Please join the CAT Squared family in celebrating Stef’s well-earned retirement. Stefan Schoeman cofounded CAT Squared in 1995 with the late Mike Sardinha and our current CEO Vernon Smith.

“We started the business focused on automation, specializing in food, pharmaceuticals, and breweries,” said Stef. “We figured everyone has to eat, everyone gets sick, and you have to have a beer at the end of the day.”

Stef’s Early Years

Stef’s career journey started in 1978. He worked for UCOR (Uranium Enrichment Corporation of South Africa) while completing his degrees in electrical engineering (at Pretoria Technicon) and computer science (at the University of South Africa).

In 1981, Stef traveled to Pompano Beach, Florida as part of a project learning to maintain a process-control minicomputer, which was to be installed on 48MW submerged arc furnaces. “During the installation of this system, we got trained on the software side of the control and ended up maintaining both hardware and software,” said Stef. “In 1984, I moved to Middelburg Ferro Chrome, which was a competitor, and worked on the automation team. Here, we introduced the PLC to the process and were doing the control from the PC, which was still new on the market at that time.

“At this point, I met Mike Sardinha, who was my manager at that time. We did quite a few automation projects. One that stands out is a control system for a 40MW DC arc furnace. (This is basically an arc welder on steroids.) We had to control the resistance in the arc by moving the electrode up and down. At that point, this specific process had not been done anywhere in the world and had to be achieved by trial-and-error.

“During this time, we started to use the Clarion developer system for the management information systems with “C” as the control system development. In 1991, the company was taken over by Samancor. By that point, Mike, myself, and some others had already decided to start our own company.

The Beginning of CAT Squared

“During this time, Vernon joined our team fresh out of university, and he started the Windows conversion of our systems and got involved in the Layer Information System we had developed,” said Stef.

“The South African market was a small market, and systems could not be resold many times. Every project required new development, which translated into minimal profits at the end of the day.

“The decision was made to start doing international business. However, after a few attempts, we realized that the world did not think much of South African technology, and we would have to move our company to be able to get into the international market.”

CAT Squared USA

“In 1996, Mike moved to the US with Vernon following him six months later and myself six months after that,” said Stef. “The company was based out of Mena, Arkansas. In 2000, we moved the business to Conway, Arkansas.

“In the beginning, it was just the three of us, and, slowly, we started to add more people. Most of our work came from Rose Acre Farms, and then Banvit in Turkey came on board later.

“Over the years of traveling the globe, we’ve built great relationships with many customers who have become good friends. We’ve also built an incredible team. Some team members have stayed with us for more than a decade. Without these team members, we would never have achieved what we have, and I will always be grateful for their contribution as well as the support of their families who have supported them during these years. Sadly, we lost Mike seven years ago. His contribution laid the foundation for this company.

“As I look back at our many achievements, I’m overwhelmed with the sense of satisfaction when I see customers using our systems to bring value to their businesses. I’m proud, not only that we built a great tool for their business, but also having been part of the extraordinary team that has achieved this.”

Stef’s first official day of retirement was September 1. If you would like to send him well wishes, he’s still available by email at WE MISS YOU, STEF!!!

Kathy Barbeire

Written by Kathy Barbeire

Throughout my career, I’ve helped organizations think of creative ways to (1) harness new technology to maximize effectiveness, (2) collect relevant data to measure and improve performance, and (3) use data to tell compelling stories to customers and stakeholders. In 2015, I became CAT Squared’s marketing manager. In this role, I monitor industry trends to (1) ensure our products are flexible enough to adapt to new industry standards and (2) prepare our customers for new technologies with the potential to disrupt the industry. I’ve represented CAT Squared as a participant in a blockchain learning group that has grown out of Blockchain for Arkansas (BC4AR), an initiative launched by Governor Asa Hutchinson to promote capacity building around blockchain technology. As my own knowledge and capacity grow, I develop new content to educate our supply chain partners and help them prepare for the transition ahead. Prior to launching my career, I graduated magna cum laude from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in professional and technical writing and a double minor in sociology and information technology. I later returned to UALR and completed the MBA program. Before joining CAT Squared, I applied my passion for data-driven storytelling to help nonprofits define their goals, track program metrics, and engage donors and community stakeholders in their missions to fight hunger, poverty, and homelessness, first as a program manager for the Our House Homeless Shelter in Little Rock, and then at The Salvation Army Central Arkansas Area Command.