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2016 in review
Eileen Schmidt
Eileen Schmidt

As we wrap up the calendar year here at Material Handling, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who have participated in the Your Business column in 2016. We designate this space as a place to turn the spotlight on you, our readers, to recognize the achievements and milestones of your organizations. 

In the two years I have been writing this column, I have spoken to business owners, managers and representatives from Iowa and Texas to London and Denmark. You have taken time out of busy schedules to tell me your company stories, to explain your products and services, and to share your visions for the future with our readers at large. Thank you. 

This month I would like to share with you a few of my impressions based on these interviews. The companies we feature in the Your Business column are all celebrating anniversary years, so whether they are marking 5 or 75 years in business, these are the organizations that have beaten the odds. Multiple sources and reports document that getting a venture off the ground isn't easy; the vast majority of new businesses fail in the first two years. In 2013, Forbes reported that 8 out of 10 businesses fail in the first 18 months of operation. 

So what is it about those we feature in Your Business that is helping them succeed? 

Here are four trends I have observed among those of you who are making it in the material handling industry:

1. Versatile and consistent

These terms may sound different, but both play into achieving business longevity. As the technological revolution has taken the world by storm, it has been up to individual businesses to incorporate new technology into products and services.  Sometimes this means a complete change to the types of products offered as businesses evolve. Nearly always it means a continued focus on customer service, reliability of products and the strength of business relationships. 

In a recent email to me, Bruce Dickey of Narrow Aisle Inc., explained that more customers are shopping online. Dickey, the vice president of sales, says this means the challenge is to kindle communication between customers, dealers and themselves to ensure those who may be in the market for one of the company's Flexi Forklifts has the information they need. “In today's internet-savvy world, buyers don't have to rely solely on forklift dealers for information about various options available to them,” said Dickey. “Sometimes we turn an inquiry over to our Flexi dealer and the inquirer is their customer – a customer they never realized might be in the market for a Flexi solution,” he said.

2. Big data

Building on the theme of how technology is changing the material handling industry, many companies we have featured have explained how they now use data to help their customers.

It isn't enough to just market products; customers need to know exactly how those products will fit with their specific needs.  One company manager I spoke with outlined how the business helps clients analyze data to find exactly the right product before purchasing. Others track and use data information to improve their own products and processes. In an era of increasingly smart technology, companies are finding that gathering and interpreting relevant data is more than just a nice thing to have. It is a necessity. 

3. Lean and green

We are also hearing more about the utilization of green and lean manufacturing practices, which are proving to be the way many businesses now seek to operate. "We believe it is our responsibility as a company to initiate and put forth our best efforts to reduce waste and encourage environmental friendly practices for not only our employees, but for the words," says the Hannibal Industries Inc. website. The company implements a trash collection service that automatically separates recyclable items uses energy-efficient lighting fixtures, and supports alternative means of commuting for employees.  

4. Global reach

Finally, nearly all of the material handling firms we have featured have outlined how business relationships and product distribution are now global in scope, proving a willingness to reach out to customers and form partnerships across borders.  FB Chain, for example, is owned by Swedish company Addtech AB, operates out of a production facility in Letchworth, Herfordshire in Great Britain, and employs another 200 workers across Europe, while also focusing on expanding its presence in the U.S. “We can deliver chain wear gauges almost next day in America due to its light weight, and also because of the time difference. We get a lot of positive feedback from US customers regarding the efficiency of our service,” said Peter Church, FB Chain's managing director, in a recent telephone interview from overseas.

Businesses of the future

As we head into 2017, I look forward to hearing more of your stories and helping share them with Material Handling readers. Is your company celebrating an anniversary this year? If you are interested in a profile article, please contact us at Material Handling Wholesaler to learn more about our publishing process either by email at or phone at 877-638-6190 or 563-588-3844.

We look forward to hearing from you and wish all our readers success in 2017. 

Eileen Schmidt is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Greater Milwaukee area. She has written for print and online publications for the past 12 years. Email or visit to contact Eileen.