Technology developer Sorion Electronics, now 25 years old, offers a comprehensive range of bespoke systems and services for the Automotive, Engineering and Manufacturing industries. Sorion's engineering, in the shape of bespoke electrical testing and assembly process control solutions, is used in the production of billions of dollars' worth of vehicles every month.
The company has an enviable client list – a who's who of leading vehicle and automotive component manufacturers – that includes Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Denso, Grupo Antolin, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Lamborghini, Lear, Leyland DAF Trucks, KAB Seating, Magna, Nissan, Rolls Royce, Toyota and ZF-TRW. Sorion recently added innovative manufacturer of air- and vacuum-based equipment, Dyson, to the list.
Sorion systems are deployed in over 100 locations throughout the UK and across Europe, Scandinavia and the Far East. "In a sector where many businesses are failing, we sell reliable, functional systems at a competitive price, outperforming even local suppliers," says Steve Hayes.
Explains Hayes: "For many years, we deployed our systems on OEM industrial-weight PCs because this is what our manufacturing clients specified. They were costly - £5K for a PC! – and made our systems costly. Over time, we managed to downscale slightly by using generic panel PC hardware, but this still added up to £2K per PC to our packaged system."
"We decided as a Board it was time to look at the market for a more cost-effective option, but one which still provided the reliability and durability we needed." Sorion's search led it to J2 Retail Systems, now part of AURES Technologies. "We were impressed to see that major corporates such as Greggs were using hundreds if not thousands of J2s; a sure sign that the technology does the job. We could see that the J2 terminals were reliable, designed for easy maintenance and upgrade, and came in at half the price."
- The J2s have demonstrated their industrial strength in terms of build, reliability and performance;
- The black unit fits in well in a manufacturing environment and is rugged enough to cope with tough handling;
- With industrial processes running 24/7, the J2s deliver excellent performance, often running continuously for weeks on end;
- Ease of maintenance is a big strength. Client staff can do on the spot replacements and upgrades without sending the J2 terminals away for repair;
- The J2s are fanless so no dirt or foreign bodies from the shop floor are sucked into the workings, causing them to fail;
- The J2's cost of ownership is good, in terms both of purchase and lifetime usage. This helps Sorion to thrive in a competitive market.
In 2009, J2 Retail Systems secured the Sorion contract and in the ensuing years has seen its PC-based touchscreen EPoS terminals become Sorion's de facto choice for deployment across its industrial clients.
Approximately 500 J2 terminals are now in use, sold by Sorion as part of a pre-configured package of hardware and software to run either an assembly chain or industrial testing processes. Whilst the J2 580 terminal was originally chosen, few of these units remain in the field with clients upgrading to new model J2 625s as the J2 580s come to their end of life.
The J2 580s and the J2 625s look the part; they are solid machines in rugged black casings and perform well in the tough, unforgiving environment of a factory floor. The latest machines operate without a fan so there is no danger of dust or metal filings being sucked into the terminal's workings and causing them to fail.
Many of Sorion's clients operate a 24/7 process environment and rely absolutely upon the results of their mission-critical test and quality control systems. The J2s stand up to these demands well, often not being shut down for days if not weeks at a time. They have proved themselves to be of industrial strength in terms of build, reliability and performance.
Clients find J2's versatile mounting options useful. Whilst most favour pole or bracket-mounting, the terminals can also be wall-mounted or enclosed within a metal case. "We often build a mounting plate to accommodate all the cables and peripherals," says Steve Hayes.
Until recently, all the J2s have come with TFR resistive touchscreens. Now new projected capacitive touch (PCT) technology is available on the J2 625s and Aures has successfully demonstrated to Sorion and its clients that these touchscreens can be used by operatives wearing gloves. J2 625s fitted with PCT screens will give Sorion clients clearer screen displays and a longer screen life in what is invariably a challenging operating environment.
Client staff are able to make easy upgrades and replacements to the J2 terminals on site without needing to send the machines away for repair. This independence results in virtually uninterrupted operations with little, if any, downtime and an overall reduced burden of maintenance or upgrade. Observes Steve Hayes: "Ease of maintenance is one of the J2's big strengths. It enables our client staff to do on the spot changes, replacements, upgrades, without sending away the machine. That equates to savings of time and money and increases the desirability of the overall Sorion package."
Sorion's Sextans-RT shop floor process control and testing application is installed on the J2s and manages logistics and captures data. Test and other process-generated data are then transmitted to the client's server for storage and manipulation within Sorion's Orion database. A web browser enables the client to carry out analysis and perform secure, customised reporting on the data regardless of their location. The outcome is quality assurance and performance reports that drive manufacturing decisions.
The largest order of J2 terminals has been from the Spanish Grupo Antolin who, in 2015, invested in over 100 units for its manufacture of instrument panels for the Jaguar XE and XF models. Dyson also has a large number of installed units used in both manufacturing and service centres, as does Denso who uses them to test air-con units. Midlands-based Lear is another client to have recently taken a significant order of new systems, providing electrical test and with Sorion-designed force application machines to calibrate automotive seating, many of the systems are in their manufacturing plants around Europe.
Steve Hayes concludes: "The cost of ownership of the J2 terminals is good and is helping us to flourish in what is a highly-competitive and cost-sensitive international market. We have to sell our systems and be benchmarked against the competition, local or overseas. I'm pleased to say that we are becoming more and more successful at fending off the competition and J2 technology must take part of the credit for that."