After helping other companies build and run automated manufacturing and testing systems for more than 15 years, Steve Powers decided he could build quality products in his own business….
So in October 1997, Powers started Powers of Automation, a manufacturer of UL Listed industrial control panels. The panels are designed to work with software written by POA to support the instrumentation required in pharmaceutical and other industries regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Bend based company also manufactures control panels for a wide variety of automated processes. Powers of Automation targets pharmaceuticals with its measuring products. Bend Research, a local company that tests and manufactures Pharmaceuticals, for example, is a big customer. Powers of Automation maintains a database of 1000 control instruments for Bend Research.
Powers of Automation, located on American Loop in southeast Bend, recently got the clearance to provide software for pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment. Powers of Automation now has a mature quality system based on the Internationally recognized GaMP Guide for Validation of Automated Systems.
Revenues at Powers of Automation, a private company, finished 2003 up 18%.
“Having approval from a major pharmaceutical company will give other pharmaceutical companies the confidence to work with us,” Powers said.
Powers spent years in a mix of academics and industry that made a good fit for what he does today. He graduated from the Perry Technical Institute in Yakima Wash. He had worked as an instrument technician and a computer programmer on control automated processes at Genentech, a biotech company based in San Francisco. Powers and his wife were seeking a better quality of life than they had in the Bay Area, he said. After a brief stint at a biotech firm in Boulder, CO., which failed its drug trial period, he found a job doing automated processes at Mid-Oregon Industries, the former wood products machinery manufacturer in Bend.
“I was looking for a position everywhere, but when I found a position open in Bend, I actively pursued it,” Powers said. “I came for quality of life and to be closer to family ties in the Northwest.”
Powers said he helped Mid-Oregon Industries design a program for sorting systems different lengths and widths of boards and provided advanced maintenance and troubleshooting capabilities for their flagship automated rip-saw that could change the position of the blade while the machine was running. After helping other companies solve their automation problems, Powers decided he could start his own shop and put high-quality products on the market with better documentation than he had seen. Today, he said, he is the only local shop manufacturing Underwriters Laboratory listed panels for Central Oregon’s local industries. UL provides quarterly, unannounced inspections of our control panels to ensure we are using products that have been tested for the purpose, and the panels are assembled following strict guidelines.
Powers of Automation has 10 employees and handles jobs across town, at Deschutes Brewery, and across the continent in Memphis, and around the globe in India, Korea, Germany, and Puerto Rico. The bulk of its contracts are primarily in the Western region, Powers said.
Powers said the benefits of doing business in Central Oregon include high-speed internet services, the abundance of clean water, the lack of traffic, and the Central Oregon Community Colleges Center for Business and Industry.
“The college has been instrumental in turning me from a technician into a business owner. It’s a very positive resource for area businesses,” Powers said.
The negative aspects are finding qualified high-tech employees and getting parts into Central Oregon.
“When the weather is bad, it’s tough getting trucks over the passes,” he said.
Even though his business is growing and dependent upon highly skilled technicians that are short in supply, Powers said his business can grow and thrive here.
But like other manufacturers in the area, he is looking for affordable land for expansion.
Kevin Max – The Bulletin (revised 2008 SLP)