The World Depends on Sensors and Controls. That's the tagline of the firm that calls itself "the newest 90-year old company in America." That company, Sensata, was born this year from the legacy of Texas Instruments—and it plans to have a big impact on industrial sensing and control.
One of January's biggest news stories announced that Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) had agreed to sell its Sensors & Controls business to Bain Capital, a private equity investment firm, for $3.0 billion in cash. That portion of TI supplied engineered sensors and controls to the appliance, climate control, industrial, automotive, lighting, and aircraft markets. Its annual revenue topped $1 billion, and the business employed about 5,400 people worldwide.
Before the announcement, TI had begun building a new headquarters for its Sensors & Controls business in Attleboro, Massachusetts. The grand new facility now houses Sensata, the company that TI's Sensors & Controls business has become. Last week I had the opportunity to visit Sensata and learn about the direction of this quiet but powerful force in the sensor industry.
Specialties and Emphases
Sensata has two sensor divisions (Industrial & HVAC, and Automotive) and one controls division (Precision Products). These businesses cover the automotive, appliance, aircraft, industrial, and HVAC markets; 55% of its business is outside North America. Pressure products dominate Sensata's sensor portfolio but the company also specializes in force, position, CO2, temperature, current, and refractive index sensors. The company also boasts electronics expertise in signal conditioning for sensors, as well as electromechanical design and assembly and custom electronics. And, its Klixon brand, the heart of the company's Precision Products business unit, is well known among switches and controls.
Although the vast majority of Sensata's muscle is in the automotive business unit—which is about 5 times the size of the other two—the company is putting most of its effort into expanding the others, says spokesman Scott Lindblom. About six weeks ago, Sensata released an announcement of its plans to serve the trucking and industrial equipment markets, and bring proven technologies for industrial hydraulics and pneumatics, air suspension, tire pressure and inflation, braking, engine diagnostics, and emissions systems.
Management and Direction
TI's original management team is in place at Sensata, and in fact many of the employees have years or decades with the new-old company.
"This agreement is about unlocking value," said Rich Templeton, TI's President and CEO, at the time of the sale. "TI will intensify its focus on our high-growth core digital signal processing and analog semiconductor opportunities, while Sensors & Controls will have greater access to the investment and strategic resources it needs to fuel its future growth."
Indeed Bain's vision is to "add value" to Sensata, according to Lindblom. The company is focused on growing revenue as opposed to topline (profit) percentage, he adds.
Part of the company's plan is to increase its visibility, and that's why you'll see it at trade shows in 2007. Whereas TI's Sensors & Controls business in the past exhibited at one or two shows per year, Sensata will display at eight events next year. I look forward to those opportunities to see how this powerful force will help shape our industry.