Bend Company Signs Deal for Swine Flu Vaccine Storage


Powers of Automation, Inc. (POA), a company that specializes in creating automated temperature control systems for companies in various sectors, recently inked a deal with McKesson Corporation to build a temperature regulation system for a centralized storage facility in Memphis, Tennessee that will hold enough vaccines for the H1N1 virus (swine flu) to be distributed to 90,000 locations across the U.S.

McKesson, ranked 15th on the Fortune 500 list, specializes in distributing pharmaceutical supplies to hospitals and pharmacies. The Center for Disease Control contracted with McKesson to stockpile and distribute 80 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine. This is the second control panel POA has constructed for McKesson, a repeat customer since 2004, in the last two months, bringing the total value of the project to a little less than $100,000, POA President Steve Powers said.

Five years ago, Bend-based POA provided its first control system to McKesson’s specialty logistics division for cold storage of very expensive pharmaceutical drugs in the ballpark of $3,500 a dose, Powers said. Their customers were large companies like Genentech, ironically, where Powers got his start, and they were required by McKesson to validate their temperature control systems.

“Our system monitors the temperature at six locations inside the cold room in order to provide more accurate data to McKesson, and it also includes predictive alarming, better known as alarm notification,” Powers said. “It looks for the average temperature, the lowest and highest points in the room, and then it turns on and off compressors or refrigeration units based on the current temperature. Where this is kind of special is the Food and Drug Administration requires that any automated system used in the pharmaceutical industry has to have adequate documentation and testing showing that the system works the way it was designed and is fit for its purpose. We ended up providing three-inch binders of documentation to show the system behaves the way it’s supposed to, and it took us six weeks to put it together.”

Some estimates say that as many as 40 percent of school kids could contract H1N1 this flu season. In Deschutes County, school nurses will administer flu shots at elementary schools, while most middle and high schools are expected to contract the vaccinations out to a local clinic, according to published reports.

“Let’s hope it’s not as bad as they say it is,” Powers said.

Powers spent 15 years helping companies build and run automated manufacturing and testing systems before launching Powers of Automation in 1997 as a developer of software that supports the instrumentation found in industrial control panels used by industries regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. For instance, one application used by a former client made it possible to change the position of a saw blade while the machine was running.

POA lists Bend Research as its largest customer, but the information is dated 2003, saying the company maintains a database of more than 1,000 control panels for the Tumalo-based pharmaceutical research company. Although the majority of its business comes from companies based on the West Coast, POA has clients worldwide, including India, Korea, Germany and Puerto Rico, Powers said.

Even though Powers never envisioned himself an entrepreneur he has a prurience to see his company grow.

POA also contracts with the City of Bend for environmental remediation services, building systems that help the municipality monitor its public infrastructure, specifically its fresh water well pumps and sewer lift stations.

“I couldn’t say enough good stuff about Powers of Automation and how fortunate the city is to have them based in our town,” said Heidi Landsdown, an engineer in Bend’s water/utility division. “They are incredibly reliable – they follow up everything they do and they are always there when you need them. They do all of their work very well, very professionally and do it right the first time through.”

POA was founded in 1997. Powers went to a trade school at the Perry Technical Institute in Yakima, Wash. for instrumentation and industrial electronics. He then went to work for Genentech and later worked for a couple of companies in Bend where he learned how to bid and design control panels. When he took the leap to work on his own, his first project was designing a machine that manufactures interior doors for a company in Southern California. Powers’ first employees were his brother and his wife. His son and nephew also build control panels occasionally, making POA a true family affair.

POA currently has 10 full-time staffers, which includes six technical people, three people related to quality and document control and one office administrator.

It took the company 10 years to develop the quality control system, which allows POA to write software for the pharmaceutical industry.

“We have 117 standard operating procedures that define how we do what we do,” Powers said.
2008 was the best year POA has recorded in its 12 years in business.

“It was our highest year of revenue and our most profitable,” Powers said. Sales in 2007 reached $950,000 and in 2008 topped $1.2 million. This year, sales are off about 15 percent due to the general downturn in the economy, he said.

“We’ll be lucky to break the million dollar mark this year but we’re lucky to be here and be busy,” Powers said.

Information: Powers of Automation, 61533 American Loop – 541-330-1687 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            541-330-1687      end_of_the_skype_highlighting  –


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