Case Studies

Automation Components Inc.: Self-made in the USA

  • Written by: Automation Components Inc.: Self-made in the USA
  • Produced by: Automation Components Inc.: Self-made in the USA
  • Estimated reading time: 5 mins

Automation Components Inc. (ACI), based out of Middleton, Wis., was founded in 1991 and has spent the past two decades crafting high-performance sensors for the HVAC industry. ACI’s products provide application solutions for temperature, relative humidity, pressure, current, gas and interface devices.

ACI prides itself in being a self-made company. Operating with integrity first and foremost, the engineering and manufacturing company has achieved immense success during its 20 years in business, making a convincing argument that nice guys do not finish last. “Basically you can say we care,” states Troy Schwenn, president and founder of ACI. “We care about our customers, our products and our employees.”

Made in the USA

From ACI’s one location come thousands of products providing application solutions for the HVAC industry’s sensor needs for temperature, relative humidity, pressure, current and interface devices, all manufactured in the United States. ACI ships over 1 million products domestically and abroad each year. “Exclusively manufacturing in the USA is very rewarding, so is being a major exporter,” says Troy. “We are committed long-term to this philosophy.”

For example, a few years ago, in keeping with the company’s made-in-the-USA commitment, ACI acquired a company’s product line that was being manufacturing overseas, explains Chad Schwenn, marketing manager of ACI. “It was a product line [of interface devices] that the former company was making overseas. When we bought the product line we brought it all back. We want to grow and create opportunities for existing and future employees.”

After a handful of years and a solid entrance into the domestic market, ACI expanded internationally and currently does a significant amount of business abroad, partnered with global distributors in, among others, far-flung places such as Brazil, China, Australia, Hong Kong, South Korea and Russia. ACI has been hand-grooming key employees to be ready for additional opportunities overseas in new markets as well.

New Products

And the ACI product line continues to grow in scope. “Every year, since ’91, we have decided to advance our existing line, or develop a new product line,” says Chad. Some products take more time than others to come to fruition. One big innovation was the A/TUCH2 sensor, a cutting-edge wall-mounted temperature and relative humidity space monitoring/adjustment tool engineered by ACI that was 10 years in the making.

“[The A/TUCH2] has a menu built into it, where you can change some of the values,” says Chad. “There’s a blue backlight; it has a timing value. There are a lot of user-defined things that you can manipulate on [this advanced microprocessor-based tool].”

Other products, however, are fine-tuned. It’s also about streamlined efficiency at ACI. “It takes quite a bit to be successful with the different types of technologies,” observes Chad. “We have one of the most comprehensive and flexible engineering departments in our industry. They are a department of 10 hard-working individuals, each with their own area of expertise. The sum of their parts is much greater the whole.”

Focused on customer satisfaction, ACI is constantly striving to address what its clients want and need, but also on what is good for its employees, and a family-like atmosphere and culture of giving back has always been part of what drives the company’s success.

It’s the People

ACI celebrated its recent 20th anniversary in 2011 with a big casino-themed party for employees, family and friends. “We raffled off a ton of prizes,” laughs Chad. “It was really fun, everybody altogether, [getting] prizes and reminiscing.”

Also, last year, ACI was awarded two 2011 Best of Wisconsin Business awards: “Best Company for Philanthropy/Community Service” and “Most Admired Company.” Winners were determined by the tallied votes of nearly 2,000 readers. ACI has donated tens of thousands of dollars to cancer research, the local food bank, the children’s hospital and other such community organizations. Employees also give back during the annual blood drive and by donating their time at various charitable events.

Troy acknowledged the honor of the 2011 awards by saying, “We take great pride in our products, service, employee accomplishments, and giving back to our community. These awards are a direct reflection of ACI’s priorities.”

Chad also echoes Troy and happily asserts that ACI is “… huge into community involvement. It’s ingrained into the core of everyone here. We have long-term devoted people who are challenged to do their best every day.”

Those devoted employees have been given big opportunities by growing with ACI; there is only one person in ACI upper management that was an outside hire: the engineering manager. “There are so many people who have started at this company and worked their way into upper management,” says Chad. Developing and promoting employees from within is an important aspect the culture of personal betterment at ACI, and in total the staff holds over 130 years of combined sales experience and more than 40 years of combined engineering experience.

The Future

The future looks good for those committed employees. Chad says, “We started as a company that was a few guys who committed themselves to a team approach … these guys were trying to make something work and make a career and a living out of it. They didn’t know where it was going to go. They’ve had [a determined] mindset from day one.

“It’s pretty well-ingrained in our company,” continues Chad. “We don’t just take shots in the dark. Everything is very calculated. We try hard to do things the right way.” And doing things the right way has paid off, both feeding the bottom line, and improving the lives of people at ACI. Automation Components Inc. has engineered both a better sensor solution and a more positive, proactive corporate culture, both of which should fuel the company’s continued success.

ACI is no longer a small company of seven, but has grown to encompass at minimum 160 employees, and that number “… balloons up to 190 in the summer,” says Chad. “That’s when we hire local students plus friends and family members of employees.” Due to continual growth, ACI recently purchased an additional manufacturing facility one block away from its headquarters. It will be a manufacturing-only site but will offer an addition 14,000 square feet of production space.

Still, despite massive success and rapid growth, the company does not entertain the idea of manufacturing overseas, Chad states proudly. “There might be a component that comes from overseas, but all of our manufacturing is done here,” he explains. “That’s one thing that we all pride ourselves on, now, and in the future!” Staying true to its core values, Automation Components Inc. has engineered both a better sensor solution and a more positive, proactive corporate culture, both of which should fuel the company’s continued success.

Published on: June 29, 2013

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