The Race to Automate Aerospace: A Talk with JPB Système CEO Damien Marc
“I took the decision to incorporate manufacturing into our core business. And that was a tough decision — our business is global, our competition is global, so we need to produce at the best quality and the best price,” explained Marc. “France was not necessarily the best choice in that sense, so I was going to look around and maybe buy a company. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but then I realized there was one other way I might be able to do it.”
Marc’s plan was to use CNC machines, with the business logic behind the idea that the equipment cost more or less the same no matter the country, but hiring the higher-salary workers in the French market could allow JPB to get the most value out of each machine. Marc quickly ran into trouble with this idea, as well. Much like in many of the other most heavily industrialized nations, good CNC operators that don’t already have jobs are just hard to come by. He finally settled on using CNC robots for the low-value tasks, so he could “center the operators in high-value operations.” This was a promising turning point, although it came with its own set of challenges.
“When I put two different machines in the workshop, they weren’t able to communicate with each other,” Marc said, referring attempts to connect his first CNC robot to an inspection machine. “There is no protocol. I was really surprised because my background is computer skills and electronics.” JPB ended up having to make its own programmable logic control (PLC) language in order to get the machines synced: “So, we created the communication between those two machines, and at the end, the machine for production was producing, the machine for inspection was inspecting, and the inspection machine was sending the offsets corrections to the production machine. We successfully created our first closed-loop.”