Volume 4 | Issue 8 | Year 2001

Norgren Automotive is the only pneumatic and automation systems manufacturer totally dedicated to the automotive industry. Its wide product range satisfies the needs of every automobile manufacturing process. In addition, it is the only company of its kind with a global division and a worldwide network of facilities that can respond to customers’ product changes even when they require prompt retooling in plants on far-flung continents. The Michigan-headquartered division of IMI, Norgren employs 350 people and has distribution and sales offices throughout the world. For more than 25 years, the company has maintained an unrivaled track record of successful contributions to major international car programs.

In 1972, pneumatics giant Norgren was acquired by IMI plc of Birmingham, England, one of Europe’s foremost industrial corporations with current revenues of £1.45 billion (about $2.1 billion). IMI’s Norgren subsidiary is now one of the world’s leading manufacturers of pneumatic control and automation components. Its employees number about 7,000 and its global service network covers 75 countries. Norgren Automotive, manufacturer of ISI Systems, was created by IMI’s 1996 acquisition of ISI Automation. Norgren Automotive maintains headquarters in Mount Clemens, Mich., and has modern manufacturing facilities in Mount Clemens, nearby Anchorville, Mich., and in Wiesbaden, Germany. The company also has further technical, integration and manufacturing capabilities in Brazil, Canada and China, which provide worldwide support to global customers.

The Tools for the Job
Norgren Automotive’s worldwide connections and comprehensive product capability make it the only pneumatics and automation partner capable of supporting a complete global automotive program. Beginning in the pressroom, Norgren Automotive’s proven Pathfinder(r) system provides incredibly fast press-to-press transfer speeds, particularly where conventional robots cannot meet productivity rates or transfer distances. Automotive body and assembly applications benefit from Norgren Automotive’s lines of Norlok(r) tooling and Norlok(r) clamps, two of its newest products. These use common building blocks and designs, and thus dramatically reduce the manufacturing plant’s spare parts inventory requirements. Automotive power-train manufacturing processes benefit from Norgren Automotive’s linear and area gantries, which provide high-precision, servo-controlled parts handling.

Norgren Automotive is the only full-service supplier with the ability to integrate pneumatic and automation components and transfer systems for the complete body and assembly process. The Norgren Automotive line includes robot end-of-arm tooling, power clamps, grippers, conveyors, shuttles, lifts, dump units and gantry automation systems. In addition, Norgren Automotive can link IMI Norgren pneumatics – including control valves, actuators, air-preparation equipment, field buses, filters, regulators and lubricators – into a complete automation solution. Program-management services and simultaneous engineering services, backed up by local field service and engineering support, complete the body and assembly package.

Norgren Automotive offers a flexible range of options for engine and transmission applications. These include linear and area gantry automation, buffers and stacking systems for a complete turnkey solution. Systems built on the W+M Automation tradition (a Norgren Automotive acquisition in 1986) satisfy precision manufacturing demands for high-quality components from support beams to grippers to user-friendly control systems.

Norgren Automotive developed the Norlok(r) clamp and Norlok(r) tooling in anticipation of future industry needs. “We tried to leap past just what our customers wanted,” says Mark Lundquist, vice president of sales and marketing. “We tried to develop these products to meet not only their desires, but to surprise them with features they hadn’t even thought about. This type of product development redefines the playing field.”

Programmed for Success
In order to achieve its goal of exceeding customer expectations at the greatest value possible, Norgren Automotive employs systematic planning and management of all activities involved in system design, development, manufacture, delivery, installation and commissioning – from contract award through successful integration and then on to production. Norgren Automotive’s commitment includes providing a dedicated project manager, a simultaneous engineering team, a project plan and review program, a full-time site manager during installation and commissioning, consignment stock and a long-term support staff.

The Norgren Automotive account manager and project manager become involved at the design stage in order to develop an understanding of the customer’s needs in terms of product design, manufacturing cycle rates, flexible manufacturing requirements, machine footprint, manufacturing and assembly locations, budgetary constraints and scheduling. The company then creates a dedicated cross-functional team, which works with the customer’s decision makers in the production, design and engineering departments. This team approach integrates the customer’s process knowledge with Norgren Automotive’s expertise in pneumatic and automation components and system design through every step of the program. In addition, Norgren Automotive’s project manager is responsible for internal controls and for continuous communications with the customer’s suppliers.

