With phenomenal global presence, Fasco Controls Corporation is a formidable competitor in the worldwide controls and automation industry. Being part of a $15 billion organization and teamed with leaders in sensor technology is just part of the reason. April Terreri has the story.
Fasco Controls Corporation enjoys the best of both worlds. A small integrated company with nearly a century of experience, it is able to retain its rapid decision-making approach to critical business situations. Fasco also has the enviable marketplace leverage of a conglomerate in its parent company, Invensys, whose name represents its commitment to invention, innovation, and systems. Because of these and other factors contributing to the ongoing success of the company, Fasco is on a growth curve that would make any management team smile with pride.
The Shelby, N.C., company, specializing in engineering and technology, is a supplier of on-vehicle controls, providing components to offer passengers comfortable riding environments in their vehicles. Fasco manufactures high-volume vehicular electromechanical components including pressure switches, pressure sensors, circuit breakers, suspension systems controls, engine management controls, and flow control valves. Fasco’s focus is on major vehicle systems, such as interior comfort systems and HVAC. “We make passengers comfortable by providing automotive air conditioning, heater controls, and heated seats, for example,” explains Bill Brown, the company’s marketing director.
Fasco’s customer list reads like a Fortune 100 “Who’s Who,” and includes companies like Caterpillar, Navistar, Ford, GM’s Delphi and Saturn, Hitachi, Harley Davidson, Freightliner, Paccar’s Kenworth and Peterbuilt, Mercedes Benz, Toyota, Honda, Polaris, Daimler-Chrysler, JI Case and John Deere. “If you drive it, we’re on it,” says Brown. Fasco supplies custom-engineered products to manufacturers of heavy trucks, off-road vehicles, passenger cars, light trucks, personal watercraft, motorcycles, garden tractors, and snowmobiles.
Invensys: Enviable Global Leverage
As of April 1999, Fasco is a division of Invensys, “The biggest company you’ve never heard of,” says Brown. Invensys, the parent corporation based in London, represents the merger of BTR (formerly known as British Tire and Rubber) and Siebe, whose combined annual sales are an astounding $15 billion. The two UK companies, before the merger, were diversified conglomerates, buying and selling companies based on profitability. Desiring to focus exclusively on technology and engineering rather than commodity products with difficult margins, each sold all holdings not related to technology and engineering.
“We are not a simple company to describe,” explains Brown. Invensys is a large global organization methodically structured to serve specific industries. Invensys comprises five market groups, including the automotive group, the controls group (within which Fasco operates), the power systems group, the industrial drive systems group, and the intelligent automation group. Of these five product divisions, four enjoy No. 1 market-share status in their respective industries. The controls group is further organized into groups focused on markets in appliances, climate controls, sensors and aerospace (within which Fasco operates), motors, and meters. The sensors systems group is a business unit focused primarily on the vehicle controls market and the climate controls market.
Fasco is one of 10 companies operating within Invensys’ sensors systems group, which boasts 3,500 associates and 1,400 manufacturing sites worldwide. The Invensys organization has developed a five-point global strategy program. “When we market ourselves, we don’t just market Fasco,” says Brown. “We market the capabilities and the leverage we have within the global Invensys organization. We may bring in a program that we don’t even build here, because it might be more effective to build at another division. Our whole structure is focused on supporting a market.” The second global strategy for Fasco is the focus on new technology. “We have purchased the rights to some new technologies and have patented, designed, and invented some of our own technologies,” says Brown.
The third global strategy contributing to the company’s continued growth curve focuses on combining technologies and products into one device. “Our sensors group might share some of the same customers, and each of us has somewhat different technologies,” explains Brown. “We focus on a systems approach with our customers and we use COMBI (a term meaning to combine different technologies into one part.) For instance, Brown explains Fenwal Electronics manufactures thermistors, an electrical component. We can build that into one of our sensors and have a pressure-sensor output and a temperature output from the same device, thereby saving the vehicle manufacturer from having to produce two wiring assemblies,” he says. “This technology greatly reduces the customer’s supply base, wiring harness complexity, and total cost throughout the system.” Invensys’ fourth global strategy is low-cost manufacturing. “We want to be the leader in the market as far as cost, and it is difficult while you are also developing new technologies, which of course is a cost driver,” says Brown.
But we are constantly trying to do both, and we have been successful.” The organization’s fifth global strategy is a global sales, marketing and manufacturing approach. “We want to manufacture products near the customer. It’s easy for us to do that when you look at our global capabilities,” says Brown.
Strategic Products Fuel Growth
Although Fasco engineers, designs and manufactures a wide variety of products, the company focuses on four strategic products to continue to fuel growth. These include: bonded element pressure sensors; SPIRAL speed and position sensors; flow control valves and solenoids; and COMBI (and SmartCombi) products. One of Fasco’s newest technologies spawned the SPIRAL products, which utilize non-contact sensor technology for rotary and linear position sensing. “We own the exclusive global license in the automotive industry for SPIRAL,” explains Brown.
Products are marketed direct to OEMs. “We are unique in the industry be-cause we develop working relationships with our customers; we are selling a capability and a technology,” explains Brown. “We pride ourselves on our value-added philosophy.”
Working closely with customers on design, specifications, and drawings, Fasco offers engineering support and development in searching for new technologies. Since many development programs will last for a few years, developing relationships with customers is an important and vital part of the process.
Fasco, founded in 1911 by F.A. Smith, began by manufacturing connectors, vehicle lighting, little bud vases for the interiors of cars, and cigarette lighters and ashtrays. In 1991 Fasco was acquired by BTR, and in April of 1999 BTR merged with Siebe to form Invensys. “We think we will be a major market leader in the vehicle control area because of our size,” says Brown of the company’s future. “We are just now understanding the leverage we have in being connected to all these other companies.
“We are experiencing unprecedented growth in future automotive programs,” adds Brown. “We have captured business that will double our size within four years, just at Fasco. Our sensors group is about a $400 to $500 million group of companies. We think that figure will grow to be $1 billion within five years, and that is almost unprecedented.”
We attribute our success to working effectively and productively within our business unit structure. That, coupled with our technological capabilities and our performance enhancements make us a new competitor our competitors didn’t know they had,” concludes Brown.