FACTS Engineering: Innovative Spirit, Award-Winning Products
Ron McVety didn’t have much to start with back in 1987. He had a degree in mechanical engineering, a few years of experience in designing assembly machines for TVs, a spare room, and a vision that everyone can benefit from automation. But that’s all McVety needed to bring his vision to reality and create something from scratch and build it into FACTS Engineering.
Today, FACTS Engineering is an award-winning company and exclusive supplier for AutomationDirect. FACTS offers more than 500 products, including many PLC modules and pre-wired cables, HMI, power and signal conditioning products. FACTS also collaborates with AutomationDirect on new products that are designed around specific client needs. Jeff Payne, Product Manager for AutomationDirect, works on a daily basis with Ron McVety and his FACTS team. Payne explains the relationship: “We’re partners in servicing customers, not just providing products. There is a synergy of helping each other do business.”
That’s a long way from 1987. McVety never thought building a company from the ground up was a risky venture. He believed all along in what he was doing — bringing automation products to every company and not just the large ones that could afford it. Even when he couldn’t get a bank loan, McVety didn’t falter. With four new credit cards, each with a $5,000 limit, he bought the products he needed and assembled them to create the BASIC Module. “I just thought it was the next logical step in the business… I didn’t see it as a huge risk. I knew what I was doing was right,” said McVety.
The BASIC Module embodies McVety’s automation vision: taking existing and new products and making them better and more affordable. FACTS’ BASIC Module allowed customers to do more without having to purchase other more expensive devices. In this, McVety feels FACTS is unique because they not only listen to customers’ needs, they react and create based on their feedback. During FACTS’ start-up process, McVety attended a trade show where he demonstrated some of his first products. Visitors to the booth were impressed but wanted even more — asking questions and making suggestions as McVety tried to answer them and take note of their requests simultaneously. At the following year’s trade show, McVety had more products to show based on the suggestions he heard and the new ideas he had developed. This philosophy of giving the customer more at a reduced cost has helped FACTS bring automation within reach for everyone.
Back in his spare room, McVety was getting busy enough to hire extra help so Josh Johns was brought in to fold boxes. Johns liked the company so much that he has stayed with FACTS for the past 23 years and today holds the title Manager of Test Engineering. With more help, McVety had to move the operation into the home’s garage but the pace of shipping out new products was also increasing and the UPS truck’s constant delivery and pick up routes were beginning to upset the neighbors. In 1991, McVety decided it was time to move FACTS Engineering out of the house so he rented a one-suite office in a strip mall. In 1992, he added another suite and by 1993 FACTS moved to another strip mall and rented seven suites. Soon after, McVety realized they needed a permanent home so in 1998, FACTS opened its own office with 20,000 square feet. In 2011, an expansion was completed for a total of 50,000 square feet. Located in New Port Richey, Florida, the headquarters of FACTS Engineering houses final assembly and test operations, product design, software engineering, an array of CAD/CAE equipment, business management and other support staff.
Another way in which FACTS Engineering has been successful is in terms of its employees. Like Josh Johns, Rick Walker is also a long-term employee. He was hired early on in the company’s history as a print circuit board designer and now 21 years later is a FACTS Vice President and Manager of Engineering. With more than 40 employees, nearly 40% have been working for FACTS for more than 15 years. Employee retention goes way beyond what most companies experience. “Like AutomationDirect, 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.”
After such humble beginnings, McVety still carries with him today that entrepreneurial spirit that defines FACTS Engineering. He’s always looking for ways to make automation better. The company’s new slogan is “We believe in automation.”
Together with AutomationDirect, FACTS provides customers with an array of products at affordable prices. However, this belief goes even further into actually developing new products with the customer in mind. McVety explains: “We ask ourselves — can we do this differently? Can we make this product better or more efficient? We may find a new part and see how that can improve an existing product. Then, we work with AutomationDirect on price, value, and offering better tools for customers today and in the future.”
This type of “out of the box” thinking has earned FACTS Engineering multiple industry awards, including:
- 1995 Engineers’ Choice Award from Control Engineering for FACTS’ F4-4LTC Temperature Controller, four-loop temperature control unit.
- 1996 Engineers’ Choice Award from Control Engineering for FACTS’ DL105, brick Programmable Logic Controller (PLC).
- 2010 Product of the Year Category Winner from Electrical Construction and Maintenance (EC&M) Magazine in the Automation & Controls Category for FACTS’ Productivity 3000 Programmable Automation Controller.
FACTS has also earned recognition outside of the automation and engineering industry. In September 2011, FACTS received a Manufacturing Industry of the Year award in Pasco County, FL. This award was given to companies that demonstrated exemplary growth along with making significant contributions to economic development and quality of life in the area. In July 2012, FACTS was chosen as one of the Florida Companies to Watch by the Florida Economic Gardening Institute at the University of Central Florida, whose “economic gardening” philosophy embraces strategies to grow existing businesses in the area.
In addition to product development, FACTS works with AutomationDirect’s purchasing staff so they don’t have to re-order the same products again and again. FACTS monitors order history and keeps AutomationDirect’s inventory at the right levels saving staff time and leveraging bulk pricing discounts — savings that can be passed along to the customer.
FACTS continues to innovate along with AutomationDirect on future projects as well. “There are a limitless number of opportunities out there,” said McVety. “Things that weren’t automated in the past can be in the future. Just think about our cell phones and how much they can do now. We’re looking into how they can connect to automated devices and literally put automation into the palm of your hand.” McVety continues: “And, with the cost of production increasing in China, many manufacturers are returning to the United States. We have better innovation here in the U.S. We look to how far we can push things, creating new ideas and new products. Automation is a tool that can help in those areas and help keep the U.S. competitive in a global economy.”
FACTS Engineering is a model for the innovative spirit of the U.S. In fact, McVety has lived and built a company that illustrates the American Dream is alive and well and prospering in the field of automation. McVety and FACTS Engineering believe in automation and the company’s successful 26-year commitment to the industry proves that it will be a key player for many years to come.