Mark Devaney writes about Telemotive Industrial Controls, a company known for its boundless capacity to grow, innovate and listen.
“We’re Listening” is the new marketing mantra of Telemotive Industrial Controls. It means that the company — the leading manufacturer of wireless remote controls and anti-collision systems for overhead cranes, hoist/monorail systems, conveyors, locomotives and other materials-handling applications — intends to better serve its customers by hearing what they have to say.
Fortunately, for Telemotive, the company is hearing mostly good things. “Our new campaign highlights the fact that Telemotive is the leader in the wireless controls industry,” says John Dealy, vice president of sales and marketing. “We’re listening to our customers and they are not only helping us learn how to better react to their current needs, but they are also helping us plan and develop future products across the many industries we serve.”
Telemotive designs and manufacturers all of its products at its modern facility in Glendale Heights, Ill. The company’s products have a huge range of applications in such industry sectors as general manufacturing (aluminum/steel plants, aircraft manufacturing, shipping docks, die changing, paper mills, automobile stamping plants), product finishing (plating, galvanizing, powder coating), foundry (pouring ladles, casting ladles, billet delivery, ladle transfer, scrap handling), mining (load hall dumpers, remote switching, conveyors, hard rock equipment), railroads/transit (car spotters, yard switching, locomotives, drop tables, switch and signal control, track maintenance, grain drapers, service cranes, truck-mounted cranes, cable pullers, compactors, augers) and construction (tower cranes, concrete pumpers,
trolley-boom cranes, knuckle-boom cranes).
Forty years ago, industry in general was plagued by low productivity due to slow, clumsy, dangerous movements by cab-operated cranes or dangling pendant controls. These same problems placed operators at risk of falls or load placement injury.
If that weren’t enough to warrant some improvements, pendant controls were also subject to constant and expensive replacement, causing crane downtime and lost productivity. Telemotive engineers took up this formidable challenge and developed a solution that pioneered the application of radio control to industrial overhead materials-handling cranes. Introduced in 1959, this innovation by Telemotive is still used today.
The company’s engineers combined two very different, but essential, skills in the development of radio remote controls for cranes. They took the disciplines of electrical/electronic engineering and combined them with real-life, problem-solving application skills. Telemotive soon became the industry leader in this field. Today, it has more than 25,000 radio control systems in use around the world.
Whether the application involves a ladle crane, hoist, monorail, gantry crane or locomotive/car spotter, operators have consistently reported a heightened sense of control and safety when switching to a Telemotive remote control. Eliminating the tedious and dangerous aspects of their job has resulted in better job performance, productivity and morale.
Telemotive customers use remotes to operate a lot of conveyor equipment in the grains industry and to operate locomotives within railyards. In the latter industry, remote controls afford engineers a better vantage point for moving cars around in the yard. Without the remote, they would need additional personnel and someone in the cab. Another application mentioned by Dealy is delimbing trees. Large mobile equipment deployed by forestry and paper companies uses Telemotive products to delimb trees before they ship them out in the paper industry.
Telemotive’s latest big regional push is in Mexico and South America. The company hired Fernando Bello as vice president of international to lead the efforts in what Telemotive considers to be lucrative markets. “There has been a tremendous investment in high-quality plants in Mexico, especially over the last 10 years,” says Dealy. “However, that market’s familiarity with wireless controlled equipment is low, giving Telemotive the opportunity to be the first-to-market mover.”
According to Dealy, newer equipment interfaces better with wireless control units because old plants use DC drives and motors. Telemotive can interface with the old DC drives, but it is a very complex control solution. Today’s new plants are equipped with AC drives making the Telemotive solution ideal. “The manufacturing of such new plants is the reason we see a market niche in Mexico and South America,” says Dealy, adding that companies in those countries also have a high regard for American products.
Less is More
Telemotive is known in the industry for its customized solutions. According to Dealy, the company is trying to “extend what people like about our engineering products to our dealer products.” The key to achieving that goal is lean manufacturing, a concept Telemotive translated into a highly effective cell-assembly process that significantly reduces the square footage needed within the facility. By partnering with vendors and making the units to order as opposed to stock, the company has reduced its working capital and the money tied up in inventory.
“We’ve been able to improve our working capital two-and-a-half times over, and we turn over our inventory by the same rate,” says Dealy. “We’re quicker in responding to our customers in that we’ve decreased shipping time from 35 to three days. And our 10K product line, which used to take 20 days, can now be done in two or less.”
In a sense, Telemotive has adopted the Dell Computer model of building products to customized specifications, and the rewards have been substantial. But Telemotive’s alacrity with respect to customers doesn’t stop on initial delivery. As Dealy puts it, “We’ve gone from worst to first in repair service, with 90 percent of all units getting repaired within 24 hours.” And in a stroke of team-building genius on the employee morale front, Telemotive turned the freed-up facility space into a basketball court for floor workers. Clearly, a move that scores points.