Jasco Products delivers smart home devices from a smart warehouse in Oklahoma City
Smart homes came first, but Jasco Products, an Oklahoma City consumer electronics company that "nobody knows," finally has a warehouse that's just as smart.
"Nobody knows Jasco," its executives say, because almost all of its products sell under other names, such as General Electric, Philips, Enbrighten, myTouchSmart, Cordinate, UltraPro, EcoSurvivor, Projectables and Lights by Night.
Jasco also runs incognito in the background of some well-known products, such as its Z-Wave lighting technology, which is integrated with Ring wireless home security systems. Amazon owns Ring. Jasco runs with some big names.
Family-owned Jasco has been in business for 48 years, since founder Steve Trice started selling citizen's band radio antennas in 1975. For nearly 20 years, the company has operated from an inconspicuous front office and 500,000-square-foot warehouse at 10 E Memorial Road.
But lately, its warehouse-distribution center has been getting attention, for getting just as smart as the smart homes most of Jasco's products and systems go into. Devices and appliances in a smart home can be controlled remotely through the internet for security, entertainment, temperature and lighting and other systems.
Jasco, which employs about 450 people, spent $40 million automating the warehouse in a project last summer. The automation did not result in any layoffs, and was designed to be expanded as Jasco grows, said Jeff Cato, vice president of e-commerce and digital marketing.
The high-tech warehouse control system includes automated storage and retrieval of shuttles, the mobile carts that carry items to be packed and shipped; semi-automated pallet building and wrapping; and ergonomic pick-and-pack stations that save workers literal miles of walking per shift.
"We were bursting at the seams here," said Mitchell Davis, vice president of product development. "We went in and reracked the entire facility, and did narrow racking so we could double our capacity. We actually had five different external warehouses (around OKC and Dallas), and this gave us the ability to bring it all back into basically one roof."
Automation reduced order fulfillment time by up to a week, made jobs safer and less physically demanding, and added flexibility for adapting to the fast-evolving world of retail and e-commerce, Davis said.
It will help the company maintain growth in business and in giving, co-CEO Jason Trice said while unveiling the systems last year. Jasco says it donates half of its net proceeds to ministries and charities, including $1 million for COVID-19 relief and, more recently, $500,000 for humanitarian aid in war-torn Ukraine.
Smart home technology recently earned Jasco industry accolades
Jasco was selected as the “Home Automation Company of the Year” for 2023, awarded by IoT Breakthrough, a market research group that recognizes companies, technologies and products in the Internet-of-Things market, or IoT.
"The IoT Breakthrough awards deliver the most comprehensive analysis of the IoT industry, from connected home to industrial and enterprise IoT solutions with over 4,000 nominations coming in from all over the world," IoT Breakthrough says. "2023 winners from other categories include Amazon, TP-Link, Sense, Moen, General Electric, KORE, Cox, Lenovo and Verizon."
The awards organization explained why Jasco was recognized.
"Offering comprehensive smart home solutions for WiFi, Z-Wave, and Zigbee, Jasco's product portfolio allows for control over a wide array of home devices, including indoor lighting, smart switches, landscape and security lighting, as well as power products and more. Users can automate schedules to have maximum control over their homes with smartphones or voice assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa."
Further, early this year, "Jasco expanded its commitment to home automation" by announcing a major update across its smart home product lines to meet the new Matter protocol at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, IoT Breakthrough noted.
The Matter protocol update addresses device compatibility challenges "by offering one unified application standard for device makers to follow for many smart home applications including smart controls and sensors, lighting, security systems, smart speakers and more."
Davis, the company's product development executive, said compatibility "has been the biggest challenge for the smart home industry’s growth. Matter will help accelerate adoption of smart home solutions by providing interoperability and backwards-compatibility of devices from different operating systems. Jasco has been a leader in the smart home industry for over two decades, and we are proud to be among the first to support Matter.”
