Meet JH Robotics Founder and CEO, John Hartman
To launch our new website blog we've interviewed our founder and CEO John Hartman. John has been in the robotics and automation industry since the very beginning and has weathered the industry through ups and downs.
What originally attracted you to the manufacturing automation market?
30 years ago there was an obvious need for more automated assembly. I learned that while working on improving assembly lines at a former employer, they developed machines but had trouble producing them in volume.
How has the industry changed in the last 10-15 years?
The market has gone to more sophisticated robots that are much more reliable – I call our FANUC robots the perfect machine. We have been most successful building around the FANUC robots. They can do a lot more now – vision, force sensing, etc. – exciting new technologies. I would encourage anyone to go to the FANUC website and view “Save Your Factory” videos or view on You Tube.
What makes your company unique and competitive?
The highly experienced engineers, technicians and tool-makers that all have numerous years of designing, building and debugging automation systems. All of our engineers and technicians are cross-trained to allow them the flexibility to cover the mechanical, electrical and software engineering disciplines required for our type of business. Our highly skilled tool-makers allow us to manufacture 90% of the custom components needed for our automation systems in-house. This also allows us the unique ability to have the engineers and technicians work directly with the tool-makers to get to the final solution most efficiently. We often have brainstorming sessions with our engineers, technicians, and tool makers to arrive at the best overall solution. In our contract manufacturing division, we use our own robotic systems to load/unload our machine tools – we truly practice what we preach!
What’s the process your company uses to get new ideas and solve problems for your customers?
Group brainstorming sessions at the beginning of a project or quotation that allow us to collectively combine ideas from all of our engineers with different skill sets and areas of expertise. We also get input from our vendors such as FANUC, our robot supplier for example. We are fortunate to have been a FANUC integrator for almost 20 years – they are always leaders in state of the art technology and keep passing the technology onto their integrators. Our engineering team also keeps up to date with new products and technologies via training courses, internet research, trade magazines, automation shows as well as our purchased component suppliers.
What’s your secret to remaining competitive over the years?
Finding better ways to accomplish the goal – It’s important to keep the solutions simple – something that your customer will be able to handle. Certain functions or processes are just not fit for automation and we are up-front with our customers and tell them why and help to provide alternative ideas. We are flexible and adapt to different customer preferences, changing business climates as well as being knowledgeable in various fields of the automation industry.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in owning a business over the past 30 years?
It is as most owners will tell you – it’s managing the bottom line. That is very difficult to do while maintaining a driven workplace. That starts with the head person; if you are not passionate about quality and cost they will see that. If you are, they will follow your lead. The second thing is your customers – establishing a relationship of trust and partnership with them so you are into a project as a team and working together toward that final successful goal.
Where do you see the robotics automation industry headed in the next 10 years?
Onward and upward, as intelligent robots progressively improve their capabilities, there is no question that automating will help the manufacturing industry in the United States. With domestic labor costs rising, manufacturers will need to continue looking at automation more than ever in order to stay competitive with foreign suppliers.
What are the next steps for JH Robotics to take things to the next level?
Development of younger engineers that become automation experts. Train them on the technology and yet make them business men and women – not just in terms of solutions that are cost effective, but how to work with our customers to provide solutions that fit their needs and budget constraints. In our manufacturing division, it’s finding more efficient ways to manufacture parts – be it the machining process, the tooling or the machine tool including how parts are addressed to and away from the machines including inspection and packaging.