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tvONE: technology-on-sea

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tvONE’s unprepossessing setting on the Kent coast belies an efficient electronics business with a worldwide customer case and admirable quality standards. AV News popped down to Margate for a half a pint of cockles and a lesson in modern manufacturing techniques.

Margate: Dreamland, the Turner Contemporary and the destination for many a Jolly Boys outing from the East End, and not really known as a centre of innovation. But in the shadow of the slightly forlorn Hornby factory, sits one of the most effective and progressive manufacturers of AV Technology that AV News has visited anywhere in Europe.

tvONE Building_External

tvONE’s building in the shadow of Hornby in Margate.

 

But the tvONE story is about more than efficient machinery and effective organisation, of the 80 or so employees worldwide, a good proportion of those engaged in manufacturing in Margate have been with the company since the early days. Cynics might point to the lack of comparable opportunities in the town, but a conversation with some of the long servers soon reveals an enthusiasm for change, adopting new practices and just “making things better” in the company.

Technology focussed

It is often said that the culture of a company emanates from the top, and On ceding control founder of Vine Micros, the predecessor of tvONE, founder Richard Mallett said: “After twenty years of day-to-day company management as well as heading our R&D program, I am excited to now be able to focus all my efforts on developing new technologies and products. Our CORIO3 technology and future derivatives of it will now receive my full attention.”

Modestly, Mallet claims no special insight into the future of AV technology at the outset of the tvONE adventure, beyond a clear need to unite the technologies of video and computers. It was four years after Vine Micros developed its range of BBC Micro accessories to include its first ‘PC to scan’ converter. 1993 was a seminal year for Vine Micros. Not only did the company develop scan conversion with overlay, the company formed a partnership with US integrator tvONE.

Maidenhead Training Centre Facility

Training is held in the company’s Maidenhead building

 

A formal merger of Vine and tvONE didn’t take place until 2004, when Mallet commented: Mallett added: “Because of our long-term relationship, the acquisition by TV One is a comfortable fit and I look forward to a bright future for TV One Europe. The broad range of TV One products will be a great complement to the current range of Vine products and make the complete package very attractive to our customers.”

CORIO at the core

In the meantime, in 1998, Mallet’s R&D team had created the company’s first CORIO switcher scaler using the company’s proprietary FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) Scaling technology. FPGA technology implements look-up tables and is good for doing complex logic very fast. CORIO is at the heart of many tvONE products, all of which are designed and manufactured in the UK, in Margate to be precise.

Armed with the technology, tvONE turned its attention to the method of production. Central to this is the company’s mission objective: “To be your first-choice provider for professional video processing, signal distribution and racking solutions”. When deploying complex AV solutions in the field, the company’s design and manufacturing practice is based on two principles: simplicity and absolute dependency.

tvONE_Margate_internal2cmyk

Each sub-assembly is tested during the build, and then again when the product is fully assembled.

 

Building in quality

AV News has visited many manufacturing plants where ‘quality’ is a process that sits at the end of the manufacturing line, and products are subjected to limited pre-despatch testing. The tvONE approach is different. Each sub-assembly is tested during the build, and then again when the product is fully assembled. Each sub-assembly is barcoded and the build has an audit trail to identify any faults that occur before the process continues. As a result, 98, 99 or even 100% of products built on the Margate line pass their final inspection and almost nothing is found to be faulty on deployment in the field. (Just in case, products have a five-year parts and labour warranty.)

 

pick&place

Each sub-assembly is barcoded and the build has an audit trail to identify any faults that occur before the process continues.

Matching production to demand is always a challenge where the product is largely built to order in relatively short runs, and each order is subject to variation. A recent innovation at Margate has seen a reorganisation of the parts store away from traditional warehousing to a colour-coded system that ensures that components are reordered to avoid “stock-outs”. Together with changes in the manufacturing line, changes to the way that components are stored and selected for the production run have allowed tvONE to offer 10-day turnaround on most of its products.

Diversification

While CORIO products continue to make-up the bulk of the Margate output, the tvONE group has expanded and diversified in recent years. Videowall processing is currently the leading application of the company’s products, with growing demand but is unable to quantify this beyond “tvONE has meaningful share within several vertical segments of the Signal Management and Processing market.”

 Matching production to demand is always a challenge where the product is largely built to order in relatively short runs, and each order is subject to variation.

tvONE_Margate_internal3cmyk

 

pick&place

In July 2013, tvONE merged with Magenta Research, giving the company an extended product range, a US base and a significant presence in the broadcast market. Today. The combined group offers: CORIO scaling technology; Magenta UTP / fibre extension and switching; tvONE Task and AVToolbox (a wide range of peripheral equipment for complete installs; and the ONErack space saving, rack mounting solution for small devices.

Plans have been announced to undertake manufacturing of some tvONE products in the US. Training facilities have already been established in Kentucky, to complement those in Maidenhead, but there are no plans to discontinue the company’s activities in Margate.

Matching production to demand is always a challenge where the product is largely built to order in relatively short runs, and each order is subject to variation.

Each sub-assembly is barcoded and the build has an audit trail to identify any faults that occur before the process continues.


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