Since 1963, Ace Controls has had its sights set on the future. Founder Bill Chorkey Sr. had a background in air valves and continuously sought new markets to apply his brand of motion-control products. He designed pieces to decelerate loads, prevent impact damage, reduce noise and improve performance.
Chorkey had a variety of markets to consider, as the world had become increasingly automated. One of the largest automation operations at the time – General Motors – desired a product that increased the speed of cylinders instead of slowing them. Chorkey researched the concept and developed a plan. The result was the invention of the adjustable shock absorber. His invention made shock absorber technology something that could be universally applied in the automation market. General Motors was pleased with Chorkey’s design, and the success of Ace Controls became secure.
Today, Bill Chorkey’s son is at the helm of the company, and Ace Controls is, again, looking ahead to better the business. Battling the effects of a weak global economy, Ace Controls remains focused on identifying areas of growth in the vast industrial landscape.
The Big Picture
When Bill Chorkey Sr. developed Ace Controls nearly 50 years ago, he had a firm grasp of the shock absorber industry. He knew that industrial automation existed beyond the United States. Thus, Chorkey went global with his products early in the company’s history – a move that would benefit Ace Controls for years into the future.
Today, the majority of sales for Ace Controls takes place in Europe. The company has a global customer service network that includes offices and distributors in more than 110 cities and 35 countries, including Germany, Japan, India and, just recently, China.
“We have a mature industrial market,” Chorkey says. “We have thousands of customers throughout the globe. And, as the industrial economy grows, so do we.”
A New Direction
Ace Controls has an extensive portfolio of work, but it wants to expand its capabilities. “We’re very innovative in entering new markets and have designed new products to fit those markets,” Chorkey says. “That’s how we’ve continue to grow, despite the fact that our original market is in the beginning stages of decline.”
As Chorkey explains, the traditional shock absorber market has weakened as electric actuators become more prevalent. “We’ve lost a lot of our market share to substitute products and not by competitors,” he says. “Therefore, we had to start looking into different markets, like velocity controls and safety shocks.”
To combat the loss of footing in the shock absorber market, Ace Controls has moved into deceleration devices. “We’ve broadened our technology to different markets and products,” Chorkey says. “We’ve also positioned ourselves in the gas spring market, which is totally different than our original product. Our biggest growth now is in gas springs because of its enormous amount of potential.”
Ace Controls now deals in the market of velocity controls, safety shocks and rotary dampers. As Chorkey explains, the company provides products for industries ranging from amusement parks to stacker cranes
to overhead cranes.
In 2001, Ace Controls was purchased by Kaydon Engineering Corp., a leading manufacturer of bearings located in Muskegon, Mich. Since operating under the large Kaydon umbrella, Ace Controls has been given more opportunities to grow. “In the past 10 years, there have been a lot of capital expenditures in the company, as well as a lot of improvements,” Chorkey notes.
With the help of resources from Kaydon, Ace Controls has been able to pursue continued growth and enter new markets almost seamlessly. “We manufacture differently than we did 15 years ago,” Chorkey says. “We’re more automated now, so we can do more volume. As a result, we use our global might to develop ideas and create new opportunities for the technology that we know.”