TIP Technologies brings flexibility to manufacturing quality


A screenshot of the TIPSFS experience.

TIP Technologies Inc.
Innovation: Mobile quality assurance

The devices and products built by manufacturers are in many cases becoming more and more complex. The average consumer sees this in the capabilities of smartphones and other connected devices, but it is also true in aerospace, defense and medical device manufacturing, all industries served by Pewaukee-based TIP Technologies Inc.

Ensuring the quality of an iPhone is certainly important for Apple, but when a manufacturer is building an airplane or a project for the U.S. Department of Defense, quality assurance takes on a new level of importance.

A screenshot of the TIPSFS experience.
A screenshot of the TIPSFS experience.

TIP Technologies has about 40 employees, with 30 working in Wisconsin. The company also has partners around the world and counts some of the top defense manufacturers, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and others, as customers.

TIP has a long history of helping companies track their manufacturing process with software. Its flagship product, TIPQA, does just that as software that runs on the client’s server. It can integrate with the leading enterprise resource planning systems and create records for tracing parts, handling nonconforming pieces, managing corrective action and more.

But any system for tracking a process is only as good as the data being put into it. The company’s shop floor execution offering, TIPSFE, allows users to manage activity on the shop floor, but TIP’s newest product aims to go one step further by allowing mobile tablet access throughout the shop floor.

“Our customers have been asking for a web-based solution that delivers quality data with ease,” said Badri Balachandar, director of engineering at TIP Technologies, in announcing the new offering.

Balachandar said the TIPSFS product would give inspectors, manufacturing personnel and supervisors the ability to move throughout the shop floor while maintaining wireless access to data on product quality.

Ron Dolan, TIP Technologies president, said TIPSFS would give users the ability to better anticipate problems and take a more proactive approach.

Dolan said developing an application that could run on Apple or Android operating systems was one of the projects he was given when he joined the company in 2014.

The idea is that it will be easier for anyone on the shop floor to input data in real-time and supervisors and managers will be able to make real-time decisions. Dolan said many organizations will have one terminal for as many as 10 work stations or operations, requiring users to stop their work and walk over to the terminal to input data. Using tablets at each work station will allow for more accurate data at the time the work is being completed.

Dolan acknowledged building a web-based application comes with challenges. The tablets used by consumers don’t come with the level of security needed for manufacturing in the aerospace and defense industries.

“We have to write layers of security over the top of that,” he said.

TIP also has to build in security to make sure users see only the information they are authorized to view, Dolan said.

But one of the other challenges TIP Technologies faced is common to anyone designing something for use on mobile devices: user experience.

Dolan said one of the biggest challenges was to manage the real estate of the screen and design the platform so it could transition to different devices.

“The ability to make sure that we can accommodate whatever the technology is, is always a challenge,” he said.

While TIP Technologies’ offerings are built with an eye toward helping large manufacturers handle complex projects, Dolan said the products can also benefit smaller shops and can scale to fit the situation, whether someone is manufacturing fasteners or jet engines.

TIP Technologies also has increased its activity in Washington, D.C., Dolan said, working with U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner to include language in the Defense Authorization bill that encourages contractors to utilize electronic-based quality management systems on government projects.

Dolan said TIP knows there are manufacturers who could report on their improvements if they had better insight into their quality. That could, in turn, help drive the cost of projects down and improve their management, he said.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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