Advanced Manufacturing Process Solutions from a Highly Skilled Workforce
Tech-Con Automation designs, builds and installs automated manufacturing and robotic solutions for a range of clients from automotive suppliers, consumer goods and agriculture to food & beverage companies. Founded in 1995 and based in Burlington, Ontario, Tech-Con is an authorized integrator of FANUC and Yaskawa Motoman industrial robots. The company’s automated manufacturing solutions make material handling, assembly, palletizing and waterjet cutting and cleaning more efficient.
Tech-Con’s customer solutions approach is matched by its highly skilled workforce. “Our people are committed to ensuring we provide best-in-class engineering and quality when it comes to the design, build and installation of our systems. Our process of developing automated solutions begins with our sales and applications engineers who utilize their extensive processing and manufacturing expertise. Utilizing the latest process simulation software, our team works together with customers on selecting the right automation solution based on their production requirements. Once a solution has been selected, our operations team delivers the system on time and within budget.
“We do everything in-house,” states Tech-Con President Nino LaDuca. That includes everything from fabrication, weld, assembly, panel build and testing. The company provides turnkey solutions for the customer. Having been acquired in June of 2015, Tech-Con is part of the Shape Technologies group of companies, which also includes Flow International, and KMT Waterjet.
At present, Tech-Con is “a little shy of seventy [employees] … we’re at sixty-eight right now,” says LaDuca. This up from 2011, when personnel numbered “in mid to low forties.” LaDuca believes sixty-five to seventy-five employees is optimal for Tech-Con.
The company works with subcontractors across North America, so it does not require a giant staff of its own. LaDuca says what Tech-Con looks for in a subcontractor is “reliability and competency.” Those happen to be the same skills that Tech-Con prizes in employees, along with an upbeat attitude and aptitude for business.
LaDuca describes Tech-Con’s corporate culture as entrepreneurial. “What we look for in people [is a good] skill set, but we’re also looking for a positive attitude—people who have strong ‘soft skills’—people that can deal with customers and employees and have something of a business mindset as well.”
If new hires fit Tech-Con’s criteria, the company works hard to earn their loyalty. “We’re trying to ensure we do everything we can to keep people motivated, so they stay here. We’ve invested a lot of resources in training, and not just for management, but also for our employees. Whether it’s leadership courses, management courses or technology courses, we invest in our people,” says LaDuca.
Geography adds to Tech-Con’s allure. “Even though we’re in Canada, we’re accessible throughout North America and beyond. We can support you with spare parts. We stock a lot of spare parts on site. We have technical service technicians who can be on your site within 24 to 72 hours and provide [assistance],” says the company president.
To date, Tech-Con has completed a large number of projects consisting of pallet-based assembly systems, material handling processes, conveyors, robotic palletizing and waterjet cutting and cleaning systems. Robots for these projects are generally from FANUC and Motoman.
Tech-Con’s standard palletizing systems might contain a versatile four, five or six-axis robot, on a platform protected by fencing. The standard palletizing system also contains conveyors and flexible end-of-arm tooling. Its pneumatic vacuum gripper is standard and can pick up cartons in a wide range of sizes.
Material handling equipment solutions may include integrated robotic systems with machine vision and line tracking technology and ‘over/under’ technology (simply, one conveyor stacked on top of another, with a pallet or bin lift situated on the operator side to transfer material between the top and bottom conveyors), side-by-side conveyors, lift and tilt tables or pallet stacker/destackers.
When it comes to waterjet technology, Tech-Con can install six-axis waterjet cutting systems. Customers can select different configurations for waterjet cells, featuring equipment that is floor mounted, wall mounted or cantilevered. Depending on what the client wants, the waterjet cell can be equipped with single, dual, triple or quad robotic systems. Tech-Con takes advantage of ultra-high pressure waterjet technology for solutions in this segment. Tech-Con also has the capability to test both cutting and cleaning opportunity’s for customers.
For automotive, Tech-Con’s solutions are typically built around Motoman and FANUC robots. Systems featuring these robots will smooth production bottlenecks and increase efficiency, promises Tech-Con. A great deal of preliminary work goes into these automotive solutions. “Before any tool is built, we create the tool in 3D Solidworks and then simulate the robot reach and cycle time for proof of concept,” according to the company site. A similar prebuild process is followed for all of the company’s automated/robotic solutions.
When it comes to food and beverage companies, Tech-Con can build solutions featuring palletizing robots, stretch-wrapping equipment, labeling systems, pallet control systems and more. Some customers in this segment ask for case packing solutions, that is, robotic/automated systems that can pack cases with various products.
Tech-Con also provides solutions that fall into the category of general automation. Solutions for this category often feature robots from the likes of Motoman and FANUC. The key to robot applications are the customized tools and grippers at the end of the robotic arms.
For example, for an auto part maker, Tech-Con created a quad robot waterjet cutting cell to boost production volumes in contour cutting car interior components. Tech-Con came up with an automated solution with inverted robots. This upside down setup eliminated floor space clutter and the potential danger involved with having an operator work their way around robots to get to the fixture. The solution involved four robots running simultaneously without colliding or destroying the fixture. A better quality cut was achieved by reducing the cutting speed of each robot. A waterjet cutting tool was used as well. The end-result of this project was an increase in accuracy, productivity and quality.
For another automotive supplier, the company built a robotic rack transfer system. The supplier wanted a system that would automate component rack loading. Challenges included limited space, existing equipment that needed to be updated and precise robot programming (robots in the new system had to work simultaneously, side-by-side, which again meant programming them in a way to prevent collisions). In the end, the robotic solution Tech-Con came up with automated a formerly manual process (thus minimizing the risk of injury to employees) and maximized cycle time.
LaDuca is proud of Tech-Con’s engineer-to-order capabilities.
“We deal with customers who come to us with a challenge or a problem, and we try to find and develop a solution or a process for them. [In future] we’re going to continue to support our customers during the life cycle of our equipment. We’ll be able to provide them, whether it’s spare parts, whether it’s improvements or upgrades or preventative maintenance,” he states.
For a company that deals with such cutting-edge technology, LaDuca again stresses the human factor as key to Tech-Con’s success.
“The company’s been very entrepreneurial. We believe and trust our people. We invest a lot in our people because we feel the people of this company have made this company successful in the last twenty years. And it really allows for our relationships with our customers to continue to be successful,” says the Tech-Con president.