ABCO Plays Secret Santa to Eight Reidsville, NC Families

In conjunction with the Reidsville, NC Salvation Army, ABCO once again committed to support the Angel Tree Program. According to Tina Peterson, payroll and benefits coordinator, ABCO Automation, “Last year we had great success with the Angel Tree Program, so we decided to expand our efforts and support eight families this year. And, our employees stepped up, so we could meet our promise.  By combining cash donations with employee-purchased items, we presented the Salvation Army with a variety of clothes, toys, games, personal care items, puzzles, sports equipment . . .” The Salvation Army has been running the Angel Tree Program for nearly 40 years and has provided Christmas presents to millions of children and families in need.



ABCO Automation Hosts Annual Guilford Apprenticeship Partners Open House

ABCO Automation hosted a Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP) open house at its facility on November 30, 2017. ABCO had nearly 70 attendees, including 18 students plus family members, Lydia Craddock, transitional career counselor, Rockingham County Schools, and Dr. Kenneth Scott, director of classified personnel/career and technical education, Rockingham County Schools. Brad Kemmerer, CEO and president, ABCO Automation provided a welcome and company overview, and Ernie Collett, ABCO’s manufacturing manager, provided an overview of the GAP program and introduced Jacob Mohan, GAP fabrication apprentice. In addition to the presentations, several ABCO employees provided tours of the ABCO facility, including its machining/fabrication center and two main project assembly and test buildings.

ABCO Automation is a charter member of Guilford Apprenticeship Partners. As part of the alliance, ABCO provides apprentice positions for local high school students. For everyone it’s a win-win—ABCO supplements its current manufacturing team, and the students are paid for  gaining on the job experience while earning a college education.


ABCO Automation and Visual Components Announce Value Added Reseller Agreement


ABCO Automation, designer and builder of high-end factory automation systems, announces the signing of a Value-Added Reseller (VAR) agreement with Visual Components, a global leader of 3D manufacturing factory simulation software. With this agreement, ABCO adds Visual Components simulation software to its service offerings. The software extends ABCO’s current service portfolio, which includes field support, on-site installation, laser safety, system training, project management, and engineering.

“As part of our concepting and designing process, we use Visual Components to provide clients a digital 3D model of their potential system,” says Jack Walsh, EVP ABCO Automation. “Visual Components is key to helping our clients visualize the design and layout configuration as well as simulate the design’s functionality.”

Walsh continues, “Now as a Visual Components VAR, we can provide our customers with an ancillary product that supplements our Build-to-Print and Design Build processes. We are already gaining interest from clients who see the value in using the software to further vet their design ideas.”

Visual Components combines three engineering disciplines in one platform, including material flow, robotics simulation, and controls validation. With Visual Components 4.0, users design factory layouts with numerous models and factory components, such as pre-engineered conveyor units and industrial robots. Through the software’s visualization, users get an approximate graphical view of a factory or production line, while the simulation function creates an accurate version of the factory or production line with all the components operating in a real environment.

“The key benefit of using Visual Components is cost savings by avoiding process and equipment mistakes on the manufacturing floor,” states Bob Axtman, CEO Visual Components. “Simulation allows users to see design flaws, test different operations, and make adjustments before committing to a final design. By eliminating virtually all the guesswork, companies can be confident that they will not spend money to rework their system.”


ABCO Automation Featured in Industry Week Article

North Carolina Prepares for the Future through Training and Redevelopment

North Carolina schools and manufacturers work together to prepare the skilled workforce of the future.

Michele Nash-Hoff 1 | Oct 19, 2017

She said too many educators don’t realize the need for hands-on workers such as machinists, welders, plumbers and electricians. Too many parents are focused on their children getting a college education, which is why we have millions of unfilled jobs requiring hands-on training. She recommended combining HEART and STEM to be more competitive as a country in the global economy.

Fortunately, there are more and more cities, regions, and states that have awakened to this problem and are doing something about it. Charleston, S.C. and the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina are among the problem-solving regions.

Machine Specialties Inc.

After visiting the Guilford Technical Community College aviation training center, my hosts took me to visit one of the companies involved in the apprenticeship program, Machine Specialties Inc., where we met with Rob and Tammy Simmons, president and executive vice president of the company.

