Our Story

Creativity takes risk

Humble Beginnings

In November of 1986, Ronald McVety, the founder of FACTS Engineering, working on a coffee table in the master bedroom, developed the first ASCII/BASIC module for a low end Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). This module plugged into the GE Series One PLC manufactured by Koyo Electronics in Japan. Given the fact that the Series One had 40% of the low end market and the fact that the ASCII/BASIC module reduced system hardware costs by three to four times that of competitive solutions, there was strong immediate interest in the market for this product. On February 9th, 1987, FACTS Engineering, LLC was incorporated. Soon after that design, manufacturing, service and support operations were moved from the master bedroom to a spare bedroom in the founder’s rented residence on the West Side of Indianapolis, IN.
By 1988, FACTS had developed two additional industry firsts, a High Current Isolated Relay Output module and a 16 Channel 12-bit analog input module. The Relay module was so popular that it reached a peak volume of 500 units per month. This achievement would not be matched by any other FACTS product until years later. At this time, there was one part time employee and company operations consumed the entire down stairs space of the founder’s rented residence, now located on the East Side of Indianapolis.
Direct customer feedback from the company’s technical support efforts and as a result of attending major industry trade shows resulted in the development of several new products to increase the cost advantage of using the Series One. FACTS expanded the analog I/O product offering, added a 16 point Universal DC Input module, a 16 point AC Output module and introduced the first two port ASCII/BASIC module with optional built-in radio and telephone modems. At the same time, FACTS continuously improved the software capability of the ASCII/BASIC module with major new releases every year.
FACTS received no direct support from GE. All the Series One bus interface specifications were reversed engineered.
The first major turning point in the company’s history happened in late 1988 when GE convinced Koyo Electronics to discontinue supplying FACTS with the plastic and terminal blocks needed to produce its line of third party products for the Series One. FACTS completed US and Japanese patent searches related to the Series One by the end of 1988. Armed with the knowledge that the functionality of the Series One plastic could be duplicated, the decision was made to tool-up for production. Using a T-square, a ruler, a compass, a protractor, two triangles and a C-size portable drawing board the founder drafted the drawings to replace the parts no longer provided by GE. Unable to find suitable vendors in the Indianapolis area to build the new tooling, FACTS moved its operations to Clearwater, FL in 1989. Financed in part by 4 credit cards with $5000 limits, four vendors in St. Petersburg were contracted to make the injection molds and progressive stamping dies required to produce the parts from the drawings. On schedule and only slightly over budget, the new tooling was put into production in May of 1989 and provided FACTS with the independence needed to continue to manufacture its line of products. At this time, FACTS production, with the help of three employees, was in the garage of the founder’s rented residence in Clearwater, FL. Sales, marketing, design, service and support operations were in a spare bedroom while purchasing and accounting were in the family room of the same residence.

The second major turning point in the company’s history happened in early 1990 when FACTS changed its customer base from GE Series One to Texas Instruments Series 305. It was at this time that Texas Instruments launched a new Koyo Electronics designed and manufactured PLC, the Series 405. FACTS was the first third party supplier to manufacture modules to complement the Series 405. At Texas Instruments’ request, four Series 405 modules where released by late 1990. These included the 8 point High Current Relay module, 8 channel Analog Input module and a BASIC CoProcessor module. FACTS is the only third party supplier that manufactures products that use the intelligent module dual port ram interface of the Series 405. To this day, the Series 405 BASIC CoProcessor module is still the best in the industry.
During the transition from the GE to Texas Instruments distribution channels, FACTS developed a state-of-the-art gas station Tank Level Monitor (TLM) and leak detection module for Control Engineers. The TLM was the fastest leak detection module in the industry and was widely used in gas stations in California, Texas and New Jersey.
The first major endorsement of FACTS came in the August 1990 TI Industrial Automation Price List. In the 305 section, under Third Party Products, was the endorsement “Call FACTS Engineering: 800-783-3225”. In the same month, Texas Instruments issued a product warranty statement supporting the use of third party products used with Texas Instruments devices or products. By October 1990, technical data on all FACTS products were in the Texas Instruments “Series 305 Technical Overview”. In the same month, FACTS appeared in the Texas Instruments booth during the ISA Exhibition in New Orleans. One of the four graphic displays in the Series 305/405 section promoted the advantages of the 305 Bridge CPU over traditional computer I/O. In February of 1991, the “Texas Instruments 405 Technical Overview” moved FACTS products from the third party section to the body of the document. There FACTS products were listed along with Texas Instruments part numbers and specifications.

Growth

In 1991, FACTS moved from the garage of the founder’s rented residence to a strip mall office suite leased on Hercules Ave in Clearwater.
FACTS Engineering appeared in the Texas Instruments booth during the April 1991 IPC show in Detroit. FACTS Engineering personnel demonstrated the advantages of 305 Bridge CPU vs Opto-22 OPTOMUX Brain boards. The live presentation was in one section of a three-section island devoted to the Series 305 product family. In the Series 405 section of the booth, TI personnel showed a high performance welder control network using several FACTS Engineering BASIC CoProcessor modules.In May of 1991, Siemens bought the PLC business from Texas Instruments. At this time, about half of the distribution channel changed forcing FACTS into another major marketing effort.
In June of 1991, acting as an agent for FACTS Engineering, Texas Instruments/Siemens obtained a UL listing for all FACTS products submitted. No product changes were required.
In September of 1991, Texas Instruments amended the non-disclosure agreement covering our use of the Series 405 bus interface specifications. This gave FACTS engineering the opportunity to expand our line of “Best Value” products to complement the Series 405. As a result, Twelve new 405 products were developed in 1991-1992.
During the last week of October of 1991, Siemens presented the FACTS Engineering Series 405 PID CoProcessor module at the ISA exhibition in Anaheim, CA.
Also in October of 1991, Siemens Industrial Automation and FACTS Engineering began joint development of an upgrade package for 5TI users. By January of 1992, FACTS Engineering had completed development of a 6MT I/O Interface Module for the Series 405. The module works with the 5TI to Series 405-ladder logic translation utility program written by Siemens.
In 1992, FACTS moved to two leased suites at the other end of the strip mall on Hercules.
In 1993, finding stability with Texas Instruments/Siemens, FACTS moved to 7 suites leased in the back of the Fountains Shopping center on U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor. This move was planned to accommodate the growth of FACTS until 1998.
In 1993, FACTS developed a Shared Data Network (SDN) module for the 405. The SDN solved the problem of customer’s needs for peer-to-peer communication while eliminating some of the limitations of the Texas Instruments TIWAY peer-to-peer communication solution.

