Jordan Waeles

Behind the scenes with Jordan – Productization/R&D Engineer 

Jordan is productization engineer / R&D engineer in the team of Jan Olbrechts. He takes advanced prototypes and transforms them into RTLS positioning products that are manufacturable and easier to manufacture.

With a background in electronic engineering, programming and 3D printing, Jordan designed an inexpensive light-guided picking system for his previous employer – a large online European retail store –  and as such, he already experienced first-hand the safety risks encountered in warehouses. He noticed that pillars and racks are being damaged by trucks, amongst other daily risks standing in the middle of fast driving trucks. He recently joined Essensium’s R&D-team, we asked him a few questions to get to know him better:

What do you do during a typical work day?

When I’m in the office, I spend time with the colleagues who assemble our products. I gather their feedback informally, I see them struggling with some steps of the assembly, and I suggest ideas to make their job easier to the other engineers of the R&D department. Usually, I get their full support and I get something going on the laser cutter, the 3D printer, place some orders and write some scripts to alleviate their pains.

Recently, I’ve drawn enclosures for the main unit of our positioning system, as well as the cameras of the SafeTrack™ system. I’ve designed and built a testing set-up to help focus the cameras in the factory, which included determining the relative sharpness of cameras in OpenCV (open source computer vision library). I’ve built a testing set-up to measure the alignment of the camera lenses and the sensors and I’ve arranged for a factory to build us custom cable looms that were easier to fit in the enclosure and didn’t require us to solder or crimp anything anymore…

Most importantly, I designed a printed circuit board that interfaces our EPS3 system with the trucks and drives the light tower indications. We had a generic board we bought from a third party, but it needed a lot of extra work and wiring at assembly stage. Now, it has more features, is more compact than before, and gets assembled in just a few minutes. And best of all, the box is sleeker than ever with all the indicator lights! You’d almost want to keep the control compartment door of your reach truck open so you can watch it kicking in! Obviously that’s not in line with the safety procedures at industrial sites 😊 ..

What’s the best thing about your job?

The variety of the tasks and the trust my colleagues have in me. Most of them come from more academic backgrounds, while I’ve been learning mostly on my own and as such, we complete each other. They have the science and the math down and I take care of transforming their prototypes into products that are easier to manufacture. Nothing more gratifying than when all the parts come together, the enclosure closes tightly, the assembly line workers are happy and the product works accurately!

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Deadlines, of course. It’s also quite challenging to work around the big electronics components shortage we keep experiencing since 2020. We constantly have to re-adapt and re-design to be able to deliver our solutions to the clients. Thankfully, the manufacturing landscape has changed a lot, and processes that were once extremely expensive have become a commodity, accessible to small companies; CNC machining, 3D printing and cheap PCB (printed circuit board) manufacturing and assembly have made it possible to quickly react to any problem we face, with an end product that is sexier and more reliable than ever.