The Future of Automation

Edgewater Automation
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

In a little over two decades, Edgewater Automation has grown into one of America’s premier designers and builders of factory automation systems. With competencies including automated systems for assembly, testing, inspection, data acquisition, and material handling, Edgewater serves clients across multiple markets. From automotive to electronics, consumer products to transportation, and life sciences to logistics, the experienced team at Edgewater Automation provides high-quality systems, service, and solutions to help all customers ensure success.

Originally starting with a turnkey automation group in Saint Joseph, Michigan, Edgewater has grown to include an additional turnkey automation group in Spartanburg, South Carolina, a fabrication group and another turnkey automation with contract manufacturing group in Buchanan, Michigan, and a west coast sales office in Sacramento, California. With a customer base including Fortune 1000 companies, Edgewater prides itself on being flexible and able to respond and pivot quickly and professionally.

Award-winning service
An A3 Certified Robot Integrator and a Fanuc Authorized System Integrator (Level 5)—the world’s leading supplier of robotics—Edgewater is a proud member of the Association for Manufacturing Technology and has other well-known and respected partners, such as Rockwell Automation, Promess, Cognex, and the Rexroth Bosch Group.

Founded in 2001, Edgewater continues to receive praise from customers and awards for its outstanding work. In 2004, the company celebrated its third year receiving the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce Award for supporting the local business community. Just a few years later, in 2007, Edgewater made Inc. Magazine’s list of America’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies for the first time, achieved again in 2008 and 2012. Other awards soon followed, including being named one the ‘Top 50 Companies to Watch’ by the State of Michigan (2010), and a Technology Award from Delphi Automotive PLC (2014).

Growing its staff and services, Edgewater Automation lives up to its motto every day: ‘Innovate. Automate. Succeed.’ With an ISO 9001:2015 Certified Quality Management System, Edgewater works with customers on every aspect of their projects, including project management, engineering, manufacturing, and customer support. Taking on work small and large, Edgewater applies the same professionalism to every project.

Committed to customers
Providing customers with robotic solutions, vision systems, motion control, and more requires not only years of experience, but vision and planning. Edgewater realizes that customers have their own budgets to balance and deadlines to meet. Equipped with the right people, a massive combined production space of more than 286,000 square feet across four locations, and the latest technology, Edgewater takes customers’ visions and transforms them into realities.

From concept to initial design to manufacturing, final commissioning, testing and training, and communication at every stage, Edgewater brings everything together under one roof. This one-stop approach to projects increases accountability and wards against any potential issues. The end result is exceeding customer expectations, timely delivery, and completing projects on budget. This time-tested approach has been successful with both new and repeat customers, who return to Edgewater for their professionalism, quality, and unsurpassed service.

Assembly systems, test systems, material handling systems, data acquisition, and logistics are just a few of Edgewater’s overall competencies, which also encompass fabricating machined structures and parts as well as contract manufacturing services. Continuing to build on its strong reputation, Edgewater continues serving the needs of customers in diverse markets, providing solutions for products such as medical devices, HVAC systems, lighting, circuit boards, surgical instruments, batteries, housewares, and more.

Building the future
The history of Edgewater Automation is one of success and growth. To meet the needs of its many customers, the company expanded its original facility in Saint Joseph, Michigan. The first expansion in 2004, just a few years after Edgewater was founded, saw the addition of 24,000 square feet. In the years to come, this was followed by other expansions in 2007, 2012, and 2013.

Along with adding to its original facility, the company launched a 43,000-square-foot facility with turnkey automation capabilities in Spartanburg, South Carolina and another 49,600-square-foot facility in Buchanan, Michigan for its manufacturing division. In 2020, this was followed by yet another 34,500-square-foot facility in Buchanan for a turnkey automation and contract manufacturing group. Along with that, Edgewater added 111,400 square feet of space in Buchanan for large-scale projects.

Valuing its customers and employees alike, Edgewater keeps paving the way for the future through its Apprenticeship Program and Engineering Internship Program. While apprentices must meet specific terms and conditions to qualify and remain in the program, there are numerous benefits, from paid tuition to insurance benefits and a 401(k). Similarly, becoming an Edgewater Automation intern helps young high school graduates gain valuable, paid workplace experience while boosting their résumé and skills. More information on the Engineering Internship Program and Apprenticeship Program is available at https://edgewaterautomation.com/internship-program/ and https://edgewaterautomation.com/apprenticeship-program/.

