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How JR Automation and GM Tackled The Covid-19 Crisis With Advanced Automation

The onset of COVID-19 surprised and inundated the world. We all heard the stories of shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early days of the pandemic. This shortage spawned an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to finding new ways to battle the depletion of supplies — especially face masks for the hardworking first responders.

How Manufacturing Companies Helped with the COVID-19 Crisis

General Motors (GM) had to produce an entire mask assembly line capable of producing 50,000 masks a day, and GM needed the equipment running in less than one week.

Hitachi to the rescue! After reviewing GM’s request, JR Automation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd. and part of the Fusion for Industry family, was able to assess and respond to the urgent matter, designing plans based on readily available parts and warehouse equipment.

Warehouse Production of Face Masks
JR Automation covid


Mass Production of Face Masks

JR Automation, known for custom smart warehouse designs and automation capability, worked tirelessly across multiple fronts to implement the plan, while GM quickly prepped the Warren, Michigan, cleanroom facility to be transformed into a fully functional mask-manufacturing plant.

· JR Automation’s engineering and build teams in Nashville, Tennessee, and Holland, Michigan, provided input and shared their expertise on this type of system with JR Automation’s team.

· JR Automation’s in-house machining and fabrication department designed and built customized machinery to assemble the masks.

· Controls and mechanical engineering teams worked in parallel with the supply chain team through JR Automation to secure all components, despite many supply chains disrupted by the crisis.

COVID-19 Face Mask

The challenges were many. While there was a potentially viable GM design for the type of warehouse equipment JR Automation would need to produce the masks, their only experience had been in producing mask-making equipment for N95 masks, not face masks.

The other challenge was that mechanical engineers would have to make modifications to some of the drawings to ensure safety and compliance with U.S. standards. Technicians would have to assemble the machinery, and trained production workers were needed to run the line. Because the design originated in China, there were no parts readily available in the U.S., and this required sourcing new vendors.

How Warehouse Automation Increased Productivity

The work that created a successful operation. It took a total team effort between GM and JR Automation to translate, modify, and release drawings to build, purchase components, and cut parts for the machinery. As suppliers got wind of the project, they accelerated their turnaround times from weeks to hours.

Face-Mask Manufacturing
Face Mask Factory

Builders at JR Automation worked around the clock to assemble components, delivering the first equipment to GM. GM produced their first mask in response to the COVID-19 crisis using the line that JR Automation built in six days. The factory is now capable of turning out hundreds of thousands of masks each week.

With the best customers, automation services, and talent in the world, JR Automation continues to push innovation forward, no matter the need.

This type of success story may be yours. Let us show you how to succeed with our superior manufacturing technology.

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