“Our patented, software-driven design-to-manufacture process delivers an uninterrupted digital thread from design all the way to delivery,” says McAlvay. At the intersection of hardware and software, Tempo Automation has introduced one of the most advanced platforms in the industry for PCB assembly prototyping. With this, the company’s manufacturing automation process delivers even the most complex builds from design to desk in just three days while others are drawing out a quote.
"Our manufacturing automation process delivers even the most complex builds from design to desk in just 3 days while others are drawing out as quote"
Having recognized that the future of manufacturing lies in digital, Tempo gives engineers a more iterative and agile design process. In other words, as opposed to designing a board and discovering issues during the manufacturing process, Tempo ensures that engineers get real-time design for manufacturability (DFM) feedback during the design phase allowing improvements to design before the start of production. Evidently, it goes without saying that many of the fastest moving hardware companies—from rockets to robots, autonomous cars to drones—rely on Tempo Automation to optimize electronic prototyping for a new level of business advantage. “Tempo’s software is so far ahead of the competition that we don’t even bother quoting with anyone else,” reads a testimonial from Brandon Fosso, an independent design consultant and one of Tempo Automation’s happy customers.
A Solid Foundation
All of this didn’t manifest overnight, which is why it’s imperative to throw light on how it all began for Tempo Automation so as to truly understand and appreciate their process. McAlvay has an eye for beauty in a well-functioning process—it’s precisely the reason he commands a high precision in electronics prototyping. Back in the day while engaging in a variety of robotics projects, the stark contrast between the speed and seamlessness of the software development aspect of the projects as against the slowness and tediousness of the electronics aspect stirred McAlvay into action to infuse the low-volume electronics manufacturing process with software.
Voila! Tempo Automation was born.
“Our initial clients were some of the West Coast’s most innovative wearables and IoT startups,” recalls the CEO. The Tempo manufacturing model pivots on the singular aim to perfect through the demands of the Silicon Valley hardware startup ecosystem around timing, flexibility, and user experience.
Our patented, software-driven design-to-manufacture process delivers an uninterrupted digital thread from design all the way to delivery
To begin with, the company’s vision for delivering the ideal end-to-end experience for customers occurs in five steps: Upload> Quote> Order> Track>Post Production Support.
Design for manufacture takes off with an engineer uploading a CAD file early in the design process and simultaneously receiving real-time design feedback for manufacturing and component sourcing. The Tempo platform automatically analyzes the design for DFM and BOM validation. Secondly, manufacturing of the design starts straightway with real-time, transparent quoting for quick design revisions. The team makes guaranteed quotes and pricing available wherein line-by-line breakdown of cost is illustrated based on the design and their workload. The tertiary step of the process involves optimizing the order and procurement process based on the team’s analysis of the design files and real-time integration with their supplier network. Next in order, available in Q2 2018, is the transparent tracking from order placed to the process level, allowing the ordering engineer to see and resolve potential design, sourcing, and manufacturing problems before they become delays. In the terminal leg of the process, which is slated for release in the latter half of 2018, after the boards are delivered, engineers are given a transparent process log of every step in the manufacturing process—from full process to parts traceability with AOI and X-ray images—to help the customer iterate the next design or take it to production.
At the core, while dealing with low-volume electronics manufacturing, Tempo Automation adheres to their software-centric approach to manufacturing that allows people to focus on the parts of the work that require critical thinking, decisions on edge cases, non-formulaic action, and invention. Harnessing the unprecedented power of automation in modern-day business, Tempo Automation meticulously carries out each phase of the process and guides the entire manufacturing process with increasing levels of automation as more orders are processed.
While the focus on low volume stands the company in good stead presently, in the near future, the team intends to glean similar results by applying this methodology to higher-volume work. In low-volume work, a much larger fraction of the time, mishaps, and expense are incurred during non-recurring work (or non-recurring engineering (NRE)—analysis, planning, procurement, physical set up, and machine programming—as well as debugging all these. NRE costs are strongly correlated with particular PCB design elements and weakly correlated with order quantity because once a process is set up and running, common levels of automation let humans and robots repeat it adeptly.
Reaping the Benefits
The extent of innovation achieved by the company’s initial clients through the above process inevitably gathered the attention of New Product Introduction (NPI) managers and engineers from large enterprises. Sure enough, in 2017, an overwhelming number of engineers from world-class aerospace, automotive, medical equipment and electronics firms have been testing Tempo’s validation, DFM and quoting tools. “Our client base, in addition, to repeat orders from enterprise accounts have exponentially increased with the result of a revenue growth up to five times in 2017,” extols McAlvay.
The CEO entails a high percentage of this phenomenal success to building relationships with enterprise customers while educating them on the advantages of agile development for hardware prototyping over the traditional approach of waterfall development. “This has advantageously positioned us from being a new manufacturer of choice for a single engineer to the must-have tool on the desktop of every design engineer on multiple teams for most of our clients,” says McAlvay.
Case in Point: A Wearables Innovator Partners with Tempo for a Successful NPI
Amid Tempo Automation’s various accolades and accomplishments, one that stands out is their recent engagement with Spire, Inc., a manufacturer of wearable activity trackers. While the client is committed to disrupting the activity tracker market further, their recent innovation comprises a health tag that is intended to be permanently affixed inside the user’s clothing and should be able to withstand up to 18 months’ worth of continuous flexing, sweating, washing—and still function. Spire needed their design to be flexible, reliable and of course, miniature. They required a PCB manufacturer that could respond to their design changes quickly, avoiding multiple iterations before homing in on the final hardware design. That’s when Spire zeroed in on Tempo Automation for the standout capability of their software’s real-time quoting tool, which prepares fast and fully transparent quotes. Tempo Automation’s software-driven PCB manufacturing platform and DFM expertise saved development time and production costs. Besides, Spire received excellent DFM feedback that had a significant impact on not only their prototype designs but also on future high-volume production challenges. In a nutshell, for Spire, Tempo Automation turn times meant their project could be driven by design—not by manufacturing.
While it’s true that the team at Tempo integrates a diverse range of expertise, the mindset shared is that of a scientific explorer. Driven by deep curiosity, methodical experimentation, and fast learning, the team is a visible manifestation of the fundamental characteristics of the scientific mindset.
“We believe human progress is only limited by the speed of the engineering cycle—every step from design to manufacturing adds friction to the creative process. That’s why we exist to help engineers bring their ideas into the world with unmatched agility and precision,” he says. With McAlvay at the helm, the team is dedicated to pushing the bounds of what’s possible in manufacturing, setting a new tempo for progress.