Johnson Controls Inc. is tweaking its materials expertise with an expanded laboratory for home-grown product development for automotive customers.
And while the new equipment can help speed product launch, so can location.
While JCI already had a materials lab at its Holland campus, it was adjacent to an on-site prototype manufacturing operation. That required program developers to don safety gear and trudge through the plant to reach it, while also subjecting the equipment to power fluctuations that could disrupt tests.
Now located in the heart of the product-development area and hooked to an independent power source, the lab is seeing a big increase in use, said Stephen Hollingsworth, manager of advanced materials and process engineering interiors for JCI's automotive group.
``Now, we're seeing a big benefit for all of us,'' Hollingsworth said during a Nov. 6 tour of the expanded lab. ``People see it and they utilize it more.''
Johnson Controls installed its first lab equipment in 1994, cramming it into a 5-foot-by-8-foot room. The new equipment will help the company research the best materials for each application and the optimum processing methods, and will allow JCI to test competitive products.
Using gel permeation chromatography now in place in Holland, for instance, engineers can analyze the interaction between resins, adhesives, textiles and foams on a door panel or headliner, said Cathryn Poll, materials engineer.
``It does help us speed up things,'' Hollingsworth said. ``It's not just a matter of getting a material, putting it in a tool and seeing how it turns out. It gives us a higher level of knowledge.''
JCI hopes the lab will help it introduce new systems faster. At least 65 percent of the lab time is taken for in-house, new product development, he said.
``This helps us to validate what we want to do,'' he said.