The Evolution of Automation Control

The evolution of automation control has dramatically reshaped the manufacturing landscape over the past five decades, moving from mechanical systems to the sophisticated digital and interconnected solutions of today. This transformation has not only enhanced efficiency and productivity but also sparked continuous innovation within the industry. ACE Controls, a pivotal player in this journey, has consistently adapted and innovated, aligning its offerings with the evolving needs of modern manufacturing. From developing compact, efficient shock absorbers to integrating smart technologies and digital tools, ACE Controls exemplifies the dynamic progression of automation control that has dramatically transformed manufacturing since the 1970s.

In the 1970s, barely ten years after the founding of ACE Controls, the world of manufacturing underwent a dramatic transformation known as Industry 3.0. Thanks to advancements in the computing industry, complicated systems of buttons and levers could be streamlined with easily customizable Programmable Logic Controllers (or PLCs for short). As this technological revolution unfolded, ACE Controls, initially engaged with iron casting foundries and automotive assembly lines, found itself at a crossroads. The era’s pivot towards efficiency and performance over size marked a pivotal moment both for the company and the entire industry. Recognizing the shift in industry priorities towards smaller, more efficient machinery, ACE Controls adeptly navigated this change by transitioning focus. The company began to prioritize the development of high-performance shock absorbers and motion control solutions in more compact packages. While it might not be as well-known as Watergate or the Civil Rights Movement, Industry 3.0 started the largest productivity boost factories had ever experienced in the entire 20th century.

The 1980s weren’t quite as flashy for the manufacturing industry as the previous decade, but it more than made up for it in substance. As personal computers transitioned from niche hobbies to common household items, the manufacturing industry reaped the benefits. This shift led to Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) becoming more accessible and customizable, significantly enhancing production processes. During this time, ACE Controls capitalized on its momentum from the 70s by further innovating its product offerings. The company’s dedication to smaller, more efficient shock absorbers culminated in the release of the MC line of shock absorbers, which quickly became a flagship product line in automation control. This era also saw ACE Controls pioneering the development of rolling-seal technology, a breakthrough that further enhanced the durability and efficiency of their automation control products. While it might not have lived up to the dreams of Star Wars or Star Trek, the automation of the 80s made huge leaps forward, equipping factories with much more versatile and productive tools.

With the 1990s, automation control began to evolve in ways that closely resemble the systems we see today. The decade was marked by the emergence of networked devices, significantly enhancing the capabilities of automated manufacturing. This technological leap forward necessitated the development of IT departments dedicated to ensuring these sophisticated systems ran smoothly. Additionally, modeling and simulation software reached a level of maturity and power that enabled its widespread adoption, dramatically improving design and testing processes. For ACE Controls, this era was characterized by substantial internal advancements and product innovation. The company made a decisive move away from traditional paper prints, adopting Computer-Aided Design (CAD) technologies to streamline design processes. This transition was complemented by the opening of an IT Department, underscoring the company’s commitment to embracing digital transformation. In a practical application of this new approach, bar printers were installed in the stock and purchasing rooms, replacing the older method of using hand-drawn paper prints. This not only improved efficiency but also accuracy in inventory and procurement activities. A significant milestone in product development came in 1994 when ACE Controls replaced its primary series of shock absorbers with a self-compensating, adjustable model. This innovation introduced a level of flexibility previously unseen, allowing for broader application across various automation control contexts. The 1990s, therefore, marked a period of significant transformation for modern manufacturing as well as ACE Controls.

As the new millennium unfolded, the 2000s heralded a significant evolution in the field of automation control, shaped by the rapid advancement of digital technologies. This era saw the widespread adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and advanced robotics, pushing the boundaries of what was possible within automated manufacturing environments. Companies sought to harness these technologies to achieve greater efficiency, precision, and flexibility in their operations. Against this backdrop of innovation, ACE Controls continued to distinguish itself as a leader in the development of motion control solutions, aligning closely with the era’s technological advancements. The introduction of a novel piston tube design in 2000 showcased ACE Controls’ commitment to innovation, enhancing energy absorption capabilities for industrial applications. The launch of the MC5 in 2006, the smallest shock absorber at the time, demonstrated the company’s focus on compact, high-performance solutions. Embracing the automation wave, ACE Controls implemented its first robotic assembly cell in 2009, optimizing manufacturing processes and underscoring the symbiotic relationship between automation control development and ACE Controls’ evolution.

The 2010s marked a revolutionary era in automation control, characterized by the seamless integration of digital technologies and smart systems into the manufacturing landscape. This decade was defined by the advancement of Industry 4.0, where automation became not just about mechanical efficiency but also about data-driven decision-making and interconnectedness. Manufacturers leaned heavily on AI, IoT, and real-time analytics to create more responsive and adaptive systems. Amidst this digital transformation, ACE Controls carved out a niche for itself by introducing innovative solutions that resonated with the needs of the modern industry. Recognizing the importance of accessibility and precision in selecting industrial components, ACE Controls launched an online calculation tool. This client-facing platform enabled users to input their specific requirements and quickly identify the best-matched shock absorber for their needs, streamlining the selection process significantly. Additionally, ACE Controls embraced mobile technology by developing a vibration sensor app for smartphones, allowing users to measure vibration levels instantly and accurately. These advancements by ACE Controls not only aligned with the technological trends of the 2010s but also underscored the company’s commitment to innovation and customer-centric solutions in the evolving landscape of automation control.

Reflecting on the evolution of automation control from the 1970s through the 2010s reveals a journey shaped by innovation and technological leaps, transforming manufacturing at its core. ACE Controls has been integral to this progression, evolving from pioneering efficient shock absorbers to embracing the digital era with smart solutions and online tools. Their journey mirrors the broader industry’s shift towards smarter, more connected manufacturing practices. This narrative underscores the symbiosis between technological advancement and industrial evolution, highlighting ACE Controls’ role in shaping the future of automation. As we look ahead, the past decades affirm that innovation will continue to drive the industry forward, promising even more groundbreaking advancements in automation control.