Thomas Wolfe famously titled his last novel with the phrase, “You can’t go home again.” Well, maybe, but sometimes a family reunion is like building a new home that’s even better than the old one.
Conveyor systems and material handling solutions provider Intelligrated was co-founded eight years ago by Christopher C. Cole, chief executive officer, and James R. McCarthy, president and chief operating officer. Previously, the two had co-founded and operated a materials handling supplier and integrator, Pinnacle Automation, until it was purchased in 1999 by FKI Logistex, the supply-chain software division of British-based FKI plc, which itself subsequently became part of specialist manufacturing group Melrose plc.
In May 2009, Intelligrated, privately owned by Tudor Ventures and Management and Gryphon Investors, which is a majority shareholder, completed its acquisition of FKI Logistex operations located in North and South America. “Of course it’s great that we’re expanding our market reach and capabilities,” says McCarthy. “But the key is we’re bringing people back to work together again. We’re really excited, and we think the employees of both companies are equally excited, that people who were separately leaders in automated materials logistics solutions are now getting the chance to share their knowledge and experience.”
Also, according to McCarthy, it goes beyond creating a more fully integrated company, both in terms of product depth and fulfillment capabilities. “We’re adding the magic back into the company. People who were at the forefront 10 years ago in coming up with better ways to manage material handing in warehouse and distribution centers are now back together on the same team. There are no cultural barriers to overcome as there are in most acquisitions; we already know one another. This unique combination of talent in a seamless transition creates strong opportunities for both our customers and our associates as we can now offer broader solutions to better serve our valued clients, which will further accelerate our growth and development of innovative products.”
Cole adds, “FKI Logistex is the premier materials handling solutions provider in the consumer goods supply chain segment, particularly food and beverage. So that now immediately provides Intelligrated with leading market share in new markets. At the same time, the FKI Logistex product line both strengthens our existing capabilities and also adds complementary products that fill gaps in our solutions. The result is we can now offer customers in more markets a one-stop shopping service for their materials handling needs.”
He also emphasizes, “Our objective remains the same, to build the most cost-effective, state-of-the-art logistic systems that we stand behind with aftermarket tools that increase customer productivity.”
Thus, by virtue of the acquisition, the “new” Intelligrated is already positioned as a leading material handling systems provider to the warehouse, distribution, postal and consumer goods manufacturing markets. Intelligrated maintains its headquarters in Mason, Ohio, a northern suburb of Cincinnati, which also features a research and development/product demonstration facility that serves as its main engineering location and prototyping facility as well as the base of system sales and research and development efforts. A demonstration area allows customers to observe and evaluate any product solution functioning on Intelligrated conveyors before committing to purchase.
GOING WITH THE FLOW
The company’s ISO 9001:2008 manufacturing facility is located is located northeast of Cincinnati in London, Ohio, and is comprised of over 200,000 square feet of flow-through assembly production area in which parts are received on one side of the building and the finished product is shipped from the other side. There are 66 shipping doors, which provides for simultaneous work on 66 different truckloads without having to double-handle anything. Additional manufacturing facilities are located in Missouri and Kentucky. Intelligrated has sales offices and operations in 10 states, including sizeable operations in Canada and Mexico, and also has key systems operations in California and Maryland. The combined company will have about 1,700 employees.
Cole points out that while FKI Logistex will not have a separate identity under the combined Intelligrated, individual FKI Logistex product lines will retain their brand names. “We will continue to manufacture and support Crisplant brand loop sorters, Alvey brand palletizers, Real Time Solutions fulfillment systems as well as other products and services traditionally offered by both Intelligrated and FKI Logistex,” he notes.
Intelligrated’s own product line introduced substantial innovations that have now become industry standards. These include InControlWare®, an advanced conveyor control system for high-performance distribution centers that effectively integrates machine control, operator interface, system diagnostics, and maintenance tools and its host interfaces in a single, easy-to-use system. Another highlight is the IntelliSort® Shoe Sorter that provides flexible sortation for a wide variety of products. Incorporating sliding shoe technology offered with a tube or flat slat design, IntelliSort is a heavy-duty, high-speed sorter that operates at 200 to 700 fpm (feet per minute). As a complement, the IntelliSort® I-Watch™ sorter maintenance program provides automated, full-service diagnostics to increase the working life of customer shoe sorters.
EXPANDING AND CONTRACTING NEEDS
In these days of economic instability, it may seem a bit incongruent for a company to go on a buying spree. But while Cole notes that sales of late have been flat, there are opportunities in the current business environment. “We help companies during both time of expansion and contraction,” he says. “Particularly during times as tough as these for industry, it is all the more essential to economize your materials handling operations in ways that improve efficiency and reduce waste. Our high speed case sortation, accumulation, conveying and merging and controls technologies are designed to achieve improved operational efficiencies, whether the company is expanding its warehouse and distribution facilities, or condensing them. Consequently, even in this economy, we’re well positioned for continued success.”
McCarthy adds, “That success is the result of management ideas and system concepts combined with specific products applied to each customer’s unique situation. Ours is not a one-size-fits-all-approach. It’s a blend of the people with the technology with the customer to come up with a total offering that is the single best approach to solve a problem. And, of course, we’re even better positioned to realize that objective in combining our competencies with FKI Logistics under one roof.”
One thing that has distinguished Intelligrated since its inceptions is its customer focus, what it calls its 360° customer centric approach. According to Cole, “We started the company in large part because we felt other companies weren’t fully addressing the needs of warehouse and distribution operations. In particular, we saw a need for a company that knows how to take care of its customers.” Intelligrated seeks to support customers in any phase of their distribution center life cycle, for projects large or small, retrofits or new systems, while continuously striving to develop and apply the pioneering products that result in the best working solutions. Customer service is available 24/7 and Intelligrated offers an on-line catalog for ordering emergency and spare parts. The company has set itself the goal of answering any service call with an engineer on the phone to solve the problem within two minutes which, Cole claims, “None of our competitors can come anywhere close to.”
“Our vision is to further invest in product development, particularly in the area of consumer goods and palletizing, and become the undisputed leader in materials handling solutions by building on our strengths and combining them with the strengths of FKI Logistex,” McCarthy says.
Cole adds, “We’re looking to rejuvenate our existing business and establish ourselves in new markets by combining FKI Logistex palletizing systems with our conveyor systems. At the same time, we’ll continue to work with other systems providers to integrate our products with theirs to provide further value-add to our customers.”
The bottom line, according to Cole, is that “with the acquisition of FKI Logistex, Intelligrated has the talent and the technology to be the best in the business.”
It would appear that’s an objective the company can easily handle.