Volume 15 | Issue 3 | Year 2012

The company’s activities reflect the entire organization’s mission.

The Michigan-based Comau Inc. matches the parent company’s mission by supplying automated manufacturing solutions across a range of markets including aerospace, automotive, commercial trucks, defense, heavy industry, packaging, recreational, sustainable energy (solar and wind) and rail transport.

Once known as Comau Pico, the company changed its name to Comau Inc. in 2007 during a period of organizational change. But roots date back to 1939, the year the parent company began making acquisitions that made it what it is today.

And that leads to the meaning of the Comau name. It’s an abbreviation of Consorzio Machine Utensili, a consortium that brought together nearly 40 years of experience in advanced manufacturing systems. In the process, it became a global leader in sustainable automation and service solutions.

OBSERVING TRADITION
As such, heritage is important. The overall corporation focuses on what got it where it now resides; at the same time, it keeps one eye cocked to the future. Indeed, with one eye looking to tomorrow, and one eye to the past, the parent company developed centers of excellence – wherein history, experience and talent are greatly appreciated. It’s taking these elements into the 21st century.

That’s where Comau Inc. comes in. It’s one of 23 Comau operating centers in as many as 13 countries, and this means localized support and customized solutions.

Comau Inc. demonstrates boundless energy, which translates into unlimited opportunity, as the company describes. It’s not content to rest upon past success. In the United States, the well-known brand combines capabilities with advanced automation and integration – a recipe that results in high-impact solutions.

US BUSINESS UNITS
In the United States, Comau Inc. has business units matched with location. The campus at its Southfield, Mich. Headquarters engages in body welding, robotics, aerospace and Adaptive Solutions. “Our body welding business unit focuses mainly on the automotive industry,” comments Brent Kelso, marketing manager for the Southfield, Mich.-headquartered North American arm. “Not only do we design and build various parts of the body shop, but we excel in the design, building and installation of complete body shops as well.”

Of its body welding capabilities, the company likes to say that it “builds machines that build machines.” In other words, this is intelligent technology, and Comau – when it comes to body welding – represents a global benchmark in advanced production systems for full vehicle body and components manufacturing, as well as the aforementioned full turnkey body shops. Comau provides body and welding solutions (the world’s most cost-effective low, medium and high-volume systems) that have set new standards. With its solutions – as well as its diligent customer service – the customizing Comau supports clients from initial concept and then through design, engineering, process development, simulations, and product launch. It doesn’t end there: The company also supports customers with maintenance. Comau Inc.’s flexibility and efficiency, combined with service excellence and product durability, gives customers a quick return on investment.

Comau Inc.’s powertrain systems business unit operates out of Royal Oak, in Michigan, in a recently re-opened (June 2012) facility that now provides the home for Comau Powertrain Systems USA. More than 170 full-time employees and 100-plus contract workers staff the revitalized 104,000-square-foot plant.

“This unit specializes in three areas,” says Kelso, “power train machining, assembly and test. Efforts are directed to automotive companies and heavy industry – basically any company that uses engines and transmissions.”

Indeed, Comau Inc. knows automotive technology. For nearly four decades – in whatever manifestation, whatever name – the business has led the global market with sustainable automation and service solutions. Its relationship with the automotive industry continues evolving.

Specifically, Powertrain Systems manufactures the most effective solutions that automate the entire engine and transmission production process. Capabilities include metal cutting, assembly, and testing.

Comau Inc.’s Adaptive Solutions, also located in Southfield, is, as the name suggests, an adaptive entity. “It takes the competencies gained from the experience in the automotive industry and transfers that experience into specific areas such as commercial vehicles and heavy industry around the world,” continues Kelso. “Our technology is positioned in commercial truck, road grade equipment and agricultural equipment. The group also directs efforts toward renewable energy resources, which involves technology such as wind turbines and solar panel manufacturing.”

Further, the group helps clients adapt, thanks to its innovative automation technologies that help customers better compete – in terms of cost, quality and service. By embracing concepts such as “Lean Manufacturing,” Comau’s Adaptive Solutions group streamlines processes to reduce waste (in terms of space and time, as well as transportation and resources [both human and mechanical]).