Rob Simmons said, “The company was founded by Carlos Black in 1969 after he moved to the U.S. from Argentina where he had apprenticed as a machinist. I started in 1980, and we were primarily a small machine shop supporting the textile industry. In 1990, we expanded into screw machine parts. We got our first government contract in 1995. I became part owner in 1998, and we moved into a new building in 2003. We expanded into doing large parts like aircraft landing gear and added in-house anodizing and chem film. We bought this building in 2009 with all of the office equipment. We added a large laser cutting machine in 2009, and now have two lasers. Then, we bought two large multi-axis WFL machines to be able to machine titanium. We are open 24/7, but our weekend shift works three days. We are AS9100 certified for aerospace, ISO 9001 for commercial, and ISO 13485 for medical parts.

He added, “We realized that we had a problem because about 15% of our employees will be old enough to retire within the next five years. So, we need to train new workers to take their place.”

Tammy Simmons said, “We were one of the first six companies to work with Guilford County Schools in starting a new apprenticeship program in the fall of 2016 for those interested in the advanced manufacturing field. Students will undergo a 3-4 year program where they can receive an associate’s degree in Manufacturing Technology, a journeymen certificate as a machinist or welder, have their school paid for, and then end up with a manufacturing job.

“About 50 students, juniors and seniors, applied for the program, and 27 students were selected to start the program initially. This year we are up to 20 companies participating in the apprenticeship program. During the summer, the students took classes for six weeks and then worked full-time for six weeks.

“The students, who are seniors when they start the program, spend half the day at school and then the other half working at our company. The students who applied as seniors and then graduate, go to school one day a week at GTCC to pursue their associate’s degree in manufacturing technology and then spend four days working. GAP pays students hourly wage while on the job and when they sit in class at community college. I think it’s important to note that apprentices are paid while they are in class earning their degree because I don’t know of any other programs that do this. We also pay the students for their tuition and books while at GTCC.”

ABCO Automation

Then, we drove to Browns Summit, near Greensboro, to visit ABCO Automation, where we met with Brad Kemmerer, president and CEO, and Jack Walsh, executive vice president, Sales and Marketing. Kemmerer said, “We build custom automation equipment and are a FANUC and KUKA robot integrator. Our company was started in 1977 by Graham Ricks, but we converted to an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) in 1998. We started working with Coca Cola in the beginning to build electrical control systems and custom packaging equipment. We designed the system that McDonalds uses to pump the syrup into their restaurants.”

He explained, “In the late 1980s, we began to diversify our customer base by building custom equipment for a broader range of manufacturers. We began to go beyond packaging projects into manufacturing assembly, material handling, and inspection equipment. Now, our customer base is very diversified — all of the typical industries represented in North Carolina — aerospace, automotive, chemical, food & beverage, electronics, healthcare, pharmaceutical, tobacco. Most of our customers have 25-30 plants around the world, and the average price of a system is $1 million.”

When we heard about the Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP) program, we hosted the meetings and helped with the high schools. We currently have four apprentice students learning the skills of an electrician, mechanic, fabricator and machinist. Two are first year apprentices and two are second year apprentices. We believe this is a win-win for all—we supplement our current manufacturing team, and the students gain paid, on-the-job experience while earning a college education.”

Redevelopment at Revolution Mill

By this time, it was late afternoon, so we headed back to Greensboro to enjoy dinner at Natty Green’s Kitchen + Market, which is a combination micro-brewery, farm-to-market restaurant, and store located in a redeveloped textile mill. Natty Green’s is in one of the buildings of Revolution Mill, a 45-acre historic textile campus that brings apartments, restaurants, events, history, and innovation together as the “Place of Choice to Live, Work and Create in Greensboro.”

Nick Piornack, business development manager, gave us a tour of two of the former textile mill buildings — one that has been re-purposed for offices and studio space, and the other as an apartment building. Between two of the apartment building is an outside event space where one of the finalists of The Voice was performing. There is one classic building yet to be redeveloped on the property.

