Owning its Destiny
General Control Systems
Once one of Albany, New York’s best-kept secrets, General Control Systems, Inc. is now breaking onto the country’s technology scene with a fresh new look and a renewed commitment to its own and its clients’ success.
Set in one of the top technology hubs in Albany, New York, privately-held General Control Systems, Inc. is an independent, engineer-oriented controls systems integrator favored by many international giants for its customization capabilities. It celebrates twenty-five years in the industry this year and tremendous growth following its latest company upgrades. The significant growth has come about “because we’ve owned our destiny,” says Peter Pritchard, Director of Quality Management.
General Control Systems, Inc.’s specialized manufacturing facility transforms commercially available components into custom solutions for clients who deal with anything from water and wastewater to industrial machinery and computer chip fabrication to modernize and improve their operations. “We have a strong emphasis on engineering, and we’re very proud of being in business for twenty-five years,” Pritchard says. The company’s systems design pivots on the improved function that clients need, while its control systems typically handle the mechanical sequencing required to achieve the desired results.
“We do anything from process equipment to machinery with motion control,” he says, noting that everything requires some type of “control brain” that allows it to operate properly. “There’s this constant feedback loop.” Sensors act as machine brains, controlling the responses of everything from opening and closing valves to orchestrating instruments that regulate temperature, pressure, levels, or chemicals, ensuring that all machinery remains in an optimal state.
The company’s industrial controls come from trusted industry names such as Rockwell Automation, Siemens, and Schneider Electric. As the company specializes in several types of control systems, components are procured based on the required function and the existing process equipment. General Control Systems, Inc. also offers supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA) that allow users a much more sophisticated means of keeping tabs on system subsets.
The company performs a great deal of construction and renovation work, and this is the source of much of its revenue. “Our specialty is systems integration that allows [such systems] not only to communicate but also to interact,” says Pritchard. This specialization positions the firm perfectly for extensive work in building systems for semiconductor fabrication, for instance.
In addition, the company builds complex control systems imperative to potentially dangerous processes such as toxic gas monitoring systems. “These toxic gas monitoring systems are somewhat customized [as machine tool builders of these systems] do not typically [include] this,” Pritchard adds. For over seventeen years, the company has used Schneider Electric’s Modicon platform to monitor toxic gas at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute of New York NanoSciences College, where advanced research is done on scaling down computer components.
“They’re aligned with IBM, Applied Materials, Tokyo Electron—all these major industrial commercial players that bring their machines to this facility located here in Albany, New York. Every single part of the machines that are in facilities is operating on our toxic gas monitoring systems, on our basis of design,” Pritchard adds.
General Control Systems, Inc. also works with what must be one of the world’s most innovative up-and-coming alternative packaging manufacturers. In this collaboration, it provides the technology that controls temperatures in mushroom cultivation chambers. Here, they are harvested and processed to provide the structure of disposable containers and other innovative products.
Another client, Regeneron, is known for a recently famous antibody serum to treat COVID-19. To ensure that standards are upheld, General Control Systems is audited routinely by organizations such as the Control Systems Integrators Association (CSIA). Its quality management processes are also certified with the International Standards Organisation under ISO 9000.
The business was founded by Clay Robinson in 1996, a graduate of New York Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Indiana State University, who served as president between 1996 and 2017. Randall Powell, who joined the company in 2003, stepped into the position of president in August 2017 after successfully holding a series of positions with growing responsibilities, including running all of the semiconductor projects for several years. Randall was joined by Greg Pacifico, Vice President of Operations, who has been with the company since 2013 after having run engineering organizations successfully in the high-tech manufacturing market.
One of its first employees, Keith Myszkowski, joined the firm on the manufacturing side and is still part of the team, receiving a special mention on its twenty-fifth birthday on August 30. “Keith [brought] all that expertise and knowledge when we made the [facility] transition. [He] played an important role in [improving] the [new] operation,” says Pritchard.
Well-staffed with fifty industry specialists, General Control Systems, Inc. has reached a good size for where it finds itself in the market. “The beauty of our size is that, at this point, we can take on small, medium, large and extra-large projects. Many small entities cannot do that. So we can be flexible in that regard,” says Pritchard, also pointing out that, with its current capabilities, drilling down into market needs and building relationships is easy. The result is that the lion’s share of its business comes from returning customers.
Its employees work together, sharing ideas, concerns, and contributions, driving a culture of open communication, collaboration, and fun. The strength of its teams translated into the company’s strength in weathering COVID-19, which it took in stride, despite relocating its manufacturing facility to an upgraded site and introducing new personal protective measures for staff members and clients. With water treatment facilities deemed essential services, the demand for its construction and other services grew and so did its reach.
“We were 100 percent in operating mode. We had to modify our methods to be compliant with [COVID-19 measures and move] in the middle of developing and delivering the product. We did not miss one delivery or customer commitment. In the meantime, we also configured our new location in a way which has, quite frankly, doubled our capacity in almost the same footprint,” says Pritchard. This successful move reflects the management and organizational skills that clients benefit from throughout their projects.
As part of this recent upgrade and improvement drive, the company’s impressive new website offers dedicated and much-needed visibility to all the community projects that it supports. With names such as Ronald McDonald House Charities, Habitat for Humanity, Make-a-Wish, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Wounded Warrior Project, and several others, helping to provide for its communities locally and further afield is an integral part of the company’s culture.
As its markets continue to expand, the company continues hiring. General Control Systems, Inc. now employs an industry expert with experience working with Regeneron, who supports the company’s development as it answers the needs of an increasing number of pharmaceutical companies. These companies want assistance with process and batch control, plus the assisted intelligence from an independent third-party overseer to control and supervise such processes while adhering to strict Federal Drug Administration requirements.
The company has spread its brand from the country’s northeast to now also work in Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida. This growth is smart, with scalability guiding its strategy. “In the facility support world, like semi-conductor manufacturing, we are creating teams that are embedding at various locations moving into mid-Atlantic and places where we would be challenged to otherwise support,” Pritchard adds.
General Control Systems, Inc. is not slowing down. Instead, it is exploring new avenues for growth and development. Promotion “has been a coming out for us. We’re no longer a best-kept secret. We’re out active, actively recruiting people, recruiting clients, and recruiting new capabilities, several new market places. It’s exciting to be a part of new market growth,” says Pritchard.