Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm
Asyst Automation, a division of Kenosha-based Asyst Technologies LLC, makes equipment designed to help other manufacturers be more efficient and competitive.
The company helps its clients maximize their workforce and improve quality control by automating their manufacturing processes.
Asyst Automation’s target clients are mid-sized manufacturers in southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Asyst Automation division manager Chris Clark and Asyst Technologies president Kevin Brennan said many automation companies try to have a national or international approach, but Asyst Automation is keeping its client target list close to home.
"We want to maintain relationships. That’s what we see our business is being about – relationships," Clark said. "We want to be a source and a resource for (clients) in future projects. And as your business grows, we can help that process."
Asyst Automation was started in 2002 to manufacture automation equipment designed to help its parent company, Asyst Technologies LLC, be more efficient. Asyst Technologies was, at the time, primarily focused on building lighting components for Ford Motor Co. cars. Asyst had about 70 employees building the components by hand. As the firm’s sales volume started to grow, it had trouble keeping up with meeting demand and quality control.
Automation was the solution. Initially, the company purchased several machines and consulted with automation specialists. However, after a short time, it became clear that the job needed to be brought in-house.
Clark was hired to start the new company in 2002. Asyst Automation was started with three employees and has since increased to seven. The company contracts with engineers, machinists and electricians when it needs additional workers.
Since it was started, the company has landed contracts that have eclipsed the work it is assigned by its parent company. Outside contracts currently comprise about 80 percent of the work Asyst Automation does, Clark said.
Each of Asyst Automation’s "machines" is really a series of machines linked together with conveyors, computer controls and quality control monitors. The company is able to create machines that deal with a wide range of applications, including assembly, soldering, ultrasonic welding, laser marking of metal pieces, robotic part manipulation, and leak testing, Clark said.
Asyst Automation provides clients with a complete turn-key automation solution, Clark said. That process includes consulting and discovery, in which the firm’s engineers look at a product and find the best way to link processes and devices together to manufacture it.
"We do all of the design work in-house, including the mechanical and electrical controls," Clark said. "And the build is done in-house here."
In the next several weeks, Asyst Automation will be delivering its largest machine built to date. Clark and Brennan declined to identify the client for the machine, but they said it is a "Tier 1" automotive supply manufacturer. The machine ties about nine processes together to produce a control arm used in an automotive suspension assembly.
The job features extensive use of cameras, not to monitor security, but for quality control. The cameras, using technology and a computer software program, are better able to inspect the pieces than the human eye, Clark said.
"They’re able to inspect components for characteristics that others aren’t," Clark said. "They can manipulate the pieces and see five or six things."
Clients are able to add another level of confidence in their processes by adding features such as vision systems, Brennan said.
"This allows customers to build integrity into the process," he said. "It allows you to have what customers expect, and it’s easier to find a defective piece that has been shipped to you. This is a zero tolerance (for defects) environment that we live in."
When an automated process is changed due to a product change or an entirely new product, the vision system is easily adapted, Clark said.
"I think our level of expertise in that area is above what our competitors bring," Clark said. "It’s something we promote."
Each job Asyst Automation does is custom-designed to meet the needs and specific applications of its clients. When the firm started, most of its work was in the auto industry, but it has started work with other manufacturers in the past several years. The company has started working with medical device manufacturers, Brennan said, largely because of the growth potential of that industry in southeastern Wisconsin.
"The medical device industry continues to be strong, and there’s a lot of opportunity there for both sides," Clark said.
He said the company believes it also can target many other industries that would benefit from automation.
"Any manufacturer with a lot of people or multiple processes with multiple components could be a good candidate for the type of stuff we do," Brennan said.
"We’re offering an opportunity for a company to become more competitive, reduce its labor costs and improve the labor quality," Brennan said. "They can become more competitive without having to chase labor around the globe."
Brennan said automation gives his clients a better chance to compete with foreign manufacturers because they can increase both output and quality control.
"It offers domestic manufacturers a chance to be competitive in the global market," Brennan said. "And they’re developing a higher-skilled employee who can make more money. It’s given a lot of people a chance to grow within their businesses."
Location: 9900 58th Place, Kenosha
Revenues: Projected to be $5 million by 2010
Product: Custom-made automation equipment that ties processes and machines together
Web site: www.asystautomation.com