News | January 18, 2011

Growth Under Control, Electronic Monitoring Specialists Control Microsystems Has Had A Strong And Steady Performance

Source: Schneider Electric Oil & Gas Solutions

Interview by Kelly Roesler, Reporter for The Ottawa Citizen, with Doug Warren, Executive Vice President of Control Microsystems Inc.

When Jim Holtom, founder and president of Control Microsystems Inc., decided to move his small company to Ottawa from Montreal in 1992, amid political and economic problems in Quebec, it was a move that would turn out to be remarkably prescient.

He settled his company -- which develops electronic products to remotely monitor oil wells, water pumping stations and other infrastructure -- in Kanata, along with about 15 employees and a love for the quiet contentment the city had to offer.

He had no idea a tech boom would ultimately hit the sector and that his company would reap the benefits.

Not only that, it would manage to find continuous and significant growth, even through the technology bust that devastated Ottawa's tech industry and a global recession.

"It worked out to be pretty fortuitous, given what's happened around there over the next decade or so," said Doug Warren, vice-president of strategic business development for Control Microsystems.

Fortuitous seems an apt assessment.

The company has grown to 100 employees in Kanata, with projected sales to increase well above $50 million through 2011.

"Our 'little company that could' has shown pretty steady growth every quarter since back in those early days -- none of this huge boom, none of this huge bust, really a great little growth engine that's continued to prosper over the years," he said.

"We took advantage of the fact that there's a lot of engineering talent in the region as a whole, whether it's out of one of the nearby universities, or picking up people who were formerly in the telecom industry.

"It turns out to be an excellent place to base a technology business like our own."

So good, in fact, that perhaps inevitably Control Microsystems was acquired in April by Paris-based Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management with operations in more than 100 countries. The company has 100,000-plus employees around the world, and sales of about $22 billion in 2009.

The Kanata location was named Schneider Electric's global competency centre for remote telemetry products, and the manufacturing base for those products will remain in Kanata.

However, the company's name will change to Schneider Electric.

Control Microsystems will continue to deliver its core products, which include remote terminal units, radio systems and automation software that monitors, among other things, pipeline flow, water levels, hazardous gases, and power distribution for the energy, utility and water industries.

About 60 per cent of the company's business is in oil and gas, about 30 per cent in water/waste water, and 10 per cent a mixture of different industrial applications and some electrical utility applications.

Over the past four years, the company set up operations in Asia-Pacific, Melbourne, Australia, and in Europe, just outside Amsterdam, which he said enabled the company to stay on track through the recession.

"Australia was never really affected by the global economic downturn to any great extent. So they were continuing to grow rapidly, and we were still gaining a lot of market share, even while the economy was going down."

Another pivotal development was the 2008 acquisition of a Boston-based company, Adaptive Instruments, which produces a line of wireless instrumentation products called Accutech.

"In the industries that we serve, wireless instrumentation provides huge cost advantages for customers in the installation costs compared to trenching conduit, etc.,' said Warren.

"The installation costs are a fraction of what they are for wired instruments."

In July 2009, the company moved production and engineering development for the product line from Boston to Ottawa.

"That product line has probably grown three times over that period, so not only was it a shot in the arm for our employee base here, but now it's a huge contributor, from maybe two years ago, representing five per cent of our sales, to now pushing 20 per cent of our sales."

Since the dark days of early 2009, when the global economy was in full crisis, the company has seen steady growth, taking it beyond where it was before the downturn.

"For 2011, we should see growth probably 10 to 15 per cent beyond where we were at in 2008," he said.

Doug Warren is executive Vice President of Control Microsystems Inc. producers of software that monitors pipeline flow, water levels and power distribution for the energy, utility and water industries. Photograph by: Chris Mikula, The Ottawa Citizen

About Control Microsystems
Control Microsystems, a Schneider Electric company, is a global supplier of automation products for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. The product line includes Accutech wireless instrumentation, SCADAPack controllers and gas flow computers, Trio long-range data radios, and ClearSCADA enterprise software. Control Microsystems' products are engineered to operate in harsh, unattended environments delivering higher productivity and efficiency while reducing operational costs.

About Schneider Electric
As a global specialist in energy management with operations in more than 100 countries, Schneider Electric offers integrated solutions across multiple market segments, including leadership positions in energy and infrastructure, industrial processes, building automation, and data centres/networks, as well as a broad presence in residential applications. Focused on making energy safe, reliable, and efficient, the company's 100,000 plus employees achieved sales of 15.8 billion euros in 2009, through an active commitment to help individuals and organizations "Make the most of their energy".

SOURCE: Schneider Electric Oil & Gas Solutions