How a Medical Device Maker Doubled Productivity

Tegra Medical had customers that liked the products being produced. Buyers, though, were demanding faster turnaround times. Taking on more employees and increasing shifts wasn't a solution for Tegra Medical since the costs for the products couldn't go up.

The company turned to a robotic automation solution that's creating positive changes for large and small manufacturers.

The Challenge

As a medical device contract manufacturer, Tegra Medical must keep the trust of the customers it supplies. One way to do that is to provide high quality products in a timely manner and for a competitive price. This enables Tegra's customers to keep their reputations solid and remain profitable.

Pressures in the supply chain meant that there were demands for quality products that were turned around in faster cycles. Tegra Medical had decisions to make that would impact its operations in Franklin, Massachusetts and Costa Rica.

The solution was using collaborative robots.

In the video segment Why I Automate featuring Tegra Medical the company's director of manufacturing engineering, Hal Blenkhorn, says they were looking for a scalable platform that would meet all of their parameters. Robots that were easy to use was one of those needs. The collaborative class series of robots were just coming on the market. "A lot of our operations we want to put together are in mini-cells. It's confined workspaces and operators have to be able to interface with the automation," says Blenkhorn.

Robotic automation has typically been a top-down approach that included automating a specific area within a plant. In the article, The Realm of Collaborative Robots –Empowering Us in Many Forms, collaborative robots, also called cobots, can be ordered for anyone in a plant to use in stand-alone operations.

The Payback

Tegra created a sound plan and decided they would first automate repetitive, high-volume processes. Their investment in robotics has paid off with year-after-year repeatability that led to the production of the one-millionth part from one cell.

The company has also doubled throughput.

Manufacturers want to take the bottom line into account and know a realistic return on investment. The investment is realized over the long term, according to figures presented in the write-up Calculating Your ROI for Robotic Automation: Cost vs. CashFlow.

Using robotic automation is like paying highly skilled laborers about 75 cents an hour for continuous work that can last 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, during an entire year. The article offers details on the payback over the course of several years.

The robot itself may be about one-third of the total cost of installation. In the case of a system costing about $250,000 the payback may take about two years to cover the initial costs. During the following years, the return accrues exponentially.

The calculations for Tegra Medical are even more favorable. Hal Blenkhorn says they have had a return on their investment within the first six months.

Another key issue concerning labor is addressed in the video segment. The company has not had to downsize workers due to automation. Workers have been trained in new skills and assigned elsewhere, or they've been taught how to operate and supervise the robots.

The video illustrates the benefits of collaborative robots and the impact on a company's workforce and productivity. Spend a few minutes watching Why I Automate: Tegra Medical if you're considering industrial automation for the first time or thinking about upgrading a system.

After the video, improve your knowledge of robotics and their use in your company by browsing A3. Find trainings like live events and webinars and read articles that link to valuable respirces.