JR Automation has partnered with General Motors (GM) to produce face masks to help combat the shortage of protective personal equipment that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership is capable of producing 50,000 masks a day.
GM approached Esys Automation, a JR Automation company, on March 21 to build a mask assembly line. And in less than one week, the machinery was up and running. GM produced its first mask in response to the COVID-19 crisis on Friday, March 27.
“People from our national, Holland and Auburn Hills teams worked to pull it all together,” said Chris Marcus, President of Esys Automation. “We haven’t slowed down. GM is committed to do more than just one line, they’re looking to expand that and we’re working on two more lines.”
Here’s how the operation came together so quickly. JR Automation’s engineering and build teams in Nashville and Holland, Mich. shared their expertise on this type of system with Esys Automation. JR Automation’s machining and fabrication department then designed and built customized machinery to assemble the masks. And controls and mechanical engineering teams worked in parallel with JR Automation’s supply chain team to secure all components, despite many supply chains disrupted by the crisis. Marcus said one part had to be air lifted from China.
“We’ve converted many people from what would be non-essential work for something like new vehicle launch and put them on this,” Marcus said. Social distancing safety measures and some work-from-home policies have been put into place, Marcus said.
JR Automation is a Holland, Michigan-based and world-class industrial robotics integrator. JR Automation was acquired by Hitachi for $1.425 billion in 2019. The deal was announced in April and closed in December. Hitachi acquired all shares in JR Automation held by U.S. private equity fund Crestview Partners.
Hitachi wanted to tap into JR Automation’s robotics integration expertise and customer base, which will also help Hitachi’s growing internet of things (IoT) business.
Founded in 1980, JR Automation designs and builds custom automation equipment and provides services in the automotive, aerospace, medical device, pharmaceutical, food processing and construction industries. It has about 2,000 employees and had sales of about $600 million in 2018.
Editor’s Note: The Robot Report ‘s COVID-19 coverage is keeping you updated about how the robotics industry is responding to and being affected by the novel coronavirus.