From the website, I learned that Revolution Mill is “a historic textile mill campus encompassing the Revolution Mill and Olympic Mill sites, with adjacent land connected by North Buffalo Creek. Located just north of downtown Greensboro, Revolution began operations as the South’s first large flannel mill in 1899 and for decades anchored a thriving community of workers and craftspeople. The facility included over 640,000 feet of working space before the textile industry decline led to its closure in 1982. For the next few decades, limited sections of Revolution were renovated into office space, while other parts of the property fell into disuse and disrepair. In 2012 Self-Help assumed ownership of Revolution Mill and is completing the property’s transformation into a mixed-use development…Self-Help is a development credit union and lender headquartered in Durham, N.C.”

After the tour, we met with co-founder, Kayne Fisher, of Natty Green’s Kitchen + Market, who gave us a behind-the-scene tour of the restaurant. Fisher told us that he had dreamed of owning his own chop house and neighborhood market since childhood. So, when the opportunity to open a restaurant in the Carpenter’s Shop at Revolution Mill came around, his brain-child came to life. The market included a butcher’s counter where you could buy cuts of meat the restaurant used in its menu. As a non-beer drinker, I actually enjoyed tasting a beer that had chocolate in it. Besides the usual steak, chicken, hamburgers, and salads, the menu offered pork chops, lamb chops, and braised brisket, the latter being my choice. All of our diners were delicious.

At the end of a very fully day, it felt good to have seen the results of the redevelopment of an important industrial region with new industries, the re-purposing of old textile plants, and the creation of an apprenticeship program to foster the development of the next generation of manufacturing workers.


ABCO Automation Wins “FAST 40” Award – Ranks Ninth on List

ABCO AerialABCO Automation, Inc. was invited by Business North Carolina magazine and Cherry Bekaert LLP to attend this year’s North Carolina Mid-Market FAST 40 awards ceremony. Each year the North Carolina magazine takes nominations for the award; companies on the FAST 40 List must meet exacting eligibility criteria to show three years of sustained revenue and employment growth. This year the honorees celebrated with a golf outing and luncheon held at the Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, N.C.

“We were thrilled when we learned that ABCO made the FAST 40 List,” says Brad Kemmerer, president and CEO, ABCO Automation. “We could not have achieved this award without a great group of employees, including engineers, project managers, fabricators, machinists, assemblers, and support staff, who enable us to be the company we are today. Dedication to our clients combined with the ABCO family is the best recipe for us to earn repeat business and gain new business.”

ABCO Automation is an automation specialist for robotics, turnkey packaging lines, controls, custom-built equipment, assembly, material handling, inspection equipment, and build-to-print machines. Its customer base includes top-tier companies running round-the-clock operations that require high quality equipment and outstanding service.

In the past three years, ABCO Automation has significantly expanded its workforce and opened a second facility in Greensboro. ABCO now has over 200,000 square feet of space.

To qualify for the Mid-Market FAST 40 List, companies must be headquartered in North Carolina, be a commercial, for profit enterprise, be either privately owned or publicly traded, have a net annual revenue ranging from $10 million to $500 million, and have demonstrated sustained revenue and employment growth over the past three years.

Please take a moment to watch the Mid-Market FAST 40 Round Table


ABCO Automation Wins Business Journal “Fast 50” Award

ABCO Automation, Inc. was honored as the 4TH fastest growing, privately held business in the Greensboro / Winston-Salem / High Point region by the Business Journal. Each year the Business Journal receives nominations for the coveted award; companies on the Fast 50 List must show steady growth in year-over-year revenues. This year the honorees celebrated at an awards banquet held on the grounds of the Grandover Resort and Conference Center, Greensboro, N.C.

“We are extremely pleased to be recognized as the 4TH fastest growing company in the Triad,” says Brad Kemmerer, president and CEO, ABCO Automation. “This award symbolizes what we accomplished over the last few years.”

ABCO Automation is an automation specialist for robotics, turnkey packaging lines, controls, custom-built equipment, assembly, material handling, inspection equipment, and build-to-print machines. Its customer base includes top-tier companies running round-the-clock operations that require high quality equipment and outstanding service.

Kemmerer went on to say, “Our goal is to develop long-term, mutually profitable client relationships. The key to our current as well as future success stems from standing by our core values. Our fundamental beliefs are rather straightforward; we believe that:

  • Clients’ needs drive the business
  • Integrity and quality in everything we do
  • We must stand behind all work, 100 percent of the time
  • We strive for excellence in all things
  • As a team, we work together and help fellow employees

As long as we continue to invest in what we do and how we do it, we expect to grow as a company and as individuals.”

