In 1963, Engineer Paul Penn was invited to join three young engineers in pursuit of a company start-up. With the $500 investment of each partner, they set out building a digital computer for programming live TV broadcasting for their first customer, Sarkes Tarzian, Inc. in Bloomington, IN.
After several years of engineering custom devices for OEMs in the Midwest, two of the owners left the partnership to pursue other endeavors. Bob Bradley and Jerry Fortney opened a toy car racetrack. They needed a timer for lap speed, so Jerry and Paul joined efforts to design one. This product took off, when a local company became a nation-wide distributor. This timer was called a DART, “Digital Automatic Race Timer”, which is where the Dart Controls name originated.
Paul and Jim were contracted to make electronic controls to replace the Variac transformers on DC ceramic magnet motors, which expanded their scope of business. Jim left the partnership sometime in 1970.
Paul Penn then partnered with John Slauson and Steve Garstang to continue the manufacture of electronic speed controllers. Steve operated a rep group inside of Dart, called “Dart Engineering, Inc.”, that represented a number of prominent companies. Several Dart Engineering offices were strategically placed in the Indianapolis area. After several years of operation, Steve left the company.
Pete Hawryluk became the third partner in 1988. Dart engineers continued to develop new products, including the first microprocessor-based DC drive for a pizza oven (the Micro-Drive). In preparation for their retirement in April of 1999, the partners added Mike Lunsford as President in 1997. Mike Lunsford, a Purdue graduate, has successfully led the company to this day.
The wind of change came in 1998 when the Operations Manager, Gary Grissom, was introduced to Lean Manufacturing. Understanding the potential for improved customer service, increased efficiency and profitability, Gary implemented lean manufacturing at Dart Controls. Dart’s manufacturing plant continues to impress visitors and customer auditors who wish to verify Dart’s capability to be a key supplier.
Dart Controls has received the Grainger “Partners in Progress” Supplier Award four of the last six years. The award is given to only those suppliers meeting Grainger’s highest performance standards. All Dart customers benefit from the attention to detail, the quality focus, and the quick delivery standard that is the norm today.