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Michigan Based Engineered Machined Products Uses Robotic Automation to Successfully Adapt to New Global Markets and Expand Their Business


Summary of Value Creation

Engineered Machined Products (EMP), based in Escanaba, Michigan is a leading producer of machined components and energy saving systems for the on-highway, off-highway, hybrid & specialty, marine, and transit bus markets. Working closely with customers and suppliers, EMP has built a reputation for exceptional product quality and customer satisfaction.

It is hard to imagine that such a successful and high-tech manufacturing operation is located in the natural beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but EMP is there, and continues to position itself to take on the challenges of new and highly advanced global markets. Established in 1991, EMP’s continued growth relies heavily on an investment in advanced technologies including robotic automation, which has allowed the company to reduce costs, enhance quality and turnaround times, increase capacity, and remain flexible through economic fluctuations and continual product diversification efforts.

“In 2000, as U.S. manufacturers chased lower cost manufacturing across the globe, EMP was convinced that we could be competitive with anyone in the world through automation,” said Paul Harvey, director of New Business Development, EMP. “Without automation, local jobs may have been lost or outsourced to any number of third-world countries. For EMP, our pillars of strength have always been product quality, consistency and on-time customer delivery.

Starting in 2005, EMP made a commitment to market and product diversification. Like many manufacturers in Michigan and the entire country, EMP felt the difficult blows of the recession that began in 2007. However, even as demand for some of their previous highest volumes dwindled with the rest of the economy, EMP remained committed to keeping their manufacturing operations in Michigan versus going off-shore. EMP’s technical team seized the opportunity to grow the business by redeploying many of its robots to handle new and different applications at a very low cost and lead time. Today, as a result of those efforts, no one customer at EMP represents more than 20 percent of its overall business.

“We were convinced that lower wages with foreign employees, the cost of overseas shipping, and often a lower level of product quality would be a relatively short-lived experiment,” added Harvey. “Thanks to our investment in automation, we’ve stayed in Michigan and maintained jobs here.

EMP's manufacturing process is changing the value of production through innovative automated material handling, which drives high-volume parts production. EMP’s main manufacturing center is in Escanaba, Michigan and has over 250,000 square feet in manufacturing capability, and highly integrated automation cells including over 200 CNC machines and 40 robots. EMP also has an extensive Advanced Product Technology Center in Escanaba with comprehensive R&D design and testing capabilities. In addition, the company operates a facility in Greenfield, Indiana which specializes in advanced assembly.

An increasing number of EMP’s customers are "on-shoring" some or all manufacturing operations due to quality and delivery issues that haven't been met as promised by off-shore, low cost providers. Flexible automation systems in place at EMP have been instrumental in allowing the company to meet increasing demands. With robots and automation, EMP is able to compete globally, expand its business, and remain a very strong and viable manufacturer based in Michigan with nearly 500 employees, and plans to increase staffing in the near future to meet corporate growth.

“Additional projects due to re-shoring has added to the EMP portfolio as business continues to make its way back to the USA,” said Harvey. “I would advise other manufacturers to beware of the term ‘low-cost manufacturing’ as EMP did. It’s better to consider ‘Total Global Cost’, and on-time delivery of quality products, while maintaining great customer relationships.”

“Our investment in automation has enabled us to compete effectively across the globe,” noted Jerry Guindon, vice president of sales for EMP. “Our owner Brian Larche is very dedicated to our community, so the implementation of automation really made a big difference and allowed EMP to keep the jobs here in Michigan -- automation saved jobs.”

The value creation for EMP, its customers, and the State of Michigan include:

  • Advanced automation and robotics have kept EMP flexible and responsive to their customer’s project timelines, demand for low-cost production, and market fluctuations.
  • By combining the work ethic and intellectual craftsmanship of its’ Michigan-based manufacturing staff, EMP is not only viable, but is able to compete globally.
  • EMP is North America's leading producer of pumps and complex components for use in the heavy-duty diesel engine and hydraulics markets.
  • EMP grew their operations in Michigan with plans to increase staffing in the near future to meet corporate growth.
  • “In today's world, what separates the successful companies from the rest is the ability to quickly adapt to market changes,” said Adam Veeser, lead automation engineer at EMP. “The way we've embraced flexible automation has allowed us to excel at high-speed, high-volume production and compete on a variety of products that many companies our size wouldn't dare venture into - even items with short product lives, fluctuating order levels, and a large number of variations. Our ability to roll with the punches has allowed us to be successful where others cannot.”

