Teknic, Inc. was established in 1985, and after developing design tools for Texas Instruments’ digital signal processors (DSPs), became one of the first pioneering companies to use DSPs in motion control applications. We have been applying this expertise to motion control technology for over two decades, leading to many price/performance breakthroughs. Teknic’s technical legacy includes several industry firsts, including:
The first DSP-based servo drive
The first all-digital current loop control
The first all-digital “d-q” indirect vector torque control for brushless motors
The first motion profile generator capable of sculpting profiles in real time (based on patented technology) to improve motion smoothness and decrease machine vibration (watch the video)
The first high-performance, all-in-one brushless servo motor, servo drive and controller that costs less than the sum of its individual components (ClearPath).
OEM Business Model
Teknic’s business model is much more than simply choosing to sell only to OEMs and providing outstanding technical support. Automated machinery OEMs have very different needs from those of automation end-users. Our entire company is optimized for working with OEMs.
Back in the early 1990’s, after careful study, Teknic concluded that no single automation company could serve both end-users and OEMs in an optimum way. Therefore, although the end-user market is quite large and lucrative, we decided to limit ourselves exclusively to the OEM market and no longer sell to end-users at all.
On the surface, it may seem odd that we would forego these sales opportunities—the technical requirements seem, at least superficially, to be similar. Our study of this showed, however, that there are not only fundamentally different technical requirements, but there are also numerous distinct non-technical requirements. It seemed we could be more successful and our clients more successful if we focused completely on OEMs, even though we would have to give up all end-user business. So over the years, Teknic transformed itself into an organization unique in the automation industry, an organization optimized solely to meet the unique needs of OEM machinery manufacturers.
This strategy has withstood the test of time, and today Teknic is a premier supplier to OEMs of automated machinery. To understand exactly what this OEM focus means, here are just a few examples of how Teknic is different from the typical automation component company who would love to sell to OEMs but who needs to sell to a large base of end-user customers also (we’ll call them “EndUserCo“):
Price, Performance and Technical Support
EndUserCo has a large number of end-user customers, spread all over the country (and world). To reach their customers cost-effectively, they use manufacturer’s representatives (reps) and distributors dispersed throughout their sales territory. With so many customers in so many locations, it’s cost prohibitive for them to use a direct sales and application engineering force. Although their layer of rep and distributor middlemen adds cost to their products, this is okay because most end-users only buy a small amount of product each and are therefore less price sensitive than OEMs. (Unfortunately for OEMs, EndUserCo must also compensate the middlemen for sales to them.)
The layer of rep and distributor middlemen also helps insulate EndUserCo’s technical people from the day-to-day support demands of many hundreds or thousands of customers. This, too, is okay because even though the end-users don’t have unimpeded access to the manufacturer’s technical experts, end-user applications usually just have to meet a threshold level of functionality; there’s not usually a big advantage to squeezing out the last bit of performance. EndUserCo can get away with providing less-than-expert support because end-users—who are typically only buying a small volume of products—are often willing to pay for more expensive products than absolutely necessary just to be sure to safely “overkill” their requirements.
Because Teknic limits itself strictly to OEM customers, we have fewer customers than EndUserCo, but each customer typically buys a much larger quantity of product. The automation components that these OEMs buy from Teknic are a key part of their machinery. The components are a large and on-going part of the machine cost and their performance plays a key part in the overall performance of the machine, and thus in the machine’s market competitiveness. Needless to say, price is crucial to the OEM, as is expert technical support and product performance—their competitiveness is dependent on it. Teknic offers the 100-piece price on most products to all bona fide OEMs during the development phase of their projects, even though they may only be buying very small quantities.
One of the ways Teknic created a price and technical support advantage was by divesting ourselves of all reps, distributors and even internal non-technical salespeople. In their place we built up a team of highly trained application engineers and system specialists to directly support our smaller number of higher volume clients. This eliminated a lot of cost and allows expert technical support. It also means that Teknic can no longer effectively sell to the vast population of end-users.
Long-term Availability and Stable Lead Time
Long-term availability and stable lead times are essential for OEMs. Teknic knows that its clients will be making each machine model for many years and it would be a great disservice to them to obsolete any of the components they’ve designed into a machine. EndUserCo obsoletes a product when its volume is too low (which is either because it’s a failed new product or because a new product displaced it), or because parts are no longer available to build it. Teknic uses a unique strategy to largely avoid both of these problems.
