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 Business > Manufacturing

 
6601 North Ridge Boulevard | Chicago, IL 60626-3997 | www.sandc.com
 
Continuity of leadership. Since 1945, two leaders, John R. Conrad (left) and his successor, current President & CEO John W. Estey (right), have guided the company.
 
The TripSaver™ Dropout Recloser, one of S&C's breakthrough products, was a 2007 Chicago Innovation Award winner.
 
Most S&C switchgear is installed in basements, ground-level vaults, or outdoors. This unit was bound for a hotel rooftop
 
S&C Fuse Cutouts can be spotted on utility poles everywhere.
 

Founded in 1911, S&C Electric Company is approaching its 100th anniversary. At S&C, though, the first one hundred years are only the beginning...

Origins

S&C's origins stand only a few "degrees of separation" from the founding of the electric power industry itself. Commonwealth Edison-the utility that provides electric power to Chicago-was begun by Thomas Edison's personal secretary and right-hand man Samuel Insull. In turn, Insull built an organization that was the high-tech wonder of its day, hiring highly skilled and creative engineers who were the envy of the burgeoning power industry. Insull encouraged these engineers to patent and build their own inventions while remaining at the utility. Two who traveled this route were Edmund O. Schweitzer and Nicholas J. Conrad, inventors of the first practical and reliable high-voltage fuse. Their innovative device used a non-conductive fluid to quench the potentially destructive arc that results when a high-voltage circuit is interrupted. In 1911, the two inventors formed a company to manufacture their pioneering "Liquid Fuse." Schweitzer remained at Commonwealth Edison, but the more entrepreneurial Nicholas J. Conrad soon left to head Schweitzer & Conrad, which ultimately became S&C Electric Company.

Legacy of John R. Conrad

After a rapid rise in management at Douglas Aircraft during World War II, John Conrad joined S&C in 1945 at the behest of his father, Nicholas J. Conrad. Under John Conrad's leadership, the company grew from 125 employees in a small plant in the Ravenswood neighborhood to its current worldwide workforce of more than 2,100 full-time S&Cers. Well known for his aversion to Wall Street and the short-term pressures it creates on publicly-owned companies, John Conrad steadfastly maintained S&C as a privately held company and a specialist in electric power switching and protection. To give S&C an edge, he reinvested profits for the long term, a strategy that continues today under current S&C President & CEO John W. Estey.

The John R. Conrad Industrial Complex

For decades, the growth of S&C has been marked by continuing expansion at the company's headquarters location on Ridge Boulevard in the diverse and dynamic Rogers Park neighborhood on the Far North Side of Chicago. S&C's presence in Rogers Park began in 1949 with a single building constructed on land used as a World War II "Victory Garden." Over the years, sixty property acquisitions and massive construction efforts transformed a nondescript collection of small factories, a lumberyard, a beer distributor's warehouse, and other structures into an integrated 46-acre industrial complex, one of the largest in Chicago. The campus includes more than twenty modern manufacturing, office, and laboratory buildings totaling 1.2 million square feet "under roof." Meticulously landscaped, with masses of flowers planted every spring and fall, and thousands of lights twinkling during the holidays, the S&C campus has long been recognized as a good neighbor within its largely residential surroundings.

The S&C headquarters facility was officially named the John R. Conrad Industrial Complex in 2002, three years prior to John Conrad's death in August 2005 at age 89.

 
Innovation Milestones

The Liquid Fuse was the first in a series of S&C innovations that helped revolutionize the delivery of electric power and turn the company into one of Chicago's leading manufacturers.

The XS Fuse Cutout, introduced as suburbs spread across America, provides effective transformer protection; S&C Fuse Cutouts can be spotted on utility poles everywhere. S&C also pioneered switching and protection systems housed in rugged steel enclosures. One variety of this "metal-enclosed gear," S&C Pad-Mounted Gear, is probably the company's most widely recognized product - the "green boxes" bearing the S&C nameplate seen around the world. (They come in other colors too!)

Again inventing something entirely new, S&C introduced Circuit-Switcher, a device that revolutionized protection of larger transformers and offers a cost-effective alternative to circuit-breakers. The 1990s saw S&C applying electronics to high-voltage switching with the Scada-Mate Switching System, which monitors conditions on the local power grid and switches loads automatically, restoring service to most customers affected by an outage within minutes. The turn of the 21st Century saw soaring popularity of S&C's Vista Underground Distribution Switchgear, featuring a compact design, enhanced operator safety, and an "undercover" style for improved aesthetics.

As the first decade of the 2000s moves forward and the company approaches its centennial, S&C continues to focus on research and development and bringing boldly innovative products to market. Take the company's new IntelliRupter® PulseCloser, for example. This breakthrough device sends a tiny "pulse" of current through the electrical grid when an outage-causing short-circuit occurs to test whether the problem still exists. (Other devices slam big, potentially damaging jolts of current through the system.) And IntelliRupter uses advanced communication-and-control techniques to drastically reduce the length of power outages and the number of customers without power. Another brand-new S&C invention, the TripSaver Dropout Recloser, also improves continuity of service, while saving utilities many costly trips to repair faults on smaller lateral power lines.

The company's roster of customers continues to grow. Along with electric utilities, it encompasses large power users that ensure a reliable flow of power with the company's uninterruptible power supply (UPS) products and related power quality devices. Customers also include wind-farm developers who rely on S&C's sophisticated engineering, analytical, and project-management services, as well as S&C products adapted to serve this fast-growing industry.

Maintaining the Spirit

S&C's workforce is clearly the top team in the industry, and the company works hard to create an environment in which its employees can succeed so that they, in turn, can help customers achieve success. This effort takes many forms: Each year, hundreds of S&Cers take advantage of an array of in-house training programs, mostly taught by employee volunteers. Many others take company-reimbursed courses off-premises. To help ensure clear understanding of company priorities, the entire workforce hears about S&C's performance and prospects through updates presented "live and in person" by President and CEO John Estey.

This special company culture has led to a unique level of loyalty among S&C employees. The company's Quarter Century Club has more than 600 members, about half of whom are active employees. About fifteen percent of the S&C workforce has been with the company 25 years or longer.

2007 marked a major step for S&C and its outstanding workforce with the advent of employee ownership of the company through an Employee Stock Ownershp Plan.

A Chicago-Based, Worldwide Company

As S&C Electric Company prepares to mark its 100th birthday, the company is proud of its deep Chicago roots. They have provided the essential foundation for what has become one of the city's truly global companies. With facilities in California, Florida, Washington, and Wisconsin and international centers in Brazil, Canada, China, and Mexico, S&C has evolved into a Chicago-based, worldwide company . . . one that's planning to make the next one hundred years even more exciting than the first hundred!