MERLIN May Just Revolutionize Productivity

The Hamilton Spectator (December 11, 2013) – As far as Dave McPhail is concerned, there’s no excuse for the productivity gap in Canada — at least as far as manufacturing equipment is concerned.

All a manufacturer needs to do is call on MERLIN. That’s the manufacturing execution real-time, lean information network that is Memex Automation’s premier product.

McPhail believes the technology — a combination of electronic hardware and software that detects inefficiencies of manufacturing equipment in real-time and relays it to managers — is a game changer for manufacturers. If you can measure it, then you can manage it.

Problems with equipment have traditionally been monitored by operators are logged and then sent to managers for analysis — MERLIN does all of that instantly.

“We have taken this process from sneakernet to Ethernet, to make Canadian manufacturers more productive,” said McPhail.

MERLIN is now installed at client sites in Canada, the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

He said the real value in MERLIN is that the design has been tested in the field and then tweaked to fit real-world situations. On top of that, it’s been standardized.

For instance, a local aerospace manufacturer found close to 100 hours of extra machining capacity per machine, the equivalent of $40,000 per month.

“An aerospace company we worked with in the Kitchener-Waterloo area put this on their machines and saved $40,000 a month,” he said. “The payback was less than three weeks.”

And the entire product — except for the circuit boards — is made in Canada through a supply chain it has established with a Brantford company. And it will stay that way — McPhail says he’ll never contract out any part of the business offshore and, when he hires, it will be local university graduates.

“We graduate a lot of students here. They deserve to get a job here. If we contract out all of our business, we are graduating all of these people for what?” McPhail said.

MERLIN can also be of particular benefit to manufacturers with equipment that has no electronic network connectivity hardware.

“They have all this equipment on their shop floor and making product every day and they have no way of knowing how efficiently they’re making it,” said McPhail.

It’s a strategy that is starting to pay off, resulting in a flurry of activity.

Just this past November, the 17-employee-strong company went public on the TSX Venture Exchange so that it can invest in more R&D and ramp up to meet expected increased demand.

That expectation is real — Mazak, a global manufacturing equipment manufacturer with a large plant in Kentucky, has just signed a deal with Memex to provide its hardware monitoring system as an option.

The fall has seen a dizzying number of deals — talks with Microsoft, partnership talks with various organizations, including two in November ending in announcements of a critical joint technology and marketing agreement with American-based Caron Engineering and a global marketing deal with Cincom Systems.

It’s also constantly reinvesting in its own research and development with significant results: Earlier this year, it received a prestigious prize from Frost and Sullivan for its innovative monitoring systems. It’s continuing that focus on innovation as it enters year four of a five-year research program at McMaster.

“We are structuring our business for high growth, to grow sales by 60 to 70 per cent from last year,” he said. “The ink is barely dry on the Mazak deal.”

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