The third major turning point in the company’s history happened in 1993 with the help of Tim Hohmann, now president of Automation Direct.com. Although FACTS has always made products exclusively compatible with PLCs manufactured by Koyo Electronics, this was the first time that FACTS began working directly with Koyo. FACTS developed the smallest and lowest cost analog I/O module’s in the industry for Koyo’s new Series 205 PLC. The Series 205 along with the successfully established Series 305 and 405 PLCs formed the foundation for the successful surprise launch of PLC Direct by Koyo in January 1994. FACTS added six new products to complement the launch of this revolutionary marketing and support organization. In retrospect, had it not been for PLC Direct, it is likely that Siemens would have squeezed FACTS out of the PLC business.
In 1995, FACTS introduced the first four Loop Temperature Control (LTC) module in the industry. The module integrated the functions of four single loop controllers into the Series 405 back plane. This module was the first to bring automatic loop tuning to a PLC. The LTC received a product of the year award from the Industry’s most respected trade magazine, Control Engineering.In 1996, FACTS introduced the lowest cost brick PLC in the industry, the Series 105. This product was designed from the ground up by FACTS with firmware provided by Koyo. It provided new features never offered on a brick PLC such as removable terminal blocks, built-in high capacity isolated 24V power supply for field devices and high current relay and AC outputs. For the second year in a row FACTS received a product of the year award from Control Engineering for the innovations in the 105.
In 1997, FACTS set new cost and performance standards for temperature measurement with the introduction of RTD and Thermocouple modules for the 205 and 405.
With the 7 suites in the Fountains Shopping Center busting at the seams, FACTS moved into a company owned custom constructed 20,000 square foot facility in 1998.
In 1998, FACTS introduced a four port BASIC CoProcessor module for the 205. This module comes bundled with feature-packed Windows based, programming and documentation software at a price 3 to 4 times less than that of the competition.

In 1999, FACTS broke new low cost barriers with the introduction of a 4-channel Analog Input module for Koyo’s new 005 brick PLC. This module provides by far the lowest cost per point analog inputs in the industry.
FACTS has stayed on the forefront of new networking communication standards and has in house developed software to support both SDS and DeviceNet slave networking.
Now, FACTS is at a point where we will continue to increase our market share. We will do this by improving the quality and cost of our existing processes and by designing and building products, which better solve new and existing customer needs.

FACTS Today

In addition to our growth, another part of our success story comes from our employees. With more than 50 employees, over 30% have been working here for more than 15 years. For example, like Josh Johns, Rick Walker was originally hired as a print circuit board designer early in FACTS’ history. He is now FACTS Vice President and Manager of Engineering. “We’ve been successful at retaining talented employees by helping them to feel like they have a direct impact on the bottom line,” explains McVety. “We even have a monthly bonus system based on the company’s sales that helps us to focus and work together as a team.”

Furthermore, with 30 years committed to the industry and with over 500 products and counting, FACTS still carries the same vision from our humble beginning. We live by our slogan, “We believe in Automation”. In other words, we constantly strive to find better ways to improve automation. This drive has earned us multiple industry awards and recognition.

Now, FACTS is at a point where we will continue to increase our market share. We will do this by improving the quality and cost of our existing processes and by designing and building products, which better solve new and existing customer needs.

FACTS Engineering Growth American Dream FACTS Engineering Growth American Dream

Awards & Recognition

  • 1995 Editor’s Choice Award; FACTS’ F4-4LTC Temperature Controller; Control Engineering
  • 1996 Editor’s Choice Award; FACTS’ DL105, brick Programmable Logic Controller (PLC); Control Engineering
  • 2002 Editor’s Choice Award; FACTS’ DL06; Control Engineering
  • 2010 Product of the Year Category Winner; Automation & Controls Category; FACTS’ Productivity 3000 Programmable Automation Controller; Electrical Construction and Maintenance (EC&M) Magazine
  • 2011 Large Manufacturer of the Year Award; Pasco Economic Development Council, Florida
  • 2012 Florida Companies to Watch; Florida Economic Gardening Institute at the University of Central Florida
  • 2015 Engineers’ Choice Awards Honorable Mention; FACTS’ Productivity3000 P3-SCM module; Control Engineering
  • 2016 Engineers’ Choice Awards Finalist- Machine & Embedded Control – PACs, PLCs: The Productivity2000; Control Engineering
  • 2016 Corporate Spirit Award, Small Division; United Way of Pasco County
  • 2017 GrowFL Program Grant Recipient; Strategic Information for Growth Companies
  • 2017  Business of the Year- Medium CategoryPasco Economic Development Council

Living the American Dream

In conclusion, FACTS Engineering is a a prime example that the American Dream is alive and well in the automation industry. McVety’s willingness to take the risks necessary to build a company from the ground up illustrates the resilience and innovation of the American people.

 

To learn more about FACTS Engineering, check out this article written about us by our distribution partner,  Automation Direct.

 

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