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30-Year Imprint: ACDI’s Journey from Hardware to Software to EVs

4 min read

Access Control Devices Inc. is celebrating 30 years in business, and three decades of technological evolution, President and CEO Josh Lane says.

Founded in June 1994, the company was ready for change when Lane joined it as general manager in January 2001. It had six employees and primarily sold hardware devices giving the public access to copy machines — for a fee.

“We started with 99% hardware products,” Lane said in a June interview. “We had coin-op controllers, we had keypad controllers, and we had mag stripe card readers that basically gave [clients’ customers] access to a copy machine. Universities, libraries, wherever copies or prints were being sold.”

Lane said one of the company’s angel investors explained that ACDI had customers, products and the good fundamentals, but it needed reorganization to really grow.

Lane thought the company’s future lay in software, and he took a chance that paid off.

“I was naive and young enough to take a gamble,” he said. “I bought a minority interest, seeing an opportunity to make an impact in an industry I knew little about.”

Future in Software

Armed with a business administration degree from the University of Arkansas and a little over a year’s experience as a finance supervisor at UPS, Lane leaned into the future.

Big organizations were going digital and focusing on software. So ACDI did, too.

Now it’s an industry leader in print management, with 90 global employees and an 18,000-SF headquarters in Benton that Gov. Asa Hutchinson helped christen in 2017. About 50 people work at the hub at 403 N. Main St. downtown.

Lane doesn’t reveal ACDI’s annual revenue, but is proud to say it is about 40 times what in was 2001.

ACDI’s headquarters in Benton (Jason Burt)

In recent years, it has developed devices to let electric vehicle drivers pay for charging their batteries at public charging stations.

The company is also a major partner to PaperCut, the Australian print management giant with 125 million users worldwide working in more than 85,000 organizations. PaperCut lets organizations control who makes prints and how much they print, saving money for clients and trees for the earth, according to company literature.

Lane said that as PaperCut’s largest authorized “solution center,” ACDI lets businesses, schools and colleges collaborate and innovate.

The biggest key to ACDI’s success was getting into paper print software, Lane said. “Paper print software led into print management, where we are today with PaperCut MF and PaperCut Hive,” popular print management services worldwide.

Print management systems handle the process of connecting customers’ hardware to printing devices, and the software oversees device management, ensures compatibility and guides users through secure printing and scanning protocols.

“[The partnership with PaperCut] broadened our horizons beyond anything we imagined.” The company “focused on education but entered every other market, every other vertical and expanded from the U.S. to Canada to South America, Mexico and Central America,” Lane said.

About 40% of ACDI’s employees work remotely, embedded in the markets they serve, he said. The company’s footprint across the Americas gives it the opportunity to work with 3,000 resellers, not to mention “all the major manufacturers of printers,” Lane said. “So we have a chance to converse with them, build our businesses together, and work on strategies or verticals or whatever they’re interested in.”

Community Culture

Since its founding ACDI has been “committed to fostering a culture that meets the needs of its employees, partners, vendors and the community,” Lane said.

On the day of his interview with Arkansas Business, he’d been out in the summer sun, sweating and watching riders inaugurate Benton’s new mountain bike park. “It’s good to be inside with the air conditioning,” he said with a laugh.

He said ACDI distinguishes itself in the market by emphasizing professional services, engineering support, analytics and a self-sufficient approach to resolving issues alongside partners. “We have a PaperCut-based solution for everyone from a small business with one to nine devices to an enterprise with 10,000 devices.”

Employees celebrated the 30th anniversary all through June, and the company flew in remote workers and some of their family members to share in the birthday party.

Thirty years is a milestone, but ACDI’s challenge looms in the future, the CEO said.

Technology is still evolving, obviously, and artificial intelligence, the EV revolution and other unknown possibilities await.

ACDI’s landmark 18,000-SF Benton headquarters, left and above, opened in 2017. Harco Constructors of North Little Rock was the general contractor. (Jason Burt)

Mark Hart, ACDI’s vice president of business development, noted that it has workflow automation systems, secure access programs, printer fleet management protocols, payment hardware and software, and even business analytics services.

“It takes all of us to achieve our vision of being the world leader in delivering business solutions and services, and ACDI would not be where it is today without the unwavering support from our incredible partners,” Hart said. “As we look back on 30 years of success, we also look forward to an exciting future together as the business landscape continues to grow and expand into new technologies and opportunities.”

The nature of technology is forever bounding forward, Lane said.

“It goes from nowhere to something so quickly; it always changes, and our company is still changing at a rate as fast or faster than we did 10 years ago,” Lane said. “The challenge for us is just keeping up with it and engaging with the right people and injecting value where we see fit.”

He called the company’s history a fun and exciting ride, “30 years of change and evolution.”

But looking ahead, Lane wants to foster an environment in which employees can dream big. “We want them to propel the company forward for another 30 years on this ongoing business journey.”

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