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The Proof of Principle

Developing an industry-leading approach to identifying and addressing risks

Modular are at their best when developing complex custom solutions to advanced manufacturing challenges—a process that takes substantial talent, precision skills and a healthy appetite for risk. The team is known for their ability to deliver when others can’t, which is why a renowned global leader in medical technology approached Modular in 2009 when they needed to fully automate a production line that many people thought couldn’t be automated.

This particular process is highly complex and exact. For years the product was finished by hand, by trained workers measuring, pressing and manipulating the product until it was the size and tolerance specified for its purpose. This one-off, hand-made process left room for inconsistency and error. The manufacturer needed precision and full traceability, two primary benefits of an automation solution.

“It was a very challenging problem,” recalls Martin Dolan, Chief Business Development Officer at Modular. “We analysed the process and developed a concept, but there were risks and uncertainties.. We knew we didn’t have the answer but our PoP process gave us the confidence that we would find it.

The Challenge

Use Proof of Principle methodology to identify potential project risks, and ultimately, determine the feasibility of an automated solution for this scenario.

The first step towards finding the solution was to identify and break down the risks within the project. The Modular team immersed themselves in the job, developing an intimate knowledge of the product, materials, processes and end application. By placing their focus on the quality of the end result, Modular worked through every step of the current process to identify every challenge to a full automation solution.

Once all the risks were identified, the team knew where to begin. The answer to whether the process could be automated began with a solution to one step of the process. So Modular provided the concept for a solution, and the customer invested a small amount to see if it would work.

Within weeks the first step was successful, and the customer was on board. Step two introduced more equipment and a bigger level of investment but the way ahead was clearer and there was a level of trust. In the final step of the PoP Modular automated an intelligent forming fixture to manipulate the material to a precise specification, and suddenly the entire process was possible.

The Approach

By placing their focus on the quality of the end result, Modular worked through every step of the current process to identify every challenge to a full automation solution.

“That really opened the doors of the solution,” Dolan says. “It took that step-by-step approach to help us understand what was going to work, how and why.”

What Modular have done is develop their industry-leading Proof of Principle methodology, which now guides their approach to every automation solution. By investing their time and ingenuity in the planning and concept phases of a project, well before building anything, Modular are able to develop a deep understanding of their customers’ products, processes and desired outcomes, and identify and address the major risks likely to prevent the success of a solution.

“We have to become experts in our customer’s product,” Dolan says. “Their goals become our goals, and because we hold all of our work to exceptionally high standards, we’re able to deliver a solution that works every time.”

For their orthopaedic manufacturing customer, the Modular solution delivered a higher output than required at a better quality than promised. Plus, the machine was delivered on time and within budget. It’s no wonder the manufacturer is now a long-standing customer who operate a range of machines created and built by Modular.

“When there is an unknown, that is totally their space,” says the customer’s senior engineer, who oversaw the project. “They are the complete solutions people, who don’t shy away from a challenging process. Modular demonstrate great commitment, deep expertise and excellent build quality. The PoP process is great to de-risk a project.”

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This case study was written for Modular Automation, a global leader in automation technology. View the original here