Creating Success through Innovation
Taylor-Winfield Technologies, Inc. knows how to build a better/smarter mousetrap. The original equipment manufacturer designs and builds next generation machinery for a variety of advanced manufacturers around the world, enabling its customers to maintain a leading edge in competitive markets. “Our motto is ‘Our Customer’s Success is Our Success,’” says Blake Rhein, Vice President of Sales & Marketing.
The family owned, Ohio-based business specializes in automated assembly systems, welding machines, induction heating power supplies, material handling/packaging systems, robotic integration systems, parts handling, and processing solutions. Taylor-Winfield’s customers use these solutions to produce major brand name products, from appliances and automobiles to electronics, firearms, and medical equipment.
Each Taylor-Winfield solution is specially designed to meet the customer’s specific needs. “Almost all the machines we manufacture are custom built for a unique customer need,” explains Sales & Marketing Coordinator Katie Denno. “Rarely are there two machines that are exactly alike.” Mr. Rhein adds, “We are very customer application driven. Customers approach our team with a unique manufacturing problem and Taylor-Winfield’s R&D experts, led by Chief Electrical Engineer and Innovation Leader Mike Prokop, develop a process solution. We have people completely dedicated to our R&D lab,” Ms. Denno says of Mr. Prokop. “He and his team come up with forward-thinking solutions to stay on the edge of technology.”
Automation is a major area of interest for many customers seeking cutting edge solutions. “Hands-off operation is a phrase that we hear a lot,” says Mr. Prokop. “They call it lights out operation, where you bring raw materials into a process and out the door goes a finished product.” Mr. Prokop admits that the process “sounds kind of like science fiction… but that is the direction things are headed.”
Taylor-Winfield customers want to achieve a seamless operation, and the company’s smart machines can deliver this efficiency. “A smart machine can be tied into the Internet of Things,” Mr. Prokop explains. Also known as IoT, the Internet of Things is the networking of physical objects – in this case manufacturing equipment – so that these objects are able to collect and exchange data. The technology allows manufacturers “to stay ahead of problems that affect production,” leading to greater efficiency and lower operating costs.
For example, the ideal smart machine can be programmed to recognize when a motor needs replacing and then automatically order a replacement motor over the Internet. Once the replacement motor is received, the system will generate a work order for the maintenance department and schedule the replacement for an optimal time, so it doesn’t interrupt productivity. The system can even pay the invoice over the Internet. “Basically, what you are left with is just a few hours of maintenance time to replace that motor,” Mr. Prokop points out. “[The smart machine] eliminates the cost of all of the people who used to touch this whole process of replacing a motor, people filling out forms and doing all these administrative functions.” As a result, the cost of replacing a motor is dramatically reduced.
Another advantage to networked machinery is that troubleshooting can be done remotely, saving companies time and money. “When machines are acting up in the middle of the night, you typically call the engineer and the engineer has to come in and find out why it is acting up,” says Sales Engineering Manager Jeff Bell. “Now, they can go online and look at what is happening to the machine instead of getting out of bed and driving in to figure out what is going on. So instead of the machine being down for hours, it can be [operational again] in only a few minutes.”
This remote troubleshooting also allows the Taylor-Winfield team to provide support to customers located in the far reaches of the globe. “We have 52,000 machines installed all around the world,” Ms. Denno points out. “And if our service group can just log into a customer system and see [what is going on], we can help diagnose the problem from halfway around the world.”
The team is currently utilizing networking technology to improve packaging inefficiencies at a USA based Japanese owned manufacturing plant in the United States. Operations kept bottlenecking at the plant’s packaging area, so the customer approached Taylor-Winfield for a solution that will keep the product moving efficiently. The team developed “a massive packaging system that involves seven robots, five different crane systems, and a lot of heavy material handling in order to help them to increase the throughput of their plant,” Mr. Rhein reports.
This smart, networked packaging system can predict – and prevent – bottlenecks. “That system relates back to the Internet of Things and production control,” Mr. Prokop explains. “So they can anticipate one of the stations on this machine being starved for materials ahead of time. [The system] has the technology to relate all the information back to their enterprise operation system to help avoid -downtime and increase capacity.
Still in its infancy, The Internet of Things is expected to become increasingly important to manufacturers. “It is going to be huge,” Mr. Prokop predicts. The team is eager to stay at the leading edge of the technology as it continues to evolve.
3D Printing is another leading edge technology that Taylor-Winfield utilizes. The company already sources a number of parts that are 3D printed. “We are seeing this as a growth area of sourcing within our business,” Mr. Rhein says. But that is only the beginning. “Our ownership is looking at a corporate investment in 3D printing technology that is emerging from a technology incubator in our region.”
The team sees major potential for this rapidly evolving technology. “We are seeing the application for 3D printing more and more for parts supply into our manufacturing facilities for the machines we are building,” Mr. Rhein explains. With new advances being made every month, it is not difficult to imagine just how much the technology will affect the manufacturing industry in the future. “It is really at its infancy and gaining traction, but just like the concept of the Internet of Things, you will see something remarkably different in six months to a year from now in 3D printing than what you see today because the processes and the technology are evolving.”
Currently, 3D printing primarily deals with plastic parts. Mr. Prokop predicts that applications for the technology will skyrocket when 3D printers becomes capable of handling a wider variety of materials to make the finished product. “You are going to see really innovative things come out when they start doing 3D printing of metal parts made from various materials.” The technology for printing metal has already been developed, but it is not yet able to produce parts at a sufficient volume to meet high production needs. But, with the rapid pace of development, it is likely only a matter of time before metal parts can be quickly and easily printed on demand in sufficient volume to make the process viable and cost-effective.
Taylor-Winfield specializes in delivering the most up-to-date, game changing technology available. As the company continues to move forward – and technology continues to evolve – the team will focus on staying one step ahead. “What was innovative six months ago is obsolete now,” Mr. Prokop points out. “So the challenge is to stay ahead of the curve. We have to be innovative. We keep our minds open to the next great opportunity and we try to keep everybody looking forward to something else that we can work with and adapt to the machines and assembly systems we produce.” Mr. Rhein adds, “We are continually growing our capabilities from a technical standpoint.”
Taylor-Winfield’s successful history has already proven that the team knows how to embrace the latest technology and ensure that its customers have access to the most advanced solutions for their parts production and manufacturing needs.