Volker Müller, 44, who has been at Jacob since 2015, is our Technical Director – so he‘s always thinking about the balance between technical requirements and creative freedom. The mechatronics engineer applies his know-how to squeeze out every last drop of added value for his customers as their solution grows from a draft design to a fully formed and approved product.
How many staff are involved in development tasks at Jacob? What do you do personally to engender a willingness to innovate?
Ten of our employees work directly on development tasks – but in indirect terms, almost everyone at the company is involved in the development process. There is a huge willingness to innovate at Jacob. For me personally, the most important way I can contribute to this is by coordinating the teams, giving them the space and support they need. And when it is the right time for the customer – we just do it!
Jacob has been developing and producing cable gland systems for almost 60 years – longer than any other company out there. What do you say to those who claim that there’s no scope for innovation left in this field?
Manufacturing and production processes are constantly evolving – that’s a fact. They are the engine that drives innovation in the field of cable glands, and they provide us with the impetus to imbue our products with important technological innovations. Some of the best known examples of this include metal injection molding, 2K injection molding and rapid manufacturing.
So what is it that makes Jacob cable entry systems so good?
Let me break that down into a few key areas: our decades of experience, our use of simulation and prototyping, and the extensive testing we conduct in our lab.
Where do you think there’s potential for optimization in terms of materials?
Environmental regulations and standards are currently driving development in a clear direction: toward the green product. We are optimizing our products in line with this trend by using lead-free brass, for example.
To what extent do you incorporate your customers’ practical experience into the development process?
Here at Jacob, we have a dedicated team that deals with special requirements from our customers, going far beyond our standard processes. This team develops custom solutions or integrates special features into new standard products’ development.
What is the time frame for developing and realizing a customer project, on average?
We generally say three to twelve months. During this time, the project goes through clearly defined stages, starting with the design, then the product and process development and, finally, the approval.
Could you give us an example to demonstrate the interplay between development and production in the Jacob project business?
There’s a project we’re currently working on where our first step was to develop a solution concept for a specific customer requirement. In the second step, our main challenge was to provide the customer with close-to-production parts on short call. To achieve perfect results in next to no time, several divisions – Development, Turning Technology, Mold Making and Plastics Technology – worked together hand in hand.
It’s not unknown for developers to sometimes give customers answers to problems they might not even have thought of yet ...
Yes, that’s a fairly common occurrence at Jacob. There was an e-mobility project, for example, where we were able to make significant cuts to the customer’s assembly time. Originally, they had only asked us for a cable gland – but in the end we were able to develop a new type of connection box that made their assembly process much easier.
Jacob has its own testing laboratory. How does this benefit the customer?
Strictly speaking, there are actually two advantages. Firstly, it enables us to apply our new knowledge very quickly to the development stage for series products. Secondly, it means that we can carry out tests according to our customers’ specifications.
So where and when do you come up with your best ideas yourself?
Luckily, most of my very best ideas come to me already at the first customer visit. And if I’m stuck in a rut, I find a coffee or two always helps.
- FEM simulations
- Filling studies
- Rapid prototyping
- CAD-CAM and rapid manufacturing