Canadian Manufacturing

Radix put to the test on the Big Decision reality show

Ontario company vies for investment from Dragons’ Den cast-mates.

WINDSOR, ONT.—When Ross Rawlings was a kid, he pulled a wagon around his neighbourhood on garbage night, looking for discarded electronics he could take apart.

Fast-forward to July 2012, and Rawlings, not surprisingly, is at the helm of an industrial technology company called Radix Controls Inc. (Windsor, Ont.) aiming to slash manufacturing defects.

Radix was chosen to be part of CBC’s The Big Decision show, where struggling companies vie for investment and advice from Dragon’s Den cast-mates Arlene Dickinson and Jim Treliving.

The episode airs this fall so Rawlings can’t reveal the outcome. But he did share some insight on what it was like being vetted by two of Canada’s shrewdest business investors.

“One of the things [Treliving] saw in me was out-of-the-box thinking for the factory floor and he wanted me to get used to presenting to the customer,” Rawlings said, adding Treliving compared him to Apple’s Steve Jobs.

Rawlings was tasked with organizing a press conference to present Radix’s Tool Tracker technology in layman’s terms. Tool Tracker is a 3D monitoring program developed to error-proof manual tasks on the shop floor. It’s currently used at three Ford Motor Company assembly plants, for quality control at fastening stations.

The stations require bolts to be tightened in a particular order to prevent damage such as warping, Rawlings said. Before implementing Tool Tracker, Ford could determine how many times a worker pulled the tool’s trigger at a fastening station, but couldn’t track if the bolts were tightened in the correct order.

With Tool Tracker, cameras in the fastening stations are programmed to monitor a target mounted on the tool. If the operator doesn’t follow the pattern, the tool is disabled, he explained.

There are also cases where each bolt has to be tightened to a different torque. This would typically involve the use of several different torque wrenches at a single fastening station.

But Tool Tracker can automatically adjust the settings on a multi-torque smart tool, based on its location in real-time, to tighten each screw to the appropriate torque—saving time and money.

The challenge on The Big Decision was explaining the technology’s value in a language the average investor or customer would understand.

The press conference requested by Treliving was held in Toronto in July. Rawlings gave a half-hour presentation on Tool Tracker and the company’s capabilities.

Rawlings wouldn’t give much away, but he noted he didn’t emulate Jobs by wearing his signature black turtleneck. Instead, he brought along a red wagon, similar to the one he used as a boy on garbage night treasure hunts.

Overall, filming for The Big Decision took three weeks, During this time, Rawlings and his team had to suspend their normal activities and devote themselves full-time to the show.

At his side during this intense evaluation were his business partners: Shelley Fellows, vice-president of operations, and Nick Dimitrov, vice-president of engineering.

For her task, Fellows was required to travel to PEI to meet with Doug Hall, host of TLC show Backyard Inventor to listen to his critique of the company.

If the meeting was successful, Rawlings wouldn’t say, but it did result in the company changing its name to Radix Inc. and crowd-sourcing a new logo.

Dimitrov was asked to write a business case applying the company’s technology to a food manufacturer, and meet with the head of baked goods maker Canada Bread Co. Ltd., which is nearly 90 per cent owned by Maple Leaf Foods.

Regardless of the big decision, the experience gave Rawlings and his partners face-time with Treliving and Dickinson, along with advice and coaching from manufacturing veterans.

Though Radix, founded in 1994, is known as an integrator of custom software for process control, robotics, barcoding and automation, Rawlings wants to expand globally in the visual tracking technology space.

Regardless of the outcome, the show likely gave the company a solid nudge closer to its goal.

Earlier coverage Windsor company leaves investors with a Big Decision

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