JAE Automation is proof positive that a cutting-edge, high-tech company can work with some of the biggest, most innovative manufacturers in North America but still enjoy the camaraderie and enviably balanced lifestyle of living in a small, close-knit community.
That’s exactly what has transpired with the Kemptville company – a thriving automation systems integration design and implementation firm which services big clients throughout Eastern Ontario and beyond.
JAE began in 2000 by long-time friends and colleagues Eric Martin and Jim Sneyd, both of whom brought extensive experience and a fierce dedication to comprehensive customer service to their new venture.
“We moved out this way in 1999 and we could see that the area was underserviced as far as the kind of services we were offering. When we talked with clients around here, people wanted a presence nearby. The longer that we have been here – and it’s been 16 years – the more people have really appreciated that there is a really reputable company that can provide ongoing services and isn’t just here for a project and then is gone. That seems to be a very big thing in this area and, in general, people like that the support is local,” said Martin, who said that JAE claims Eastern Ontario as its home territory, but that they have worked further afield when called upon.
“We say our stomping grounds are from Trenton all the way to Cornwall, then to Hawkesbury up to Pembroke – so literally all of Eastern Ontario. Kemptville is our home but we don’t mind getting in the vehicle and driving to Belleville, where we work for Procter & Gamble and Parmalat. Some of our clients do bring us down to Mexico or to the U.S., and we have gone to places like Alberta for Parmalat, but our preference is to stay as local as possible.”
Starting the company with a focus on electrical and control systems, Martin and Sneyd eventually realized that JAE could attract – and more importantly, retain – large scale industrial and manufacturing clients by developing a sort of ‘one-stop shopping’ business structure.
“About four years ago we decided we needed to pursue being able to do everything in house, including doing all the design work. At that time, we hired an automation systems manager and he basically runs the mechanical division. Our largest project to date saw us install a robot palletizing system from scratch. We worked with the client and developed all the conveying systems up into the ceiling and down and developed four separate pallet lanes and conveyed them all to the stretch wrapper. It was rewarding to see the project through from start to finish,” Martin said.
“We sub-contracted all the contractors for the construction and installation; we did all the design and all the communication with the client and all the computer programming, the electrical and mechanical. The continuing challenge is to convince our clients to sit down and allow us to show how we can provide them a better way and how we can really maximize their return on investment.”
One of JAE’s biggest challenges, especially since expanding into a more turn-key operation, was ensuring they developed a solid, exceptionally skilled team to help implement all the various facets of the sophisticated projects that Martin and Sneyd were now managing.
“We hired a human resources consultant to not only help us maintain staff but who put things in place so that Jim and I can focus more of our attention on business development. Essentially we have someone who can either direct us, or take care of things that we tended to do in the past. It’s been a great resource for helping us source the right sub-contractors too,” Martin said.
In order to streamline document sharing, planning processes and resource management, JAE also works hard to maintain a detailed cloud based system to achieve this goal.
“We have a very good system for managing online contracts, projects and resource management throughout our organization. This makes us a lot more efficient. And when we are working on a big project it helps us to track where we’re at, be efficient in our dealings with the customer, whether it be for materials or time, and as well for overall project management. Combined, this has been very advantageous as it’s more seamless in managing all those things together,” Martin explained.
Besides the great success the company has achieved in its 16-year existence, Martin said it’s a joy for him, Sneyd and his team of nine other employees to live work and play in the lovely Kemptville area.
“Business-wise, we’re right on the 416 so we can head to Brockville, Cornwall, up to Ottawa or anywhere along the 401. And there is a real co-operative spirit within the manufacturing community here. There is a real openness and a desire to build relationships. Everybody wants everybody else to do well. But it’s also a cozy environment too. People are very easy to get along with. I grew up on a farm so I am used to being in a small community where everyone knows you,” he said.
“I call this a very festive area with lots to do. And it’s also very outdoorsy – people are really into doing things outside and having that balance of family life and taking time to do things outside of work and enjoy their lives. It’s a perfect place to live and raise a family. We love it.”
For more information on JAE Automation, visit www.jaeautomation.com.
(Photo by Deanna Clark, Leeds Grenville Economic Development Office)