    The Challenges of Adapting Manufacturing to Stay Competitive

    Before automation, EMP was challenged to meet cycle and lead time requirements. In addition, the company faced ergonomic issues associated with heavy parts and repetitive handling. Even after implementing robots and automation, EMP faced an onslaught of competition from low-cost labor markets. Changes in emission standards led to one of EMP’s largest customers ending some of their programs. All this combined with the global financial crisis starting in 2007, required EMP to re-evaluate its automation systems and robots, and adapt their operations to meet new and different market demands and grow the business. Having advanced and flexible automation systems in place at EMP helped the company to cost-effectively meet new market demands.

    “We originally added automation to our plant so that we could better compete with the rest of the world,” added Veeser. “That investment was crucial in first helping EMP to become the leader that we are in precision machined parts. Secondly, and fortunately for us, the automation equipment we added -- robots with vision -- was very flexible in nature. When we experienced some rough times, including the recession, and the loss of some programs due to new emission standards, we were able to quickly and cost-effectively adapt to the market changes and diversify our products and customers, coming out stronger on the other side. Without the flexibility of the systems we had in place, we may not have been able to recover to the point that we have.”

    “In the past decade EMP has implemented about 40 robots in the plant. Only 13 of them are still running the jobs that they were originally purchased for,” said Veeser. “We're constantly changing up our work cells to accommodate changes in demand and/or new products. The ability of our team to excel at this never-ending game of mix-and-match is something that separates us from our competition.”

    Modern and Efficient Manufacturing at EMP

    EMP’s forward-thinking manufacturing staff has successfully changed their methodology for part processing by adapting the robots and automation to meet new products and applications. By strongly embracing technologies such as robotic vision, EMP is able to tackle automated processes like part inspection, and also accept new products for CNC load/unload applications with minimal changeover. “In manufacturing, there's typically a fine line between a robust process and a flexible process. The use of FANUC robots with vision has consistently given us the best of both, said Veeser.

    With a keen awareness of its customers’ needs and fluctuating volume demands, EMP understands that designing and programming for reliability and flexibility is the key to profitable and competitive production.

    EMP is focused on being a "problem-solver" by maximizing customer service, innovation, and high-volume productivity methods. An early partnership with FANUC, based in Rochester Hills, Michigan, led the company to purchase its first robot in 1999. After implementing robotic automation, production output at EMP has increased dramatically, and has continued to improve since that time.

  • A large number of their 40+ FANUC robots have been redeployed multiple times to tackle new and/or mixed products and processes.
  • “The robots’ uptime is better today than ever before. “Having that flexibility with the FANUC robots has been critical to our diversification efforts, and our ability to remain profitable. We are dedicated to driving flexibility and automation to the furthest extent that we can,” added Veeser.
  • EMP uses robots for the following processes:

  • CNC LUL, frequently with FANUC vision on the infeed
  • Deburring (frequently combined into the LUL robot processes)
  • Assembly
  • High pressure cleaning of machined parts
  • Inspection – Compared with manual operations the robots provide a steady, reliable production flow with 100% inspected quality

  • Economic Development Opportunities in Michigan

    EMP is established as North America's leading producer of pumps and complex components for use in the heavy-duty diesel engine and hydraulics markets, as well as one of the world’s leading providers of thermal and oil management systems. The company is a member of several Governmental and trucker associations and organizations throughout the United States and Michigan, including the Michigan Manufacturers Association. Positioned as a manufacturing leader in Michigan, EMP has nearly 500 employees across facilities in Michigan and Indiana.

    About EMP

    EMP is ISO/TS certified and along with being a world-class manufacturer of machined pumps and complex components for use in the heavy-duty diesel engine and hydraulics markets, EMP is also a leader in the design, manufacturing and assembly of advanced thermal and oil management components and systems. EMP’s advanced innovative technologies are designed to significantly improve engine cooling, increase fuel economy, reduce emissions and increase overall operating efficiencies. EMP offers state-of-the-art R&D capabilities and competes globally on precision machining, utilizing the latest in automation and advanced robotics. For more information contact EMP at

    About FANUC America

    FANUC America Corporation provides the most complete range of industrial automation equipment including robots, CNCs, and motion control products. FANUC’s innovative technologies and proven expertise help manufacturers in the Americas maximize efficiency, reliability and profitability.

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