Thriving through challenges
While many companies faced tough times during the pandemic, Edgewater kept moving, making innovations and investments for the betterment of the company and its customers.

Soon before COVID was declared a pandemic in 2020, the company launched its Buchanan Automation division, located about half an hour from its existing facility in Saint Joseph. The fully equipped Buchanan division represents a multi-million-dollar investment for Edgewater. Occupying the Buchanan building since 2014—when the fabrication division started—the decision to start the automation group was finalized in late 2019.

“As a next step toward offering the market a unique experience with our company, Edgewater has launched a full-scale offering contract manufacturing facility,” explains Jamen Blake, Managing Director for Buchanan Automation. For the company, with its staff of skilled engineers, technicians, and many years of experience in custom automation, “this represents a natural progression for us. With a high-level team capable of designing and building custom automation, Edgewater is able to quickly adapt our expertise to help customers build smaller items on a much larger scale,” he says.

“Rather than just large-format projects that take up a ton of square footage, these are projects that may range from the size of a desktop computer to the size of a vending machine,” says Blake. “Instead of building one of them, we build hundreds, or thousands, of them. This new offering has allowed us to maintain a strong flow of work through our shop floor while helping to balance the peaks and valleys of custom automation that can come in waves and go just as quickly,” he says.

“We are also doing some development projects for customers as well, where they’ve got a prototype in mind but don’t have the budget for a full-blown build,” shares Blake. “So, we are working with a handful of customers in developing their solutions, and that could lead to huge wins for both them and us if these projects come to life. We are also working with businesses to help them engineer their solutions. Getting in on the ground level with some companies still bringing their [level of] automation up has been another growth opportunity for us. We can help guide them in that process, and contribute from an engineering and build standpoint, and build prototypes. So that’s been a good way we’ve been able to help our existing customers grow and find new ones as well,” he says.

“Along with having much more space than before, another advantage this recent expansion offers Edgewater is a new opportunity for finding talent; with Saint Joseph being on the north end of Berrien County and Buchanan being on the south end, the company can draw from a much larger talent pool. Collaborating with local schools and colleges to provide job shadowing opportunities, the company also offers internships and apprenticeships. Additionally, Edgewater remains a long-time sponsor and supporter of the First Robotics program, STEM education, mentorship, and supporting local schools through technology offerings, financial donations, and even space so students can set up their own robots,” says Blake.

“Edgewater is a passionate supporter of area school systems. We have always been a big supporter of the technology programs schools are offering by sharing our expertise and talent with their students,” explains Tim Tate, Managing Director of the Saint Joseph Automation Group. “It is something we believe in; it’s important that companies like ours get involved with these programs early so we can continue to share the opportunities our trade offers to students who are interested in STEM-based learning.”

Broadening markets
With its diverse skill set, Edgewater is seeing a big push toward newer sectors, including medical—typically to make devices for use outside the body—consumer goods products, and automotive, especially the electric vehicle (EV) market.

With consistent growth, Edgewater is perfectly positioned to meet the automation needs of all customers. Promoting the company through its information-packed website and social media tools like Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, Edgewater is also active in trade shows throughout the year, where the team showcases its many offerings. These include ATX West (California), Assembly Show South (Nashville, Tennessee), the Automate Show (Detroit, Michigan), ATX East (New York City, New York) and the Advanced Manufacturing Expo (Grand Rapids, Michigan). Upcoming for the company is the Pack Expo Show in Las Vegas this September, and the Assembly Show in Chicago in October.

“Edgewater is a company that’s always growing,” says Tate. “We are looking to solidify ourselves in several different niches and markets including contract manufacturing. We are growing our footprint, offering more locations to bring in new hires and more talent, and ramping up our training efforts. Additionally, we are sharpening our processes internally to ensure that we have good onboarding and training for new people.” We look forward to seeing the further growth and success that surely lies ahead for this dynamic company.

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