Meet ArtaicArtaic is a Boston-based startup that manufactures beautiful mosaic designs similar to those that have been produced throughout history. What\u2019s different is that the company creates its art using technology and robots to produce thousands of patterns. Ted Acworth, Artaic\u2019s founder and CEO, formed the company in 2007 after seeing a need for a faster, more efficient way to build mosaic designs, which historically has been a labor-intensive process.\u201cI looked at the tile industry [and] realized it\u2019s a huge market,\u201d he says. \u201cPeople settle for boring tile because it\u2019s too expensive to get beautiful, more artistic tile, [but] technology can enable more people to get more beautiful tile.\u201dRead CIO.com's article on Artaic and watch our video on how Arty, the robot, speeds up the mosaic manufacturing process.Getting StartedTo start the process, Artaic\u2019s customers can send a photo of anything from a landscape to a celebrity, or they can choose from a list of prepackaged mosaic designs. The customer can also select a range of tile types, such as sintered glass or unglazed porcelain.\u201cIt really starts with finding the opportunity where an interior designer wants to use mosaic tile, preferably custom,\u201d says Blake Goodwin, director of sales and operations at the company. \u201cAbout half the time they will look at our design inspirations that we\u2019ve developed with our software in-house.\u201dManaging the Supply ChainArtaic buys its tiles from suppliers that all located around the world, which can make it challenging to manage the supply chain. The company doesn\u2019t keep a lot of material in inventory so even if it can manufacture a mosaic in a few days, ordering a specific tile from Italy or Turkey, for example, may take a few weeks, which can hold up the project.\u201cManaging inventory under those constraints requires new ways of planning flows and supply chain logistics,\u201d Acworth says. \u201cWe\u2019re working on trying to have more of the right material on hand, so that we have a higher confidence factor [of] having that raw inventory in house.\u201dGetting the Mosaic Design RightOnce the image is selected, Artaic uses its CAD software to manipulate the image into a pixelated format, which allows it to be translated into a mosaic. During this process, the image is sent back to the customer in several stages to give them an opportunity to make changes.\u201cWe\u2019ll iterate in the design software three or four times with the designer,\u201d says Goodwin. \u201cThen when they like one of the directions we\u2019re moving in -- based on a certain tile type and color -- we will sample the project and they\u2019ll approve it.\u201d Artaic then orders the specified tile from its suppliers and begins production.ERP Tracks the TilesWhen the design is finalized, the information is put into Artaic\u2019s ERP system, which fills the order with the appropriate tiles. The ERP system keeps track of which tiles go on each individual square of the mosaic, and how many are currently in stock. If necessary, Artaic can retrace its steps and reproduce specific squares.How Artaic Ensures QualityIndividual tiles are dumped into a catcher that feeds them into a mini conveyor belt. A quality assurance worker checks each tile as it goes down the belt to look for any chips or imperfections. The tiles are fed into clear plastic tubes and laid along the wall to wait for the next step in the process.\u201cFrom the front-end design, to the backbone ERP system and the back-end production system, we're eliminating a lot of human error and inaccuracies across the lifecycle of the project,\u201d Goodwin says.Arty Goes Into ActionNext, the clear plastic tubes are fed into to Artaic\u2019s robot, named Arty. Arty\u2019s robotic arm picks tiles from each row and places them into the correct pattern according to the mosaic. Once the square is completed, a clear backing is placed on top, sealing in all the tiles. That\u2019s the finished product and the final step is to ship all the squares to the customer for installation.Hitting the CurveThe company mostly makes designs that consist of straight rows of tiles, but recently it won a research grant from the National Science Foundation to work on software that creates designs that are freeform, with curves, where tiles are cut into specific shapes to fit a pattern.Price Parity With \u2018Made in China\u2019Acworth is working on a next-generation robot that will work 10 or 20 times faster than a human, which he hopes will disrupt the mosaic manufacturing market.\u00a0He wants to be more competitive with markets like China that are able to produce mosaics cheaply using human workers.\u201cThat gets us to price parity with made in China,\u201d Acworth says. \u201cWe could be competing at a cost structure you get by offshoring to China, but doing it in Boston, in the United States, with skilled people doing custom work for our clients. That would be kind of an amazing tipping point for us.\u201dRead CIO.com's article on Artaic and watch our video on how Arty, the robot, speeds up the mosaic manufacturing process.