Control Chief Corporation was founded in 1971 by C Lawrence Shields in Bradford, Pennsylvania, USA. Shields’ idea came about when observing a crane cab operator communicating via a walkie-talkie to a worker on the production floor. The company was founded on the simple realisation that, for safety, reliability, efficiency, and productivity, it is best to control industrial operations and equipment from a safe distance.

Control Chief started out with eight people and a primary focus on industrial overhead cranes. Over the last 30 years Control Chief has increased its workforce to 44 employees and it now has a 2,000m2 factory. It serves a market for new and retrofit remote controls for cranes that in the USA alone is today worth more than $30m a year, the company reckons.


Control Chief introduced its programmable logic control (PLC)-based wireless crane control system, the Command Chief, in early 2000. Command Chief gives advanced functionality for the material handling industry. It is based on leading industry developments of RF control incorporated into a PLC platform and is still the only PLC-based crane control on the market, the company claims. Benefits include increased safety, a zoning feature, reduced cost of ownership, increased functionality, and the ability for expansion.

Incorporated into Command Chief is the Communicator module that was introduced in 1999. It is used in two ways: as a wireless control link between PLCs; and as a wireless input module to the PLC that can process operator commands from a portable unit (transmitter). In either case, the technique can be used on various crane and machine controls.

The Communicator is a fully integrated wireless communication module designed for the Allen Bradley SLC-500 series platform that communicates directly through the back plane of the PLC. By incorporating the Communicator RF module with Control Chief’s dedicated Watchdog module, true real-time wireless control is possible in a PLC platform.

Another product designed in 1999 for the Allen-Bradley SLC-500 was the High Current Relay Module (HCRM) which allows for connection to loads of up to 10A per relay contact. Any of the modular SLC processors can be integrated with the HCRM. It gives experienced SLC 500 programmers a new solution for medium to high current load applications and the HCRM is used in all Command Chief systems.


Along with developing new products and technologies, Control Chief monitors its existing product range and looks for more advanced technologies to provide the most efficient and updated equipment. An example is the TK 6 transmitter which was improved so that it could directly communicate with the Communicator module, and its weight was reduced. Also improved was the durability of the antenna, and a new internal battery design was incorporated with a flush mounted access door. The TK 6 now uses a frequency synthesised module instead of a tuned crystal for better accuracy, higher reliability, reduced maintenance, and easier programming.

Introduced this year was the Scout, a smaller and lighter version of the Summit series remote control. In addition to the Scout, there are two new products with advanced functionality for the material handling industry. The LX3000 is a wireless, battery operated handheld transmitting controller. Benefits include a durable ABS plastic housing that, in standard configuration, includes eight, three-detent pushbuttons as well as a single start/warning button, emergency stop and on/off key switch.

  The company is working on smarter and more advanced applications, for example, material tracking via real-time data communication, wireless communication of weight status to the operator centre, smart retrieval systems with location identification, precise speed control, advanced diagnostics, feedback capabilities, on-board operator commands including sending text data, the capability of sending real-time data to the operation centre, and integration/ PLC automation.

In addition to the material handling industry Control Chief’s controls are used in nuclear power, railroads, shipbuilding, automotive, pulp and paper, steel, and mining.

Control Chief says its mission is the same today as it was in 1971: to provide the best technology, products, training and support to its customers.