Steve Powers Interview by Kristy Hessman Bend Bulletin

Five years ago, Steve Powers decided he had gained enough knowledge from his previous jobs to start his own company and become his own boss….
The graduate of Perry Technical Institute in Yakima, Wash. had worked as an instrumentation technician and a computer programmer, working on systems that control automated processes at a pharmaceutical firm.

Later, he worked as a computer programmer for automated systems and there, he learned what he believed was the last components he needed to start his company, how to manufacture and quote prices of UL Listed panels. His Bend-based company, Powers of Automation, manufactures control panels that look like big circuit boards. These are used in conjunction with software to measure and control temperature, pressure and other variables in manufacturing processes.

Since the company’s start in 1997, it has grown from three employees in its first year to its current 10 employees.

Within the last year, the company’s sales have also increased by 25 percent. Now Powers has his eye on working with pharmaceutical clients from Seattle and San Francisco.

What does your company do?

We provide automated control systems for the pharmaceutical and other high-tech industries.

It is a microprocessor-based control system. We are also instrumentation experts. A typical automated process would be controlling the temperature of a process.

So the instrument actually measures the process that is transmitted to a controller that has a set point in it, so that the controller tells the heater to increase its temperature. We do all of the above.

What industries are you targeting and who have you worked with locally?

We are targeting the pharmaceutical industry although we do some work with the Deschutes Brewery and we have fresh-water well pumps in the city of Bend. We put in three pumps, those were done in conjunction with Tomco Electric. Bend Research is by far our greatest customer.

We have a database of 1,000 instruments that we maintain for them so we have a couple people dedicated to that facility alone.

We have done a lot of work with them in the last five years. We also work with Pozzi Windows and Bekco Membrane Technologies.

Do you work with any particular pharmaceutical companies?

We have been audited by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals to provide software for their automated manufacturing equipment. We have been working on that for two years now and we have finally sent the final response to the audit so I expect them to come back with full approval here in the next month.

Are your products standard or customized for each company you work with?

We are not standard, everything we do is custom. A lot of times the customer will come to us with the mechanical portion of the equipment and then they will say we want to control pressure and temperature and flow…so we put together a control system that does that.

Are there other companies like yours within the state?

There are not any others, there is nobody in Oregon that I have found that is approved to write software for the FDA … And we are also the only instrumentation and calibration department in town.

How many employees do you have and what is their background?

We have 10 employees. Four of them are from Perry Technical Institute, we have a couple of office/quality control people and their background is general education. I have a project manager who has a background in mechanical engineering. My control panel fabricator has taken electrical technician courses, and then my programmer has quite a few trade school affiliations under his belt.

What are your annual sales?

This year we are going to be at $800,000 and that is a 25 percent increase over last year.

What are your plans for future growth?

Automation is a huge field that is growing and the pharmaceutical industry is also growing like crazy.

Our plans are to double in size to about 20 people. We plan on purchasing a building, about 3,000 square feet of office space and about 5,000 of manufacturing, within the next three years. We are going to focus on Seattle and San Francisco to gain more pharmaceutical clients.