A critical-path schedule is developed as program timing information becomes available in order to present project control techniques to the project manager. As additional details are defined, the critical-path schedule drives a comprehensive project planning system to ensure on-time completion. Norgren Automotive also uses simultaneous engineering methodology in the fields of pneumatics, automation components and systems. This can provide vast improvements in design for manufacturing and the ability to optimize the performance of the necessary disciplines to meet common objectives.

Solutions in Action
Norgren Automotive offers a flexible range of automation systems from gantry robots to linear lifts, robot vacuum grippers, modular conveyors and Wristwatch(r) robotic tooling protection.

The speed, precision and repeatability of Norgren Automotive gantry modules open doors to many applications. Two basic configurations are available: linear gantry robots with up to four axes, and area gantry robots with up to five axes. These basic modules can handle up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). All axes are equipped with brushless servo drivers, which quickly accelerate linear and rotary axes for optimal cycle times. Precision mechanisms and advanced electronics ensure excellent positioning and accuracy. All axes of a unit can be traversed simultaneously.

Panel gripping with Norgren Automotive’s Norlok(r) modular end-effector tooling allows construction to meet customized specifications with little or no design work. This modular, lightweight tooling system is ideal for robotic end-of-arm tooling applications, and can be quickly assembled and easily fit and locked into position.

Norgren Automotive offers complete services ranging from problem analysis to turnkey systems. Consulting engineers can recommend an optimum, cost-effective system for each application. The company’s system designers consider the interfacing of the handling unit with peripheral equipment such as controllers, washers, palletizers and other storage systems. Norgren Automotive’s handling systems are installed and launched by specially trained engineers whose goal is to provide user-friendly equipment that can be easily operated and maintained by the customer’s technical staff. Comprehensive training on all of Norgren Automotive’s systems and components can be tailored to the customers’ needs, whether it involves classroom-style methods at Norgren Automotive facilities or shop-floor training for machine operators at the customers’ factories.

International Drive
The global automotive community looks to Norgren Automotive for a full range of products. Whether it is a performance clamp for a sports-car assembly or a program-wide set of tooling and equipment for pickup truck production, Norgren Automotive provides assembly, pressroom and power-train equipment worldwide.

In North America, Norgren Automotive is a major supplier to every automaker, whether domestic or foreign implant. Norgren Automotive’s customer base includes American, Canadian and Mexican factories of General Motors, DaimlerChrysler (Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz), Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota, BMW, NUMMI and a host of Tier I manufacturers such as Comau Pico, Magna, Tower Automation, Tesco, ABB, Thyssen-Krupp, Paslin and DCT.

Norgren Automotive has been the standard for pressroom automation in South America. Its regional headquarters in Sao Paolo, Brazil, provides sales, service and technical support, plus machine integration capabilities and manufacturing, to Volkswagen, Ford, General Motors and Fiat facilities in that area.

Europe is another bastion of Norgren Automotive products and support. Automakers such as Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Opel, Rover, Jaguar, Fiat, Saab, Volvo, BMW, Audi and Renault have come to depend on the strength of Norgren Automotive’s local support, service and manufacturing. Its European customer base also includes Tier I manufacturers and integrators such as Schuler Press, Mueller-Weingarten, Comau, ABB, Magna and Kuka.

The automotive market in Asia-Pacific has always been strongly supported by Norgren Automotive’s ISI Systems and components. Growth continues to surge based on the company’s long-term presence and a proven track record for strong local support. China’s emerging automotive industry calls on Norgren Automotive to supply products to Harbin Hafei, Changhan, Yantai and Shanghai-VW. Its position is also strong in Japan and Korea among customers including Toyota, Honda, Nachi, Kia and Hyundai.

“We are continuing to redefine ourselves,” Lundquist says. “While the typical supplier of components and systems for the durable-goods industries are thought of as mature and sedate, with little room or impetus for growth and innovation, Norgren Automotive and its parents, IMI Norgren and IMI plc, are anything but typical. Norgren Automotive has led the world in automation systems and components with our Pathfinder(r)system; Trakker(r) modular conveyors; Norlok(r) end-of-arm tooling; Norlok(r) clamps, power pivots and grippers; plus our sophisticated vacuum products like Smart Pump(r). We will continue to innovate, continue to improve quality and delivery, and grow the number of customer-support people in the field. We know we are on target.”