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 email@example.com. WE MISS YOU, STEF!!!