It’s not everyday that you get to be a part of history. So last summer, when I was invited to take a day-trip to Farmington Hills, Mich. to celebrate with Ace Controls on its 50th anniversary, I was glad to make the trip. The company, which is known for developing the world’s first adjustable shock absorber and many other innovations, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a reception that included its distributor base as well as employees.
The evening kicked off with a casual scavenger hunt through the plant, which allowed visitors to see the company’s manufacturing processes in action, as well as special displays highlighting its shock absorber and gas spring technologies in use. For example, one display featured a glass of wine being dropped and then raised again, while the company’s shock absorbers dampen vibration and shock, preventing any wine from spilling as the glass zooms up and down.
ACE’s research facilities were also open to the public, in which testing for industrial and automotive applications not only highlighted the vibration dampening effects of the company’s products but also their amazing impact on noise reduction.
In addition to entertainment which included music and a casino for prizes, the night was topped off with presentations by company officials, as well as by members of the Chorkey family.
“ACE Controls has always been a huge part of my whole family’s lives. We were all very proud of the world-changing adjustable shock absorber my father developed in our basement, and thrilled to be a part of the company that grew from it,” Lorraine Chorkey, William and Alice’s oldest child.
Automation Control Equipment (ACE) Controls was incorporated in 1963 by William J. Chorkey, Alice Chorkey and Larry Ellis in the basement of the Chorkey’s home. The company quickly grew so operations were moved to a Quonset hut in Farmington Hills, Mich.
In 1964 ACE introduced and patented the first adjustable shock absorber. The first application of the adjustable shock was at Fisher Body, where ACE’s shock absorber helped increase production far more than originally planned.
Just two years later William Chorkey attended the London Fluid Power show where he realized that ACE’s technology would make them an industry leader in Europe, and by the early 1970s the first ACE facility was established in Newton-le-Willows, England. Soon after, he became the director of the National Fluid Power Association, and another ACE facility was established in Germany. In 1978 ACE acquired Flairline and started Fluid Machine.
The 1980s proved to be another busy decade for ACE, with the development of rolling-seal technology and the introduction of the MC 150/225/600 series. The Chorkeys gained complete ownership of ACE before they expanded into the Asian market with a facility in Tokyo.
In the mid 90s, after the introduction of two new product lines, gaining ISO 9001 certification and the establishment of Valves Inc., the seven Chorkey children began to lead ACE. In 1998 William J. Chorkey stepped down and Bill Chorkey was elected president. ACE released the Magnum Group product line in 1998 and in 2000 the piston tube was designed and patented.
ACE Controls was acquired by Kaydon Corp. in 2001, and the new millennium saw expansions into India and China, more acquisitions and more product innovations, including the smallest shock absorber in history, the MC5. The MC5 is used in microchip and semiconductor production. Bill Chorkey retired in 2011 after showing the ropes to Gary Brewer, who is currently the president.
Today, ACE and its network of distributors serve the automotive, special machinery, construction, mining, fluid power, automation, electronic equipment, energy, paper and pulp industries. It produces more than 800,000 units a year, with more than 75 distinct product lines and hundreds of variations for each model. ACE products are in use everywhere from deep-sea mining and research to outer space.
With a renewed focus on customer service, including sales support from application engineers, and growth in the vibration isolation market, everyone at ACE is looking forward to continued success in the future. “We’ve added a great deal of infrastructure: from a marketing perspective, we’ve added field sales, we have new product in development, so we’re well positioned for continued growth in the Americas, China and Europe,” Gary Brewer said. “And, we’ve changed our business model to be more customer-focused.”
Filed Under: ALL INDUSTRY NEWS • PROFILES • COMMENTARIES, Networks • connectivity • fieldbuses, Pneumatic equipment + components, Shocks + vibration control • gas springs