Lighter, quieter automotive machinery saves clients money
Innovative ideas for the automobile industry
July 08, 2010— Cambridge, Ontario
Upland Technologies Inc.
Saving money is a clear advantage for any industry – but particularly in the automotive parts' industry these days. That's why Mohamed Gharib's new machinery and process for muffler caps came along at just the right time.
Gharib, the president of Upland Technologies Inc., and his team of engineers have developed a new process and equipment for the spinner that places and locks the cap on the end of an automotive muffler.
The Uplands' cap spinner tooling is one-third the weight of the tooling that automotive parts' suppliers used previously, Gharib says. As a result, an operator can now change the tooling without having to use a forklift or an overhead crane. In addition to saving time, the new equipment saves power, because it is more energy efficient than its predecessors. Since cap spinners idle for lengthy periods, that energy saving is important – as is the added benefit that the Uplands' machine is quieter and vibrates less than the older versions.
All of these changes translate into cost-savings, Gharib points out.
"This is the main reason for the invention," he says.
Gharib, a mechanical engineer, worked for a larger machine and tool company in Brantford, Ontario until he started his own business in 2000. In talking with his customers, all automotive parts' suppliers, he learned that tool change was a major issue for them.
"So we looked at different ideas of how to make the tooling smaller and lighter," he explains. With the help of the National Research Council of Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), Upland conducted feasibility studies to test its basic concept for a cap spinner with smaller, lighter tooling. But then Gharib bided his time, awaiting the right market opportunity to launch his product. "Finally, the market business opportunity came, and then we took it," Gharib says.
In April 2008, the small Cambridge, Ontario-based company began assembling the cap spinners, after having again successfully applied to NRC-IRAP for financing to help develop the product. Within six months of starting the project, Upland had contracts for three machines. Today, the firm is exploring interest from companies outside of North America.
NRC-IRAP's financing was crucial to his success, but so were the requirements the program imposed, he says.
"The reporting requirements forced us to structure the project in a way that uses a scientific method, and is not just haphazard," he says. "That added an element of structure to the project that was a key to success."
In addition, Gharib, who has also received NRC-IRAP funding for several other projects, is impressed by the way the NRC-IRAP technical advisors he works with require increasing technical ability, constantly challenging the company.
'The bar has been set higher all the time," he says.
For Gharib, the shift to becoming an entrepreneur has also been a challenge – but one he has enjoyed, in part because it allows him to indulge his passion for engineering. That's reflected in his staff, which consists of seven engineers, about half the workforce.
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