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; FACTSF4-4LTC Tem­per­a­ture Con­troller; Con­trol Engi­neer­ing
  • 1996 Editor’s Choice Award; FACTSDL105, brick Pro­gram­ma­ble Log­ic Con­troller (PLC); Con­trol Engi­neer­ing
  • 2002 Editor’s Choice Award; FACTSDL06; 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

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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