From developing unique internal systems to spearheading an innovative global collaboration, industrial automation leader Eclipse is blazing a path towards the future.
For entrepreneurs, the search for a better way fuels great ideas, births innovation, and pushes entire industries into new realms. For the founders of Ontario-based Eclipse Automation, the desire to find that alternative path, the drive to innovate, and the willingness to collaborate was enough to turn a three-person operation into the powerhouse global firm it is today.
As the first decade of the 21st century got underway, Steve Mai, Todd Ronald, and Richard Bula left successful careers to reshape the landscape of industrial automation. Their fusion of automation, software development, and manufacturing expertise became Eclipse Automation.
With Ronald’s retirement in 2014, the team brought on Erik Woerner, whose operational expertise has helped to continue Eclipse’s strategic acceleration throughout North America. Today, Eclipse is one of Canada’s fastest growing companies, based on a history of hearty revenue growth.
The Road Less Typical
Today, Eclipse is a dominant presence in North America’s custom automated manufacturing equipment sector, serving the solar, life sciences, transportation, mining, nuclear, telecommunications, and consumer electronics industries. The ability to customize manufacturing equipment in the industrial automation capacity gives Eclipse its competitive advantage.
Initial growth came by way of asset acquisitions that enabled the company to diversify. By 2010, they were ready for full market penetration.
“But we identified that wasn’t enough,” recalled Co-founder and CEO Steve Mai. “We also wanted to build strategic and territorial advantages, so while we were in that growth mode we saw the need to bring our capabilities closer to our clients, and to bring products more quickly to market.”
Keeping true to the company’s ideals of accountability, transparency, and creativity enabled Eclipse to build a staff of over 350 automation specialists in four facilities in the U.S. and Canada, and to leverage a strong and rapidly growing international presence.
By integrating automation into all aspects of business operations, Eclipse maintains the high level of agility required to engineer truly innovative turnkey industrial automation systems. In keeping with its vertically integrated business model, Eclipse completes all design and manufacturing processes in-house.
Creating and evolving their own internal systems is what Mai points to as one of the company’s founding principles.
“We’ve done this for the past 17 years and our complete business runs on self-created ERP software today. That’s really helped us grow the company and get systems in place that are specific to our industry,” he said.
“The realization cycles are becoming more aggressive and faster as we move into bigger equipment and more technology. We succeed in keeping ahead of those changes mostly because we control our own data and our own process, because we put our own ERP system in place, and because we breed our own talent internally. Those factors have given us an edge to keep ahead of that wave that’s always coming at us.”
Connecting the Global Market
In 2016, Eclipse affiliated with several European industrial automation firms. The collaborative effort, called The Smart Automation Group, came out of the recognition that in a connected world, businesses need to leverage their strengths across boundaries to increase their success.
“I’ve been doing work in Europe for many years, especially in my past. At some point you have to realize that it’s one thing to do a startup in North America where you have some familiarity there, but when somebody has a foothold in another culture or another area it’s very difficult to get up to speed fast enough while you’re still growing. At some point you have to realize where your value is in the overall picture,” Mai said.
Insys Industriesysteme AG of Switzerland, Hungary’s Transmoduls Ltd, Chinese companies ITE Automation and JULI Automation, and JULI-subsidiary SMZ Wickel-und Montagetechnik AG round out the partnership.
“In today’s market we all have similar challenges where we have multinational customers, and they require standardization through their groups in certain automation products that they want,” Mai noted. “For them to pick a partner, design it, and realize it in other countries raises challenges when they don’t have facilities in those countries, or the way to meet different standards, or whatever the challenge may be.
“We realized if we partnered together and found a path forward, it was a far greater benefit to our group and to our customers,” he added.
For Eclipse, success is all about finding a better way. As Mai put it, “We’re a company that continues to invest in making ourselves better. We’ve put that effort into our company for the past 17 years, and we will continue to put in that effort in the years to come.”
Eclipse Automation is a leading supplier of custom automated manufacturing equipment for the Life Sciences, Energy, Transportation, Mining, Industrial/Consumer, and Electronics/Telecommunications industries. Located in Canada and the United States, Eclipse’s diverse knowledge and structured processes enable the company to conceptualize, design, build, integrate, install and service custom automation.
All design and manufacturing is completed in house with a full range of expert services that includes project management, electrical and mechanical design, assembly, machining, welding, and fabrication.
Eclipse's vertically integrated, in-house philosophy has been central in the company’s ability to gain knowledge and control growth, expanding its expertise in diversification, communication, innovation and process management. This expertise enables Eclipse to continually reinvent itself, integrating automated solutions into every aspect of its business operations and offering innovative views that provide a more complete turn-key solution to delivering custom quality automation.