A small West Michigan custom automation provider is doubling in size as manufacturers struggle with worker shortages and seek to introduce less labor-intensive components to their operations.
Hyperion Automation Inc. recently unveiled a new 15,000-square-foot facility in Holland Township that it expects will add 12 new jobs in the next few years, roughly doubling both its production footprint as well as staff.
Since separating from Inline Electric & Controls in early 2019 as its own automation-focused business unit, Hyperion has experienced steady growth along the lakeshore, despite being “slowed down a little bit” by the pandemic, said President Jeremy Wright.
Along with full-systems integration, Hyperion also provides custom-engineered automation solutions such as robotics, assembly and vision systems. Its customers span the manufacturing spectrum, from food and furniture to automobiles and health care.
Wright said labor is a driving component behind the company’s work in that labor-intensive companies are increasingly seeking automation solutions to help keep up with demand.
“In the spaces where you need the manufacturing labor … in some cases, it’s difficult to keep people on the line,” Wright said. “Over the last couple of years, it’s really everywhere just because of the labor shortage.”
Wright said Hyperion distinguishes itself from larger automation players like JR Automation by taking on smaller, more customized jobs and focusing more on consulting with customers before the sale.
“And making sure they’re looking at the right solution instead of the first one that came to them,” he said. “A lot of times customers will come to us with an idea, and we find a need for a lot of massaging to get that manufacturing cell right.”
Hyperion dates back to 1996 when it was initially founded as In-Tech, which in 2012 merged with Inline Electric & Controls. In 2019, Inline’s controls and automation division split off to form Hyperion to pursue “a lot of market space in automation,” said Wright, who started in an entry-level job at In-Tech and worked his way up to lead Hyperion.
With a rapidly expanding range of automation options for companies, Wright said it’s crucial for manufacturers to identify their needs to right-size an automation solution. Increasing a company’s throughput of products is the ultimate goal.
Growing automation focus
Amanda Murray, vice president of business solutions for Lakeshore Advantage Corp., said Hyperion’s growth is “another good example of the high concentration of automation solution providers in Michigan.”
Covering Allegan and Ottawa Counties, Lakeshore Advantage works with a range of large to small companies in the Industry 4.0 space.
“It’s a really good example of the way that manufacturing is going to implement Industry 4.0 technologies to overcome barriers to growth. As companies overcome those, they need solutions providers to help implement, problem solve and maintain that equipment,” Murray said.
During its recent expansion event, Hyperion unveiled a new manufacturing cell that has three robots used to handle hundreds of small wheels coming off a paint line. One robot picks up the wheels and places them on a pallet while two others stack and package the products.
The customer is “having a heck of a time keeping people in those jobs,” Wright said.
Meanwhile, Lakeshore Advantage is shining a brighter spotlight on these types of companies. In the coming months, the organization plans to release findings from a data-collection survey of more than 200 companies in West Michigan about their barriers to adopting Industry 4.0.
Early findings from the yearlong, state grant-funded project suggest that cost and labor availability are the two primary barriers, Murray said.
“We’ve recognized that Industry 4.0 implementation and preparedness will be critical in the future of our success in manufacturing,” Murray said. “There’s such a strong manufacturing base on the lakeshore that we need to make sure companies have the tools they need to stay competitive in a global economy.”