A startup business which had successfully demonstrated their new process in a laboratory environment sought support in making the transition from the manual, lab-based processing to a repeatable, controlled, automated high volume, commercial enterprise.
The goal of this activity was to establish a repeatable, production-worthy process, identifying variables in the laboratory process which could be brought under control and then institute an automated data collection process. Equipment then needed to be conceptualized, designed/built, proven, and implemented for a production-worthy manufacturing process.
Partnering with the client, all process variables which were being “handled” by human judgements were identified. Through proof-of-concept testing, repeatable, controlled mechanization was identified and constructed for each variable. Collaborating with equipment manufacturers, automation was applied to the mechanized solutions to create a fully controllable, consistent set of process and material handling equipment alongside SCADA software to capture real time data.
During the investigative activities, several interesting discoveries were made. Process steps that were managed in the laboratory environment by human judgements were identified. Allowable limits were identified, quantified, and tested before conceptualization and construction of mechanical tools capable of delivering these process steps. Through the development process, several defects that had randomly occurred during lab-based processing underwent root-cause analysis and resolution. These actions led to a lean, fully production-worthy process, automated to produce high quality output.