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  • Writer's pictureMekenna

History and Heritage: Automation Displays, Inc. & The Pillsbury Project

Automation Displays, Inc. has been dedicated to unmatched accommodation and quality products for over 50 years. ADi and our past project collaboration with Pillsbury showcases our commitment to innovation and simplicity. With our combined engineering expertise, manufacturing capabilities, and lifetime support, we’re proud to offer our customers the best products with the most reliable service in the industry.

Founded in 1971, Automation Displays, Inc. has become the automatic choice for integrators worldwide through our outstanding electrical panel and display solution expertise and product quality. Our brand promise centered around unmatched accommodation, simplicity, and forever support has gained us valuable clients and a loyal customer following over the past 50 years that demonstrates our commitment to innovation and technological advancement. Our founding expertise surrounding Building Automation, Detention & Security, and Oil & Gas has now expanded to Smoke Control, Environmental Control, and much more. ADi supplies and manufactures all of its own products in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and has a world-wide footprint spanning from North America to the Middle East. Our combined brand heritage, technical expertise, and custom manufacturing capabilities make the ADi experience unbeatable.

One specific project in collaboration with ADi and Pillsbury has recently demonstrated the long lineage of our design capabilities and customer loyalty. Learn more about The Pillsbury Project and the future development of the original Pillsbury Mills site.

The Pillsbury Project: Past Production & Future Developments

Just 10 years after our original founding in 1971, ADi finalized contracts with The Pillsbury Company in Springfield, Illinois to provide a custom manufacturing process panel designated to monitor and distribute sugar at their 18-acre Pillsbury Mills site located on the north end. This distinctive panel features an exclusive Pillsbury graphic created by Wynn Will, a previous Springfield employee in the late 1950s, named, “Bicep Doughboy.” Opened in 1929, this Springfield mill provided jobs and livelihood for many local residents employing over 1,800 total employees during its prime in the early 1950s. In time, the plant underwent three major expansions in 1937, the late 1940s, and the late 1950s to optimize production and keep up with increasing consumer demand for flour and sugar.

In July of 1981, ADi was designated to create a custom manufacturing process panel, including the integrated image of Bicep Doughboy. Bicep Doughboy has now become an iconic symbol of community pride and heritage in the years following. After a strong 62 years in operation, Pillsbury sold the plant to Cargill Inc. in 1991 which ultimately shut down soon after. Salvage operations, including 20 buildings and warehouses and 30 grain silos, began shortly after 2008. Eventually, the former Pillsbury complex was sold back in partnership with P Mills LLC. With intent to demolish the site, P Mills was met with pushback from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency due to improper asbestos removal. Now, the abandoned site has been turned over to a new nonprofit owner, named Moving Pillsbury Forward (MPF).

Check out our original ADi Pilsbury Process Manufacturing Panel design from 1981 featuring Bicep Doughboy!

Established in 2020, MPF was originally founded to perform active studies of the Pillsbury site for issues related to public safety and known environmental issues. Mounting community concern and distaste for the abandoned site pushed for the development and research for long-term solutions. Over the course of the next year, collaboration with community stakeholders and elected officials formulated a strategic plan within the nonprofit to achieve the most viable outcome in relationship to long-term redevelopment. MPF’s plan moving forward is to provide a collaborative community centered redevelopment approach to remediate and clear the 18-acre site over the next 3-5 years for future development and usage. As of March 2022, MPF has officially acquired the 18-acre former Pillsbury Mills site to facilitate redevelopment. The next phase, including the sites clearing and demolition, will focus on site safety, security, and environmental testing.

As of 2023, MPF is moving forward in its effort to obtain community support, private donations, and active volunteers to begin renovations and clean up. Primary concerns remain in the contaminated complex, including large amounts of asbestos and lead paint. Renovation and redevelopment will significantly improve the surrounding neighborhoods, among are the most severely impoverished areas in Springfield, and provide the community with increased environmental, health, economic, and living conditions.


In connection with our defined history and heritage, ADi takes great pride in our company’s past and quality products, as demonstrated in the panel production with The Pillsbury Company. Stories like this remind us just how far we have come and the importance of community. Being able to supply MFP with all the original design specifications, product archives, and parts has given us an opportunity to provide the ultimate customer experience. This strategic partnership highlights our true commitment to unmatched accommodation and forever support through the test of time. As a locally owned and operated business, ADi understands the importance of loyalty and lineage. We’re proud to be a part of history through our collaboration of the iconic bicep doughboy to provide MPF with useful project information during their ongoing investigation and renovation. Maintaining outstanding customer support continues to be a top priority in our evolving business standards and practices!

Donate, subscribe, or volunteer and help MPF in their efforts to improve local community living!

Visit us online at and learn more about our history of specialized expertise. ADi is an industry leader in custom electrical control panels and display solutions for Building Automation, Smoke Control, Detention & Security, and much more. Request a quote and experience the ADi difference!


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Published April 25, 2023

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