The future already has begun at Jasco Products in Oklahoma City
Davis said Jasco has more than 130 SKUs — for "stock keeping units," or specific customized products — in development as it starts dealing directly with home builders and expands from residential applications for its products into commercial uses. SKUs are unique number-and-letter combinations, scannable bar codes used to track inventory.
"In Oklahoma City. And no one (locally) knows us," he said. "In reality, it's not like we're new to connected homes. We started connected homes in 2006. We went through a time when a connected home, no one knew what it was: remote controls. Then the smartphone came out. Then it was app control, and it kind of hit another tier. Then it was voice control, and it hit another tier."
And now sensors, which he said can meet needs of apartment complexes, hotels and other commercial operations.
"What can you do with sensors, and understanding the needs around water usage, and thinking about commercial space in terms of insurance purposes? If you've got a toilet leaking, how many thousands of gallons of water are you losing? Algorithms in the background can tell you, 'Hey, go shut that off,' " Davis said.
And, he went on, "How do you lower (insurance) premiums? Think of all these commercial properties and what it costs. The No. 1 thing is flood damage. Water-related damage is the No. 1 claim. If you can reduce that even by 20%, think about the impact you're going to make on the commercial side."
The new Matter protocol will open up possibilities, literally, Davis said.
"It allows all these big giants — think Google, think Amazon, think Apple, those were the key founders of it — to say, 'How do we make our products work together and not have to have individual certifications? That protocol is going to allow all of them to speak the same language," he said.
"The best analogy I have for it is, if you have a network at home, and you have a printer, and you add that printer to your network, all the computers can talk to it, right? Same analogy. I have a smart device on a network. If Amazon or Apple want to communicate with it, they can. It's going to make it more expandable, easier for users."
What warehouse automation means for Jasco and its workers
Bobby Johnson, vice president of distribution, described the intricacies of the warehouse automation and how it makes inventory control, packing and distribution more efficient.
"The system tells us, 'Bring X number of this item" to the "decant area," where items are removed from their inbound shipping containers for introduction into the automated processing system," he said. "There are pallets that are waiting to be decanted into totes (interim containers) on the conveyor.
"The system is smart enough to know the size of that box, and how many of that box will fit into that tote. So it will tell us at that (pick) station, 'Put 10 cases of this item into this tote. And each one of those totes has a license plate assigned to it. That is a unique license plate, so it then ties that quantity of items to that license plate and that tote gets put into a shuttle. There are 50,000 totes in that shuttle, and each with a distinct address, so this system always knows where that tote is and what it has in it. Those 50,000 totes will typically represent about 3,500 individual items, and about 200,000 to 300,000 units of those items."
Meanwhile, the system starts building pallets — virtually.
"We know the cube of the box," Johnson said, using a warehouse term for the volume of a space. "We know the size of the pallet. It'll say I can fit 20 cases of these items on the pallet. It will build that pallet virtually. It will then send the order to the shuttle. The shuttle will begin releasing those totes."
Note every tote has exactly what is needed for an order. At a pick station, an employee follows instructions on a computer screen to pick specific items from totes coming in on one conveyor and put them in totes going out on another conveyor on their way to the pallet-building area for outbound truck orders. A separate area receives totes of products for packing small-parcel orders from consumers, "for the dot.coms of the world, Amazon.com, Walmart.com."
"This job he's doing right here," Johnson said at the pick station, "prior to this, they would walk the entire facility in order to pick. They would have to go to a pick location (over and over). In all, they would average 10 to 13 miles a day in their travel path. And now that travel path is zero. I like to use the analogy of going to the grocery store and having the groceries come to you."
Next, he said, for truck orders, the system "will then convert the virtual build of the pallet to the physical building of the pallet. There's a robot that moves around and wraps the pallet automatically." Finished pallets go onto trucks, 200 to 300 pallets on four to six trucks per day.
Senior Business Writer Richard Mize has covered housing, construction, commercial real estate and related topics for the newspaper and Oklahoman.com since 1999. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for his weekly newsletter, Real Estate with Richard Mize.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: How Jasco Products in OKC built a true smart warehouse