To qualify for the Business Journal’s Fast 50, companies must be a private, for-profit venture, have its U.S. headquarters in the Triad area, and must have finished three full fiscal years and had sales of at least $2 million in 2017. This is seventh time ABCO Automation has made the Fast 50 List.


Brad Kemmerer Addresses Attendees at mfgCON 2017

At the third annual mfgCON conference, Winston-Salem, NC, Brad Kemmerer presented “An Overview of Robotics in Manufacturing Today.” The presentation covered robotic applications, the movement toward flexible automation, operational benefits as well as how robotics can help United States manufacturing.

According to Brad Kemmerer, president and CEO, ABCO Automation, Inc., “Over thirty years ago, robots started making their way into manufacturing facilities. Today it is almost commonplace for manufacturing plants to have some type of robotics, and it is expected that by 2020 there will be three million industrial robots installed worldwide.” Kemmerer went on to explain, “There are numerous applications for robots, including material handling, assembly, packaging, machine tending, and painting — to name a few. And, there are a variety of benefits to employing robotics.”

Summary of key points provided by Kemmerer:

With a decline in average product life cycles and an increase in the product mix, manufacturers are moving toward flexible automation as a solution for adapting to fluid production demands. Flexible automation allows manufacturers to quickly and easily re-task a system or equipment based on a product’s design. Automation software, robotic arms, and vision systems are some of the components that can be included in a flexible automation system.

In addition to living in a flexible automation system, robots can provide:

  • Heavy lifting and actions in hot or cold room environments
  • Quick operations with repeatable quality
  • Highly reliable tasks without overtime
  • Data acquisition and reporting capabilities
  • Cost savings with increased throughput

Robots are tools for successful United States manufacturing. From the years 1998 – 2013, the United States has seen a 40 percent increase of goods and services with no increase in required labor hours. Automation including robotics has played a key role in these productivity gains. According to the International Federation of Robotics, from 2010 – 2015 the United States automotive industry installed 80,000 new robots yet added 230,000 more employees. A robot may reduce costs and improve quality, but it also can raise productivity and the ability for companies to compete. This results in higher paying jobs, the prevention of plant closings (loss of jobs), production expansion, and higher total employment.


North Carolina Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla Recognizes ABCO Automation, Inc.

Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla and ABCO president Brad Kemmerer

Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla and ABCO President Brad Kemmerer

Commerce Secretary John E. Skvarla, III, presented ABCO Automation’s President Brad Kemmerer with Governor Pat McCrory’s Proclamation for North Carolina Manufacturing Week, in recognition of the company’s leadership and innovative workforce methods. ABCO Automation was selected to host Commerce Sec. Skvarla’s press conference as recognition of our business performance and our support of the Guilford Apprenticeship Partners.

ABCO is a founding member of Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP), a program developed to train students for an occupation by receiving a combination of classroom instruction and on-the-job training, working for manufacturers in Guilford, Randolph and Rockingham counties. GAP unites public schools, community colleges, NC Commerce’s Workforce Solutions, and local manufacturers to help students work toward a tuition-free Associates degree in industrial manufacturing and a Journeyman certificate. Upon completing the program, the apprentices are hired permanently by participating manufacturers.

“One of the things that goes with growing very fast as a company is finding people to employ, people with the right skills and abilities to help us support that growth. We are concerned about finding those people, so we’re very much engaged in workforce development. That work, when done properly, is about a partnership between industry, education, and government. We’re very pleased to be a part of GAP.” Said Brad Kemmerer, president of ABCO Automation.

Further expounding on the importance of GAP to local manufacturers and the role that ABCO Automation plays, Commerce Sec. Skvarla said, “This company is the essence of North Carolina. This is Manufacturing Week and what better company to recognize than an organization that has 130 employees that started in a garage with one [employee] in 1977. That’s what North Carolina is all about.” He went on to say, “Not only do they have 130 employees, they have two apprentices here that we have to give some great recognition to, because the fact that the organization has understood, helped, and supported the apprenticeship program is one of the reasons that North Carolina is experiencing this remarkable growth.”

