enables the robots to adjust to different package sizes and shapes. Vision systems are utilized in a number of other leading edge, Taylor-Winfield solutions. For example, one of the company’s newly developed systems utilizes vision detection to position a laser that finishes the end of a metal product. “So the customer can bring down almost any shape to the robotic end-finishing, or chamfering, system, and the vision system would detect it, determine what size and shape it is, and the robot would go in there and do the all chamfering automatically, whether it was a single part run, or a 20 part run. Whatever they put in front of it, the robot did it.”

Mr. Rhein uses a major U.S. industry to illustrate how the new system could be used. “Picture a big pipe mill where they are producing pipe for the oil and gas industry. The robot will be able to finish the ends of the pipe so that when they ship out their pipe to the field to be installed, it is ready for connection to the subsequent pipe.” This automates a process that has traditionally been done manually, making the work more efficient and more precise. The manual process “was an uncontrolled process,” Mr. Rhein says. “The robotic integrated system is a very controlled process.”

The company is also working to improve linear friction welding. In this process, “one part is held stationary, the other one moves linearly back and forth at a very high rate of speed, and the stationary one is then brought toward the moving piece in a very controlled manner. The two pieces are bonded together using friction, heat, and force.”

The catch is that linear friction welding has traditionally required large, bulky machinery. Taylor-Winfield wants to streamline the process and reduce the footprint. “Most of the prior machines were very big, hydraulically driven machines,” Mr. Rhein says. “This will be an electronically controlled system that has a smaller footprint and is more precise and will be at a lower price point than previously designed systems.”

Taylor-Winfield’s new, leading edge products are installed all around the world. This could create a problem when customers in far-flung locations need immediate service. The team has solved this problem through their smart, TW Connect system. “TW Connect allows us to go online with a customer and perform real-time diagnostics of what is happening with their machine,” Mr. Rhein says. “We use equipment to enable us to go either through a dedicated network connection or a Wi-Fi guest connection into the machine. If they are having problems or they want to increase the performance of a machine, our engineers and service people can go online live with a customer of a machine and see what is going on real-time with that machine and be able to make recommendations to them.”

The system can also use a video camera so that the engineers and service technicians can view the machine in real-time. “You can see live images of what is going on at that moment, as well as go into the software architecture and the electrical setup of the machine to be able to do live, real-time diagnostics,” Mr. Rhein says.

This technology allows customers to access instant support—no matter where they are in the world. “In the old days—just six months ago—you’d have to send a field service engineer out to the site and there would be travel costs and travel time. This is reducing the cost and increasing the speed of response to a customer’s need,” Mr. Rhein says. Manufacturers lose money every minute that a machine is down, so being able to increase a machine’s uptime creates significant savings.

TW Connect also lets the team provide updates from afar. “If you’ve got a program upgrade, now you just connect into it and do the program changes or add another feature and you are done,” Mr. Bell says.

Mrs. Denno adds, “We have machines installed all around the world, so for us to be able help our customers with their issues while we are thousands of miles apart is awesome.”

Taylor-Winfield is well positioned to continue bringing innovative, next generation solutions to the marketplace. All across the globe, manufacturers are looking to automate in order to stay ahead in a highly competitive industry. Mr. Rhein summarizes, “we see automation—and in particular as it relates to welding processes, metal heat treating and material handling—as the ongoing future for us.”

June 24, 2017, 11:37 AM EDT

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