With respect to new product introductions, Teknic uses a platform approach that allows for incremental (yet often groundbreaking) innovation to existing products while retaining backward compatibility. As one example, Teknic’s SSt-1500 servo drive, (which looks identical today to the unit introduced in 1994) has undergone numerous upgrades to improve its price, performance, functionality and reliability, yet today’s production unit can still drop in to a machine application designed in 1994. This development philosophy means there is not a lot of pressure on Teknic to obsolete older products even if they’re running at low volume—the platform always runs at high volume even if individual models do not.
The platform development approach also helps in maintaining parts availability because it limits the number of unique components that we need to worry about. Beyond this, Teknic has spent a great deal of money and effort on building a sophisticated supply chain management system and a risk mitigation program that assures a stable source of raw material. Based upon lean techniques including single piece flow, poka-yoke (foolproof) assembly, end-point configuration, rapid changeover and Kanban buffers, this system has proven that it can supply reliable products with predictable, short lead times even in times of high volatility and short raw material supply.
Teknic products are religiously tracked from “cradle to grave” by a specialized IT infrastructure that includes links into all test systems, burn-in systems, raw material inventory controls, client orders, return processing and engineering change management. This system is not only used to assure delivery, but also to track product in the field and to provide rapid manufacturing feedback to improve product reliability.
EndUserCo knows that reps and distributors thrive on new product introductions. Backward compatibility isn’t so important, just introduce new models as often as possible. To avoid a proliferation of products, EndUserCo simply obsoletes products that no longer sell in volume. Teknic can’t afford to do this because it would seriously alienate its entire client base; EndUserCo can’t afford not to do this…and it doesn’t matter to their end-user customers anyway because they’ll just buy the latest model. With respect to lead times, EndUserCo develops contracts with distributors to stock the small amount of inventory to take advantage of immediate, short-term sales opportunities. Stability and low volatility of lead times are less important to them.
Quality and Reliability
Some of Teknic’s cost advantage (gained by eliminating middlemen) is invested in our intensive on-going program for assuring product quality and reliability. With an all-OEM client base, Teknic needs to have significantly higher quality and reliability than EndUserCo. Why is this?
OEMs buy much higher quantities than end-users, so they’re statistically more likely to experience product failures. An end-user that buys ten servo drives is very unlikely to see a failure no matter how bad EndUserCo’s failure rate is. An OEM that buys a thousand servo drives per year is much more likely to see a failure eventually. OEMs also have, on average, more automated axes and I/O per machine. This means the likelihood of seeing a machine failure due to an automation component failure is higher for the OEM than for the end-user. This is why Teknic can not tolerate failure rates that would be acceptable for EndUserCo. Moreover, at some point, it’s cheaper for EndUserCo to lose a few (typically small) customers due to reliability issues than to spend more money on incremental improvements to reliability. Teknic invests too much in each client to risk this loss. To back up all our talk about reliability, all our motion control electronics, even high-power servo drives, come standard with a three-year warranty.
Application Engineering Services
As stated earlier, our OEM clients always work directly with Teknic application engineers and system specialists. Although, it’s obvious that this will provide them with more highly qualified support, the breadth of our support is surprising to many. The list of standard services provided by Teknic is quite extensive. These services include: simulation of all motion axes, including sensitivity analyses; value engineering of mechanics; recommendation of best-in-class components; and much more. Learn more by visiting our Support page.
Over the last decade Teknic has produced a steady stream of state-of-the-art, proprietary motion control features making it easy for our clients’ machines to perform at industry leading levels. These innovations include:
Electronic Inertia Matching Technology (IMT) for adaptive control of difficult loads
Regressive Auto Spline (RAS) to process move profiles for ultra smooth motion and low machine vibration
SmartSaturation™ to handle inadvertent voltage or current clipping gracefully during motion
Advanced Velocity and Acceleration Estimators to reduce quantization noise for tighter, more accurate control
AntiHunt™ technology to keep axes still at the end of moves
g-Stop Command Tuning™ which sculpts traditional motion profiles into uniquely shaped profiles that do a remarkable job of making motion smoother and reducing machine resonances.
Because of this, in application after application, Teknic’s advanced machine automation products have proven to be the superior choice compared head-to-head against competing products.