Comau Inc.’s Aerospace business unit focuses on projects within and outside US, says Kelso. The group offers integrated manufacturing solutions ranging from R&D applications to complete turnkey plants, and to industrial equipment and application. The group builds upon Comau’s experience in automation, developing applications in commercial, military, fixed wing, rotor wing, exterior, interior and engine manufacturing sectors, the company relates. Currently, Comau works with major civil aircraft manufacturers, providing airframe assemblies, manufacturing process development, automated tooling and transfer systems, mobile platforms, and assembly jigs and stations. As the group focuses on investment/performance ratio improvement, it offers innovative options that reduce customers’ production costs while increasing production in response to a competitive market’s ever-changing needs.

SMART TECHNOLOGY: ROBOTICS
“We have a robotics group that boasts a full line of innovative products designed to complement activities in our other business units,” reveals Kelso.

As other innovators have demonstrated, robotics is not science-fiction anymore; it’s marketplace reality. Since the late 1970s, the overall Comau organization has designed and produced highquality industrial robots. Its innovative SMART robotized solutions help customers achieve the highest productivity rates and meet ever-changing industry standards and market demands.

The company supplies a complete set of advanced industrial robots and robotized and integrated solutions. This resulted from its commitment to constant improvement of technology, performance, efficiency, reliability and reduced maintenance costs.

As Comau reports, SMART is the latest generation of its robots, and the technology covers all payload categories and applications. Robotized cells and process-integrated solutions ensure reduced dimensions, increases working volume, and provide high-precision movements and positioning accuracy. Further, the robot’s flexibility – as flexible as the company is itself – makes the technology customizable to a client’s specific goals. Applications include welding, foundry, handling/ palletizing and sealing/gluing.

THE FUTURE: INCREASED FLEXIBILITY, FOOTPRINT AND INNOVATION
Robotic capability underscores the nature of both Comau Inc. and the parent company. “We’ve always been known for our high level of experience, competency, resiliency and innovation,” says Kelso.

But the company won’t rest on its laurels. “We’re focused on the future,” adds Kelso. “We provide customers what they need today, but we’re also very concerned about what they need tomorrow. That approach is what has made us a leader in all of the market segments in which we’re engaged.”

As Comau moves forward, it also seeks to increase its global footprint. “One of the major trends we see in our industry is globalization. For us, that means increasing customer reach,” says Kelso. “We have created an extensive global footprint. Even though we are known as Comau Inc. – an enterprise located in the United States – we deal with multinational corporations.”

That means a lot of pressure, but Comau Inc. is up to the task. “In the current business climate, customers expect suppliers to follow them around the world, and they demand the same service and systems levels, whether that’s in North America, South America, Europe or Asia/Pacific,” says Kelso. “We have the capabilities to do this very well.”

That comes back to flexibility, and Comau Inc. keeps its limbs supple. “Need for flexibility has been another ongoing trend, and that need always increases,” says Kelso. “Our customers need flexibility as far as products – ours and theirs – and with their production lines and schedules, as well as where they build.”

Meanwhile, Comau Inc. wishes to remain recognized as a leading innovator. “We’re there, as far as the automotive/truck sector, heavy industry and aerospace but we’re now tackling areas such as wind and solar power generation and industrial sustainability,” describes Kelso.

To that end, the company offers yet another innovative service: eComau, a consulting arm that not only helps customers make their “green” commitment and environmental responsibility tangible but helps them realize energy saving (and, thus cost saving) results.

“We’re directing this effort not just to clients but to ourselves,” says Kelso. “It involves sustainable automation and reduction of carbon footprint, and we consider that an important part of our future.”

In addition, the Adaptive Solutions division, appropriately, is working in similar areas. “It’s doing some really interesting work in the renewable energy field – solar cell arrays, wind turbines, and new types of batteries,” reports Kelso. “We see those areas presenting opportunities for future growth.”

Like its parent company, Comau Inc. is helping global customers meet the highly competitive and continually changing demands of worldwide markets – and solutions can be localized to address regional requirements.