Material Handling Inc.: Putting the Customer First for Nearly 40 Years

One of the toughest things for a business about selling merchandise is moving the merchandise. It needs to go from transport trucks into warehouses off of pallets onto the showroom floor, and this takes the right kind of equipment. Material Handling Inc. (MHI) has been making that type of equipment its business since 1975, helping customers find the best forklift equipment solution for moving their products.

Headquartered in Dalton, Ga., MHI coordinates 90 employees that work in five locations in three states to serve north Georgia, middle Tennessee, southeast Tennessee and southern Kentucky, where MHI provides quality forklifts and accessories to manufacturers and distribution centers in the textile, automotive and construction segments to the tune of $20 million annually.

In addition to forklifts, MHI supplies accessories, such as pallet rack systems, loading dock equipment, hoists, cranes, carts and scales. Other services include forklift fleet management, operator training, technical training, parts, services and equipment leasing.

All in the Family

MHI has been family-owned and -operated since its beginning. Patrick Sain, MHI’s current president, joined the company in 1987, and he eventually took over primary leadership from his father, and MHI founder, Amar Sain. Patrick’s brother Mike serves as vice president, and other relatives also populate the team, including another brother and a brother-in-law in sales. “We’re family owned and we’re dedicated to this,” says Sain proudly.

His father Amar Sain’s story is a rags-to-riches tale straight from the pages of a Horatio Alger novel. Amar, an Indian immigrant, founded the company after working his way up in the Clark Material Handling company from being an apprentice mechanic working after-hours sweeping floors to eventually purchasing an existing retail operation from his employer. Though he no longer acts as president, he is still active in the company, serving as CEO and making sure the company mission to deliver unparalleled value, creative solutions and extraordinary customer service with honesty and integrity is carried out.

And the sense of family at MHI isn’t restricted to employees with the last name Sain. The feeling extends to all employees, most of whom are long term and have been with the company an average of 18 years. One of the company’s bedrock traits that has fostered this longevity is encouraging employees to take ownership of, and by extension pride in, their projects, working with urgency and excellence to take care of customers.

Current Savings

Instilled with a commitment to quality and consistency, MHI’s employees work with clients to keep them “in the family” through offering informed advice, hands-on attention and the latest technological advances. For instance, MHI encourages its customers to make money-saving changes. “We specialize in converting customers from gas-powered lifts into electric fast-charge lifts, like how you would charge an electric car,” enthuses Sain. “You get enough charge to continue working through the shift. We convert existing users and new ones into that technology.”

Switching from gas to electric is also helpful for companies that strive to have no emissions, operate in closed spaces or operate where it is in violation of code to operate a gas lift. MHI focuses on High Volt Technology and 80 Volt forklifts, which offer double most battery life options for longer productivity at a lower cost. MHI offers three respected forklift brands: Clark, Linde and Komatsu. Highly trained employees work with customers to find the best products for their needs, offering cutting-edge solutions that give customers best value.

“We convert their fleet, and if they want to go electric, then we put in the whole system, which includes the [forklift] truck, the battery and the charging as a system,” explains Sain. MHI measures what a customer’s needs are – how many hours they use a truck, their fuel consumption, etc. Then, MHI designs a state-of-the-art system with the truck, battery and charger that will allow them to run those hours or more, while giving them the benefit of going electric. “The fuel is much cheaper, the maintenance on the truck is much cheaper,” extolls Sain. “They get all the benefits of running an electric fleet, but don’t have to invest in more floor space. It’s not that we’re taking their gas truck and making it electric, we’re changing their fleet into an electric fleet.”

Companies not ready to invest in their own fleet upfront have the option of equipment that can be rented from MHI for short-term or long-term – anywhere from a day to years. But the company specializes in what it calls the MHI Power Lease. Customers can have a lease tailored to their operation issues, financial issues and equipment requirements that will give them the best option to acquire new and modern equipment that reduces the overall cost of moving their product. It’s all about serving customers’ needs. “We customize any part of a lease for our customers,” assures Sain.

MHI strives to offer more than just savings to clients and reduced emissions to the environment, however; the company also works to give back to the community as a whole. A play of the words “lift truck,” MHI is adding a section to its website called Gift Truck, where it plans to let people know about the company’s philanthropic efforts. As part of the new plan, MHI will paint one of its existing lift trucks in a special theme, and if someone rents the specially painted lift, the proceeds will go to a local charity or local branch of a national charity.

MHI donates to local charities monetarily, but has also given forklifts to Habitat for Humanity and Local Food Banks. In August, the company became a sponsor of 24 Hours of Hope, a fundraiser for Carter Hope Center, a local drug rehabilitation facility.

Reaching Higher

Even with nearly four decades of experience providing the most informed material handling solutions, products and services, MHI has seen its share of challenges as of late. Before the economic recession of 2008, MHI already prided itself on running lean, so market changes, foreign competition and a continued sluggish economy have been challenging. “We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments, just like everybody else,” says Sain. “We streamlined some of our activities and cut back hours. We did several different things to reduce expenses in line with economic conditions. We were able to weather the storm and remain profitable every year.

“We’re very busy at the moment,” continues Sain. “I don’t know if we’ll see a complete turnaround, because a lot of our business is in the Dalton/North Georgia area, which is carpet/flooring related and that sector is still very slow. We’ve expanded into different segments, however, automotive being a big one, and everything is better than it was, though nowhere it used to be.”

The country’s general economic woes are not keeping the company down. MHI celebrated its 38th anniversary in 2012 and has plans for expansion. “We plan to continue to grow where we are now, and also reach into Alabama,” shares Sain. With the Sain family working together to lift up the company’s capabilities as a preferred strategic partner in its sector, many more anniversaries for Material Handling Inc. are expected.