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Continental Control Systems

by Eric Peterson on February 25, 2019, 10:58 am MST

www.ctlsys.com

Longmont, Colorado

Founded: 1995

Privately owned

Employees: 25

Industry: Energy & Enviro

Products: Power meters and current transformers

CEO Samuel F.E. Davenport is guiding the company to growth and innovation in the competitive energy-metering market.

Four consulting engineers from Kinetek Systems in Boulder started Continental Control Systems (CCS) in response to innovation in electrical metering in the 1990s. "The technology began to switch from an electromechanical device to a chip," says Davenport, who joined the company fresh out of college in 2001.

Commercial and industrial users were the first to adopt digital metering, and CCS focused on providing the market with new and improved tools to track electrical consumption.

The catalog includes power meters, current transformers, enclosures, and custom solutions. The company's WattNode meters can measure one, two, or three phases of power and wide ranges of wattage and amperage and diagnostic LEDs.

Davenport did everything from sales to soldering en route to officially becoming COO in 2007 and CEO in 2014. Along the way, the company has grown by more than 3,000 percent.

"When I started [in 2001], sales were about $300,000," he says. After hitting a sales plateau of about $4 million, the company shifted in 2013-14: "We changed the business model and started supplying OEM products," says Davenport. "That bumped up us to about $10 million in sales for the last five years."

With the pivot to OEMs, CCS developed its own proprietary firmware. "That was a fairly large undertaking," says Davenport. He says the resulting chips are better-suited to electrical metering and report data at more intervals.

While electromechanical metering remains entrenched in the residential market, CCS focuses on commercial and industrial applications. To avoid demand charges, decision makers need good information about their electricity usage. "You never want to go over that line," says Davenport. "You need real-time data to monitor your energy usage." CCS products integrate with building management systems to allow for that view.

Davenport says CCS works with contract PCB and semiconductor vendors and installs its firmware on the chips, calibrates them, and assembles finished products. "All of the value-add stuff is done in-house and all the commodity stuff is outsourced," he says. "It's highly automated."

The automation is largely focused on calibration and testing meters, as upgrades boosted each line by more than 600 percent. "It allows us to compete worldwide," says Davenport. A decade ago, testing and calibration involved numerous touch points. "Now, you just press a button and go," he says.

The company also supplies manufacturers in the solar, HVAC, and lighting industries. "Out market share is somewhere between 3 and 5 percent," says Davenport, noting that CCS competes with large multinational companies like Honeywell. "We serve more of a niche market."

And that market is defined by companies looking to integrate power meters into their own products. It's also defined by customers looking for innovative solutions; CCS has patented a number of products designed for ease of use and higher performance.

After three locations in Boulder, CCS relocated to a 16,5000-square-foot facility in Longmont in 2016.

France-based Socomec acquired 70 percent of the company in 2017. Davenport says the deal gives CCS more leverage with vendors. "Synergy with Socomec is turning out very well," he says.

Challenges: "The whole tariff thing right now," says Davenport. "We have a customer in China who sells product in the United States." That can translate to a double whammy of two tariffs.

Opportunities: "An area we're going to move into shortly is data centers," says Davenport, noting that CCS is developing a product specifically for the industry and discussing partnerships with contractors.

"They're managing the power consumption of each of their servers," says Davenport, noting that failing servers tend to use more energy. "If it's using too much energy, it has the potential to short out and bring down the whole rack."

Needs: "We're always looking for talented people," says Davenport, noting that CCS is looking for software and hardware engineers.

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