Global Control Systems helps to make factories smarter, safer and more efficient.
Company Information Global Control Systems Inc. 8000 Reeder Road Lenexa, KS 66214 (913) 681-9261 www.gcscontrols.com
Type of Business Industrial automation
Year Founded 2000
Keys to success “ We get employees involved in every facet of the business.” -Manuel David
The next time you’re in your bathroom, open the medicine cabinet and pull out the ibuprofen.
For each tiny pill in that bottle, hundreds of things had to go exactly right. Ingredients were added in exactly the right proportion at exactly the right moment, mixed to the correct consistency and then compressed into the same uniform tablet shape at exactly the right pressure.
Building systems that can carry out these steps over and over again, day in and day out, takes a great deal of effort and expertise. That’s why some of the country’s biggest corporations have sought out Global Control Systems Inc., a Lenexa company specializing in industrial automation.
“We design and implement the ‘brains’ that control equipment to make products at factories,” said Manuel David, the founder and president of Global Control Systems.
Bayer, Kraft, General Mills and more have hired David and his team to build processes that are safer, more efficient and better documented. Customers tell GCS how they make their product, and then GCS selects the proper hardware and software and customizes them to achieve the best process for producing that product.
“We work very closely with the customer,” David said.
Global Control Systems builds software interfaces that allow workers to control the process. Their systems can generate reports that ensure each product meets the company’s standards.
Mastering every step of those complicated processes can deliver huge results. In one case, Global Control Systems helped a customer save 45 minutes of production time each day. That translated into a savings of $1.5 million over the course of a year.
“It exceeded their expectations beyond what they originally estimated,” said James Schneider, one of GCS’s top project managers.
In recent years, the company has won awards from both the U.S. Small Business Administration and Bayer HealthCare’s animal health division.
Factories in several Midwestern states rely on Global Control Systems to make sure their systems are humming along as effectively as possible.
“We try and look at the whole picture and match it, so that it’s a solution that works for the customer,” Schneider said. “And that’s proven to be very good for us because those customers who have recognized that have given us a lot of repeat business.”
One Successful Project after Another
David, who is originally from Honduras, came to the United States as a high-school exchange student and later returned to earn a degree in electronics engineering at DeVry University. He worked his way through school, and a college internship led to a full-time career in industrial automation.
When David formed Global Control Systems in 2000, he already had 10 years of experience in the industry, tackling similar kinds of automation projects. His job regularly took him to China, Brazil, France and other points on the globe. The demanding travel schedule, however, wore on David, who wanted to stay closer to home and start a family.
“So I started GCS as just myself for a while—a year and a half or so—going from project to project,” he said.
It was a scary proposition, he said. There were three-month gaps when he didn’t have anything to do. He subcontracted for companies that handle the kind of work Global Control Systems now performs. All the while, David was building his reputation and showing potential clients that he could perform extremely well.
“It’s a fairly small world,” David said. “There are a lot of competitors, but yet there are very few that are good, that are strong—and so it was one small successful project after the next.”
Global Control Systems has completed more than 1,000 projects since David launched the company. “We’ve succeeded at every one of those,” he said. “It just builds on itself.”
Having a rock-solid reputation is crucial because GCS operates in a fairly specific niche, industrial automation for the food and pharmaceutical sectors, though it has taken some jobs in other industries, such as ammunition manufacturing.
Expanding into energy or some other completely different industry wouldn’t be an easy move because the company doesn’t have specific experience in those fields, both David and Schneider said. For Global Control Systems to grow, it needs to win more customers—and more repeat business—by doing what it already does best.
Hiring excellent project managers has been key to the company’s success. Clients want to deal with the people “who are actually going to do the work,” David said.
His people interact so closely with customers that they often can suggest other ways to improve operations. If a project manager impresses a client’s IT and engineering staff, those people will push their companies to give more business to Global Control Systems.
“We don’t have a full-time salesman,” Schneider said. “What we like to say is our project managers are our best salesmen.”
‘We Pay Them for Every Hour They Work’
About eight people are on staff at Global Control Systems, and the company works closely with a dozen or so contractors. David brings in personnel according to each project’s demands.
Engineers never lack for job offers, and David is extremely proud of the team he’s recruited.
“They’ve been handpicked from the best that we know in the industry,” he said.
David acknowledges that finding exceptional talent hasn’t always been easy. There are a couple of things Global Control Systems does differently that give it an edge in the hiring process.
“We pay all of our engineers hourly, and we pay them overtime,” David said. “Basically, we pay them for every hour they work.”
Not every company does that. In fact, he said, some competitors will study a project that should take nine months of work and quote a price better suited to a three- or six-month schedule. The owners know the salaried engineers will sacrifice their nights and weekends to finish on time, even though they won’t be paid anything extra for their effort.
“The way I look at that,” David said, “I just could not look at somebody in the face and go, ‘Why don’t you leave your family behind this weekend, come in here, work for me, so I can make more money? I’m not going to pay you anything, but just come help me because you’re a good engineer.’ I can’t do that.”
The Team Effort
Because of David’s policy on pay, estimating the true cost of a project becomes even more important. That’s where another big difference kicks in.
“We get employees involved in every facet of the business,” David said.
From a project’s conception to implementation, Global Control Systems seeks feedback from all team members. Whether they’re considering an estimate or weighing the merits of a piece of software, everybody has a chance to give input.
That’s attractive for employees who don’t want to be pigeonholed and who seek the opportunity to grow in their careers. But it also helps the company avoid unnecessary headaches and expenses. A programmer, for example, might spot a problem early in the bidding process, helping David prepare a sharper price estimate.
Global Control Systems’ projects demand a high level of detail and accuracy, but also present unique challenges that allow engineers to flex their creativity. And it’s hard to beat the feeling of building a system where hundreds of individual parts and steps align to make medicine or food, almost like magic.
“If you’re not having fun at this,” Schneider said, “you don’t need to be here.”
“It is so much fun,” David said