JR Automation Opens New Factory in Orion Township

Netherlands-based JR Automation is consolidating its footprint in Metro Detroit with a new 227,500 square foot manufacturing facility in Orion Township.

JR, which builds automotive assembly lines and other system integrations, took ownership of custom development at 1427 Brown Road earlier this month, spokesman David Fleming said.

Located around the corner from an expanding General Motors Co. assembly plant for electric vehicles, JR’s new site is the largest in its portfolio and is expected to be fully operational early next year.

The plant replaces much smaller locations in Pontiac (1500 E. Highwood Blvd.), Shelby Township (11971 Investment Drive), and Sterling Heights (6701 Center Drive).

It will serve as the company’s hub in Southeast Michigan with its 125,000 square foot factory located 800 meters away at 1000 Brown Road, which will transition to smaller automation and machine shop projects .

“Consolidating our teams and working in tandem will allow us to be more efficient and reduce our overall time and travel costs,” said Brian Rogus, vice president of the Esys division at JR Automation, who is a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate. Hitachi Ltd.

Approximately 300 direct workers and 125 contract workers will be employed at the two sites.

The company declined to say how much money has been invested in the new plant or which customers it will serve.

The new plant was developed by JB Donaldson Co., based in Farmington Hills.

Crain left messages asking for more details with company president Bennett Donaldson and Orion Township.

JR’s customers include Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Stellantis NV and other major automotive manufacturers, in addition to non-automotive industries worldwide.

The company specializes in systems integration, which means putting together parts of a production line – conveyors, robots, software – to create an end product for customers.

Engineers will first fabricate the production line within the JR factory, Fleming said. Once it’s tested and calibrated to the customer’s satisfaction, he packs it, ships it to its destination, and repeats the process. Systems can range in size from a small room to fill multiple plants.

“It’s definitely a logistical miracle, if you will, to scale these systems,” Fleming said.

GM announced earlier this year that it would invest $6.5 billion to manufacture electric vehicles at Orion Assembly and Ultium batteries with LG Energy Solution in the Lansing area, while Ford announced that it would invest $2 billion dollars for the production of electric vehicles in factories in the Detroit metro. All major OEMs are investing heavily in electric vehicles.

The transition will force automakers to rework production processes at factories in Michigan and beyond, which means more business for systems integrators like JR.

“It presents a lot of opportunity,” Fleming said.

Founded in 1980, JR was acquired by Hitachi in 2019 for $1.4 billion. The company employs 2,000 people in 29 factories around the world and has revenue approaching $1 billion, Fleming said.

“The tremendous amount of manufacturing space this new building provides confirms our investment and commitment to this community and our readiness to take on more work,” Rogus said.

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