Do you ever wonder where the technology originates that allows advancements like a 100,000-mile vehicle warranty and lifetime warranties for windshield wipers? Who helps make it possible for consumers to enjoy today’s latest product advancements? If you follow the trail to the cutting edge of innovative developments like these, you might find yourself at JAMAK Fabrication, Inc. The trail leads to the quiet town of Weatherford, Texas, and an amazing group of people dedicated to the research and development that ultimately makes our lives a little easier.
JAMAK is a company that built its reputation on a strong commitment to technical leadership in the development of silicone products for new and unique applications. While some products bear JAMAK’s name, most of JAMAK’s sales volume comes from sealing solutions for industrial applications on branded products seen in every household. “Some of the more demanding products on the engineering and development side of our business are engine seals and windshield wipers for automotive applications, various medical tubing products required to provide consistent flow rates for drug and nutrition delivery, and other medical devices,” says Mike Hyer, vice president of sales, marketing and business development.
Even before a prototype is developed for a customer, JAMAK engineers diligently test the materials that could potentially be used in that prototype. “For example, in developing an engine gasket, we first put various materials through numerous tests and analysis, including compression stress relaxation, finite element analysis and benchmarking to current materials,” explains Hyer.
Once the data analysis has been completed, a prototype may be made and then subjected to further rigorous tests simulating certain operating environments. “Prototypes are tested with the actual engine components that will mate with the seal,” says Hyer. “A molded or extruded gasket cross section is manufactured and installed onto the mating surfaces. At this stage, the unit is plumbed for oil (or appropriate fluid) circulation and subjected to thermal cycling at temperatures of minus-40 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit to evaluate potential failure modes such as leak paths or oil permeation through the seal.”
Hyer adds that one of the first signs a consumer will see of an improperly designed seal or poor material selection is the impossible-to-clean oil spots on their driveways or garage floors. “For the most part, that nuisance has been non-existent since the early ‘80s, when JAMAK pioneered the use of silicone engine gaskets for such companies as Ford and General Motors,” he says.
Most products manufactured by JAMAK are for engineering-specified applications. “In some cases, we simply work from drawings that our customers submit to us. But in many cases, we provide complete development assistance in the design of these products,” says Hyer.
The Right Mixture
Vertical integration is one of JAMAK’s advantages over its competitors. “The company mixes its own formulations of silicone compounds in house,” says Hyer. “Having this capability shortens lead times, which gets products to our customers much faster than a fabricator that must procure these services outside. The in-house mixing capability also helps in the development stages when unique materials are required by our customer.
“Condensing the development cycle is a very important goal to JAMAK. Accordingly, we invest in expertise and capabilities to perform most development activities in house, to help ensure that our customers are first to market with a new product or material development,” notes Hyer. In the case of certain uniquely developed products, JAMAK also designs and develops the process equipment and dedicated production systems specifically for these products.
Another distinct advantage JAMAK has over its competitors is its L.C. Klenk Center for Design, Development and Testing, located right on the JAMAK campus. “The design center allows us to work through required design, development and testing stages without interfering with production,” says Hyer. “This concept-to-product capability has provided JAMAK many new and exciting opportunities over the years.”
Strength in Units
In all, that campus encompasses 260,000 square feet of facilities. With four distinct business units operating with their respective infrastructures, JAMAK is essentially comprised of four companies within a company. “Each business unit has its own management structure while relying on JAMAK’s central services for support requirements,” says Hyer. “This management concept allows each business unit to focus on and reliably support their particular product market areas.”
The four business units include technical molding, injection molding, extruded products and diversified technologies. The technical molding unit is focused primarily on the development and manufacture of engine gaskets, insert-molded products and complex-molded in-place systems. The injection-molding unit produces molded insulator products such as spark plug boots. Approximately 65 percent of the products manufactured by the extruded-products business unit is focused on the appliance, lighting and architectural markets. The diversified-technologies unit serves markets in medical, retail/consumer and industrial.
“The industrial-distribution portion of the group offers commodity management programs of all rubber products,” says Hyer. “Having this service available has allowed many customers to reduce their supply base and related internal resource costs.” JAMAK’s diversified-technologies business unit provides commodity management programs to many leading global companies, including General Electric, Black & Decker and Electrolux. Hyer adds, “To complete the package, full technical services and inventory management programs are available to our customers for these products as well.
Process to the Future
Referring to the medical tubing and silicone windshield wiper products JAMAK produces, Hyer says, “We expect exponential growth in both of these markets.” A problem symptomatic with thin-wall tubing used in medical devices occurs when the processing causes the tubing to become elliptical in shape. “We have developed a processing method that quickly sets the profile, thus providing a consistently symmetrical shape while reducing tolerance variation considerably,” says Hyer.
JAMAK recently launched its patented silicone windshield wiper blade into the retail after-market under a private-label program with Texaco’s Havoline® brand. “The product is made with an advanced silicone formulation that eliminates the typical problems consumers experience with organic rubber wiper blades,” Hyer explains. One of these problems includes poor wipe quality resulting from compression set, a condition that occurs when a car is in the sun for just short periods of time. “This condition is caused by environmental influences such as UV (ultraviolet) rays, ozone and high temperatures, all of which affect organic rubber but not silicone,” Hyer continues.
“We expect the product to gain substantial market share through the brand image of Havoline® and the technical improvements of the product,” Hyer says. He adds that both the Texaco and Havoline® brand names are extremely identifiable and important to the consumer. JAMAK also supplies Tripledge® silicone wiper blades to the retail market through Wal-Mart, Kmart and other retail outlets.
It takes a unique group of people to adhere to the strict disciplines of both ISO 9001 and QS 9000, while never forgetting the value that comes from simply listening to customers. Ultimately, this is what JAMAK is all about. JAMAK’s goals are less about name recognition than they are about pioneering new materials and producing products that meet the needs of today’s consumer.