Automobility Enterprises will be a micro-builder

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The formation of a new manufacturing micro-enterprise unique in Canada and the establishment of an automotive accelerator at St. Clair College are the cornerstones of the new Canadian Automotive Hub announced Wednesday by Invest WindsorEssex.

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The center, which will be housed in the college’s Truck and Coach building on its south Windsor campus, is a public-private partnership made up of new manufacturer Automobility Enterprises and the university branch Automobility Research.

“We know disruptions are happening and we want those disruptions to be there,” said Matthew Johnson of Invest WindsorEssex, Executive Director, Mobility Partnerships and Innovation.

“We want the jobs that come with the disruption.

“Green projects are part of it and will take place alongside these innovations. What’s going to happen will diversify the economy more than you might think. “

Automobility Enterprises is a micro-manufacturer formed by Windsor Mold, German engineering firm PEM Motion and Integris Software, based in Ottawa.

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The plant will produce zero-emission electric vehicles for commercial last mile delivery. It will focus on producing small batches, 5,000-10,000 units or less, with the ability to quickly pivot to produce a different product.

The new company will also offer services in other automotive areas, such as converting vehicles from gas to electricity, as well as helping local businesses and individuals to develop and test new innovations and sustain. their operations.

“The good thing is that it helps the community transform in the new transportation environment,” said Randy Zadra, Managing Director of Integris Software.

“It’s not just the automobile. Talking to the mining companies, they want all electric vehicles in their mine shafts, so there is no exhaust. Agriculture is another industry well suited for this.

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“It’s participating in the redefinition of transport.

The plant will be located in a building currently owned by Windsor Mold on Durham Place and is expected to be operational in 12 to 18 months.

We now have a great pipeline for taking innovative ideas from start to finish.

The plant’s launch is expected to cost around $ 30 million. The number of jobs at launch will be determined on the contracts obtained at that time.

The company’s first contract is to convert two of Enwin’s vehicles from gas to electricity. Automobility Enterprise employees will begin this work immediately at the college providing experiential learning to students.

Zadra said the Windsor plant will be unlike any other in Canada in its ability to be flexible using manufacturing processes developed by PEM Motion. He added that this will give Canadian companies in the automotive sector, from manufacturing to technology development and cybersecurity, a new tool to help them innovate and develop their products faster and at lower cost.

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It is also a proven model, as the zero-emission vehicles produced by PEM have been used worldwide for several years, including by the German postal service.

“It’s a manufacturing that is already developed, nimble and fast,” said Zadra, who added that there was tremendous interest from customers around the world in the Windsor project.

“You can build 5,000 Type A vehicles, and then nine months later, after a short transition period, build something completely different. There is no long retooling period.

PEM Motion director Karl Anton said that at the end of the year 25,000 company vehicles would be in service.

“PEM started seven years ago to prove electric mobility could work,” said Anton, who worked 34 years for Ford Motor Company and became European production manager.

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“It is now one of the largest fleets of electric vehicles in the world. “

Anton said what is different about the manufacturing process and planning for PEM Motion is that it involves all employees and is consistent. There is an addiction to artificial intelligence, machine learning, and even the use of gaming platforms.

“We are looking for people with higher skill levels,” said Anton. “Everyone has a responsibility in the planning and execution and that creates more job satisfaction. This is where manufacturing is headed in the future. “

The seeds for the new venture were planted two years ago at the annual Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association conference in Windsor.

After both sides did their due diligence, slowed down by COVID-19, Anton said Windsor had become a natural fit for PEM.

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As measured by North American industry codes, the Windsor area already has twice as many companies in the automotive space as the next closest Canadian community.

“We wanted to leverage the manufacturing expertise and the ecosystem that is here,” said Anton.

Windsor Mold President and COO David Mastronardi said the marriage of German expertise in new manufacturing processes with the quality of local business and talent is precisely what the region needs to stay competitive in a resurgent industry.

“One of our founding principles is that we are technology driven and we need to keep evolving,” Mastronardi said.

“The other thing is that we also have to evolve with the latest manufacturing processes.

“How is it to take our engineering to a different level? How do our technologies apply to this? “

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Automobility Enterprises will not operate in a vacuum, as the company will also support the activities of students and local businesses through the hub.

The university and college are reviewing their curricula and faculty needs to meet industry demand for new skills and talent as part of the coordinated regional approach.

The University of Windsor will also begin a $ 3 million renovation and expansion to its Faculty of Engineering building this month. The expansion will include a doubling in size of the Center for Hybrid Automotive Research and the Green Energy Lab, where research is being conducted in batteries, powertrains and the next generation of electric motors in partnership with industry.

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“The ecosystem was built by everyone,” said Heather Pratt, executive director of research and innovation at the University of Windsor. “We take that knowledge and try to monetize it.

“We now have a great pipeline to drive innovative ideas from start to finish. “

St. Clair College Director of Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Peter Wawrow said students’ interaction with industry will prepare them for jobs, but also for the wider impact. of automobility on society.

“The transformation of the auto industry is also transforming the city itself,” Wawrow said after seeing the effects at PEM Motion’s home in Aachen, Germany.

“Windsor is similar to Aachen and we see the same potential. The preparations to be a part of it are also a great opportunity for the college to transform as well. “

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