For more information about GAP, please visit


Founded in 1977, ABCO Automation, Inc. designs, builds and supports high-end factory automation systems for manufacturers worldwide to improve the efficiencies and quality of our client’s operations. ABCO Automation is located in Greensboro, NC. For more information, visit


Advancing Industrial Automation

#120328 NC A&T State University

NC A&T State University

The College of Engineering Dean’s Distinguished Speaker Series

ABCO Automation President & CEO Brad Kemmerer had the privilege of speaking to a fairly large group of students and staff at North Carolina A&T State University as part of The College of Engineering Dean’s Distinguished Speaker Series. The series brings speakers from industry, government, and academia to North Carolina A&T State University to speak about innovative advances and approaches anchored in engineering and computer science. Read more about North Carolina A&T State University.

An abstract of Brad Kemmerer’s presentation

Industrial automation is advancing rapidly for two main reasons: (1) Technology is racing forward, and (2) Manufacturers face an increasingly competitive global marketplace. If we want to succeed, then we must do so in the face of competition. This holds true for businesses, individuals and educational institutions. Change is the only thing that is constant, making continuous improvement and innovation absolutely necessary for long-term success.

The competitive issues facing manufacturers are well known -­survival depends upon their ability to ensure or improve quality, reduce costs, achieve higher levels of throughput, eliminate dangerous or ergonomically-difficult jobs, and yes, innovate. I will share two examples of process innovations that I believe give ABCO a competitive advantage as well as the cultural enablers of innovation: Curiosity, Creativity, Collaboration, and Courage.

It is my observation that when companies do something really different to excel in the marketplace, it is because some basic foundational pieces were present either in the leadership or the culture of the organization. As an automation supplier, we at ABCO, Inc., have always had to work hard to keep up with the state of the art to build competitive systems. This presentation will center on the synergies that have made ABCO Automation successful as a culture of innovation.

About Brad Kemmerer, President & CEO of ABCO Automation

ABCO designs and builds custom automation for manufacturers including assembly, packaging, material handling, and inspection equipment. These systems utilize robotics, machine vision, lasers and other advanced technologies.

Kemmerer, a licensed PE in NC, earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Lafayette College and has held engineering and management positions at Richardson­-Vicks, Procter & Gamble, and ConvaTec in Greensboro. He joined ABCO Automation in 1991 to work on the design of a new fountain syrup plant for Coca-Cola. He became president of ABCO in 1999. With annual revenues of approximately $25 million, ABCO has around 120 employees, one-third of them being engineers.

Kemmerer supports US FIRST Robotics as an engineering mentor and a judge at FRC events. He also supports United Way, The American Heart Association and Habitat for Humanity. He is married with two daughters, a son-in-law, and two grandchildren. Hobbies include reading, golf, and watching football.




ABCO Automation Supports FIRST Robotics

Proud Sponsor of FRC

ABCO Automation is proud to support the FIRST Robotics Competition. Two weekends in  January we hosted more than 60 students from six local high school robotics teams, helping them kick-start their 2016 FRC build season. To start things off, the kids learned about this year’s game, Stronghold. Each team has just 6 weeks to design, build, and ship the robot to the first competition. ABCO is committed to supporting all of the teams in our area, providing guidance from our mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and project managers, assisting the students, their mentors, and coaches.

Encouraging Studentsfirst robotics 2016

FIRST Robotics is the most effective program we have seen for encouraging students to pursue an education and career in STEM fields, and we are excited to see the growth in the number of high schools with robotics teams. Our part manufacturing and machine building capabilities, along with the number of engineers we employ at ABCO, positions us as uniquely qualified to support these teams.

Engineering Design Fundamentals

On Sunday, the day after the game was unveiled, we reviewed engineering design fundamentals and led the students in game strategy, identifying desired robot capabilities, and began working on concepts that will allow their robot to do things like raise a portcullis or launch a boulder at their opponent’s castle. The following Saturday the teams returned for help in prototyping their concepts, designing in 3D, programming, and manufacturing parts for their robots. We provided a hot dog lunch for almost 100 people.

I am very proud of the 20 or so ABCO employees that rearranged their schedules and gave of their time to help these students. We recognize these high school students are our future engineers and a big part of the future of our country. Additional information on FIRST Robotics can be found at

Brad Kemmerer

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