Asco Numatics’ 50th anniversary of UK manufacturing BVAA’s Rob Bartlett meets ASCO’s Jean Christophe Serkumian
RB: Asco Numatics is a well known brand within the industry and one that most people know and respect. Your company name and branding has changed over the past 50 years, will you please give me a potted history of the company over that time?
JCS: Asco Numatics invented the first solenoid valve in 1888 and began manufacturing the same year. From that day we have gone from strength to strength and now have a presence worldwide. We began manufacturing a range of solenoid valves in the UK in 1959, based out of a factory in London. Production was moved to Skelmersdale in 1965 and by the mid 1970’s we added the manufacture of air-operated valves, manual reset valves and pressure and temperature switches.
A major milestone was in 1985 when ASCO was acquired by the Emerson Electric Company, this was followed by their acquisition of Joucomatic in 1988 and Numatics Inc. in 2005. The amalgamation of these three companies created one company that is able to offer virtually any product for the Solenoid Valve & Pneumatic Markets.
Our manufacturing facility in Skelmersdale has grown into a centre of excellence and acts as the UK service centre offering a wide range of products for the fluid automation market, complying with different approvals such as ISO, UL, ATEX, WRAS etc. These products include many specials developed ‘in house’ ranging from ATEX approved solenoid valves to bespoke pneumatic and process cabinets and a unique four hour cylinder production service, as well as other pneumatic system assemblies. Added to this is the production facility which manufactures over 1.5 million coils for both the home market and the group.
RB: These are difficult times for manufacturing companies in the UK and across the rest of the developed world. How are you finding the market?
JCS: Economic cycles do come and go, we have seen this several times over the past 50 years. We have found that the key is to take a long-term perspective. We have had to take into account the economic situation but fortunately at the same time we have started production of additional products resulting in the capacity to offer more specific products and solutions to our customers. Asco Numatics strength derives from a solid customer base across many different market segments and they have not all been affected in the same way. In addition as an Emerson company, we also benefit from the knowledge and resource available from a financially sound $24.8 billion global manufacturing company.
RB: I am sure that many of the products that you manufacture have changed over the years. What have been the major developments during that time?
JCS: In terms of the principle of operation, some of our solenoid valves are not that dissimilar from those we manufactured 50 years ago. Thanks to new technologies and materials available, we have designed and produced more efficient products, for example our Piezotronic Valves which only need 0.007 watts to operate.
What has also changed is our manufacturing processes and the availability of new technology, enabling us to provide more bespoke valves engineered to the application. Our rapid prototyping tools allow us to work with our customers to develop new valve designs that enable them to take their concept through to a completed product in a relatively short space of time. Our miniaturised valves have expanded the applications for solenoid valves as well as allowing our customers to reduce the overall size of the equipment they manufacture.
Another major development has been the addition of electronic components in our range of valve islands. These enable the user to build up a modular bank of long life (up to 200 million cycles) plug & play valves that can communicate with a PLC via many different protocols. All this in one small compact unit, reducing the footprint size, installation and maintenance costs.
RB: Tell me more about bus communications and the benefits it brings to your customers.
JCS: Proven and mature open fieldbus protocols such as AS-interface, DeviceNet, Profibus DP and FOUNDATION Fieldbus have been designed into our solenoid valves, position indicators and valve islands enabling our customers to benefit from faster installation and significantly reduced wiring costs compared with a typical hardwired solution. Networked devices offer advanced process control information to enable customers to monitor and control the position of the valve and the available diagnostic information can help to reduce plant maintenance costs.
RB: Looking to the future, what do you see will be the next major developments in your industry?
JCS: I like to think we are at the cutting edge of technology within our industry and we have every intention of staying there. Emerson’s strength is that we invest a fair percentage of our sales revenue back into R&D. Our extensive R&D programme means that we are able to develop the high quality innovative products that help our customers to be more competitive by enhancing overall performance and reliability of their equipment.
Asco Numatics is already well advanced in the use of modern technologies and we believe that the use of electronics, such as used in many of our proportional valves will grow as the year’s progress, in addition to there still being an ongoing demand for our standard range of products for a considerable time to come.
Tel: 01695 713 600
Published in Valve User Magazine Issue 12
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