July 19, 2007 in Business

Bay Area equity firm buys Robotic Process Systems

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A San Francisco Bay Area private equity firm has purchased Spokane Valley-based Robotic Process Systems Inc., which develops and produces soldering equipment for the circuit board manufacturing and assembly industry.

Bought by GaitherCapital last week, the 22-person company will stay local but be renamed RPS Automation LLC, said Reed Gaither, managing director of GaitherCapital. While Robotic Process Systems had a “great name and a great product,” it was looking for money to expand after suffering in the post-Sept. 11 electronics industry slowdown, he said.

“We’re setting it up to grow, and we’re investing in the people and the R&D,” said Gaither, who declined to disclose purchase terms.

The new firm will focus on “selective soldering” equipment — automated machines for making precise solders on printed circuit boards— and solder-testing devices, both used to produce “high-value” circuit boards for the medical, aviation and automotive industries, said Gaither, 39. Its current line of selective soldering machines costs from $50,000 to more than $250,000, and the larger machines can have a footprint up to 36 square feet.

Circuit boards made with company equipment are part of Honda vehicle displays, handheld Garmin GPS units, communications satellites and military defense systems, according to the corporation.

Robotic Process Systems moved from California in 1993, becoming one of the first manufacturers in Liberty Lake. The company later filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy twice in a six-year period, most recently in 2002.With about a dozen investors from the Silicon Valley to New York, GaitherCapital makes controlling-interest investments in companies with $2.5 million to $15 million in annual revenues.

“They are going to be actively involved on the board, and we hope to leverage their expertise,” Gaither said.

GaitherCapital is investing on a five- to seven-year timeline, he said, and the new company will have enough reserves to withstand minor disruptions. Because the company’s key competition comes from Europe, Gaither thinks RPS Automation can be price-competitive, he said.

The company has hired a vice president of sales, and it plans to recruit more executives locally. Jess Baker, a founder of Robotic Process Systems, will be president of RPS Automation, and Gaither will be CEO.

“I have been impressed with their management expertise, extensive network of relationships, and dedication to the long-term success of this business and our customers,” Baker said of GaitherCapital in a prepared statement.

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