Project managers Nathan Buchanan and Adonis Jackson test innovations in virtual reality.

Material Handling Systems is on the verge of exponential growth. The company is prepared to more than double in size over the next few years. Headquartered in Mount Washington, MHS was started as an engineering firm by three U of L graduates in 1999. They now have 10 locations in the U.S., five of which are in Kentucky, along with branches and subsidiaries in Italy, the Netherlands, and Canada.

Conveyor systems might not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of cutting edge technology, but these aren’t Lucy and Ethel’s conveyor belts. The industry of automation is doing what would have seemed impossible just a few years ago thanks to technologies like AI and robotics.

“You can have systems that cover over one million square feet,” said Kevin Atkinson, director of talent acquisition. MHS designs, manufactures, and installs these systems for package handlers, like UPS and FedEx, and e-commerce retailers like Amazon and Wayfair.

MHS and its subsidiary, Santa Rosa Systems (SRS) are engineering and production powerhouses. “MHS designs, engineers, and installs,” said Atkinson, “where SRS manufactures.”

Predictive analytics and virtual technology allow engineers to solve real problems in real time. The flexibility to test and invent in tandem can account for much of the company’s massive growth. Their capability to put their ingenuity into production and practice in short order is another part of it.

“Our systems can tell our customers when a certain part or sensor on a conveyor systems is going to break down and communicate back to our home base,” said Atkinson. That means fixing things before they break, preventing work stoppages and major delays. “As you can imagine, a breakdown is thousands upon thousands of dollars in cost.”

Creating in response to client needs in rapid-growth industries, like e-commerce, means prizing inventiveness and agile design. The boom in demand for automated parcel sortation systems to do more than ever before means that thinking ahead of the curve is essential.

Assembly and testing happen in real time at the Mount Washington headquarters of MHS.

The company philosophy is, “Go over, go under, go around, or go through — but never give up.” It’s that persistence, that responsiveness, the drive to rise to the occasion when their clients need something, and deliver impeccable solutions on time that has kept MHS moving, and carrying with it and picking up a number of inventive engineers along the way.

After partnering with private equity firm, Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. (THL) in 2017, MHS nearly doubled its work force. At the end of 2017, MHS acquired both Atronix, an Atlanta-based engineering firm, and Advanced Production Systems (APS), a Louisville-based control panel design and manufacturing firm. IN May of 2018, MHS acquired VanRiet (located in the Netherlands) and in August of 2018 acquired OCM (located in Italy, making it a true global organization. The impact of these businesses is felt in many industries integral to American manufacturing, and their acquisition expands the responsiveness and capabilities of MHS.

MHS is hiring for a number of positions, from engineering, to corporate functions like finance, IT, and HR. Named a Best Place to Work in Kentucky in 2019, the company offers competitive salaries, comprehensive insurance packages, profit-sharing, and generous paid time off policies.

“Our customers come back to us because we’re very flexible. We don’t have that overly corporate, bureaucratic kind of culture.” Atkinson ties that back to the company philosophy. In the midst of MHS’s growth, the company continues to keep flexibility and responsiveness to customer needs as top priorities.

That flexibility is what makes MHS a great place to work. Atkinson said that he’s worked for huge corporate behemoths before. “At MHS, you’re not just a number. You really have a chance to impact the organization.”

Since 1999, local office supplier Duplicator Sales and Service has been MHS’s copy machine supplier and servicer. Duplicator Sales and Service is a third-generation family-owned company, headquartered in Louisville, that works with businesses both large and small.

The regional office equipment supplier’s growth has been steady for the last 60 years because, much like MHS, they are highly responsive to customer needs.

Mike Hellmueller, who’s been with the company for nearly 38 years recalls working with MHS in its infancy, “with just a few guys, when they started on Crittenden Drive here in Louisville.”

“The first unit I sold them was a reconditioned unit and if I recall, I worked with them on payment terms as things were pretty tight then. I have watched them grow and expand from location to location until they built their new building in Mt . Washington.”

Hellmueller works with Jeff Sapp, VP of supply chain. “When Jeff gave me a tour of the new building I was in awe.” Hellmueller said he was excited, “especially that first group of guys [who started the company]. I was proud of them and so happy to be just a tiny part of their story. They are good people.”