JR Automation: Chaos Brings Profits, PTC Brings Order




In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity–Sun Tzu ca. 500 BC

We love turmoil—JR Automation 2015

Ever since Henry Ford launched the first assembly line in 1913, the manufacturing industry has been immersed in one disruption after another. Especially lately. In the past few years, we’ve seen the introduction of new materials, nanotechnology, sensors, 3D printing, and more powerful computers. The pace seems unrelenting.

At JR Automation, they see that as a good thing.

“We love turmoil,” said vice president Scott Lindemann in a recent interview.

COO Bryan Jones elaborates: “Disruption drives new processes and forces people to let go of their legacy. As new technologies … spread across various industries, manufacturers rethink their production processes, causing them to invest in new automation equipment.”

And that, of course, is where JR Automation is ready to help. The company designs and produces highly accurate and flexible solutions that speed production, reduce waste, and integrate the latest technologies. JR machinery can perform tasks like sort a bin full of parts with machinery that can “see” –that is, use optical sensors to help pick up and orient objects.  The company’s assembly lines can also handle welding, riveting, adhesives, testing, palletizing, and packing—sometimes with designs requiring just a single operator. And sometimes with designs that require no operator at all.

In this video, you’ll see how the company automated an assembly line that manufactures coolant reservoirs for car radiators (spoiler: It’s all done with robots!):

Order from Add-ons

JR Automation is clearly profiting from disruption–helping manufacturers adapt with precise, highly productive new systems. But in its own factory, it turns out, the JR team isn’t at all enthralled by chaos. Imagine the mess that could arise designing something as large as a fully automated assembly line without some careful planning and structure.

  • No one engineer could design it fast enough. But introduce multiple engineers, and the opportunities for miscommunication and interfering each other’s work escalate.
  • The sheer size of the machinery—with regard to number of parts and file size—could make the CAD file nearly impossible to upload and manipulate, slowing the design cycle down.
  • Physical prototypes would be prohibitively expensive.

Fortunately, like many of its manufacturing customers, JR Automation rethinks processes and reinvests in technology too. That’s why the company upgraded its design software with PTC Creo Advanced Assembly Extension (AAX), PTC Creo Simulate, and a new upgrade to PTC Creo NC Sheet Metal Design. Purchased within packages, many product developers obtain extensions and add-ons like these at a fraction of the price of buying them separately.

A long-time customer of PTC CAD solutions, JR Automation is recognized as a “high end” user of PTC Creo. The team employs the software to create powerful parametric CAD designs that are used throughout the development cycle, from concept to manufacturing. The software even generates associated tooling and manufacturing documents.

JR Automation system designed in PTC Creo. From http://www.jrauto.com

PTC Creo Advanced Assembly Extension for the Very Large Assemblies

PTC Creo AAX takes care of the problems that come with trying to manage large assemblies. It allows users to create simplified “envelope parts” that substitute for detailed designs for parts the engineer won’t work on, making downloading much quicker. PTC Creo AAX also supports concurrent engineering by allowing design teams to create skeleton models that set aside areas each engineer “owns” within the larger assembly.

For a good examination of how skeleton models work, spend a few minutes with this video:

Simulation and Sheet Metal Tools Complete the Picture

Meanwhile, PTC Creo Simulate can help designers analyze and simulate virtual prototypes of the designs, avoiding costly physical prototypes. With recent updates to PTC Creo Sheet Metal Design Extension, the company says designers now work better with corner reliefs and dynamical preview features as they design. “The PTC Creo NC Sheetmetal Extension enhancements have been vital to JR Automation because it is helping us to increase productivity,” says design engineer Joshua Benson.

With PTC Creo and select upgrades, JR Automation has crafted the perfect product development environment for its needs. That’s good, because they need it now more than ever. According to the article in MiBiz, the company is outdoing itself year after year. “JR Automation has grown sales from $30 million in 2009 to $170 million last year. JR forecasts sales to increase to more than $200 million in 2015.”