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Ideas In Motion

FloStor Engineering has a reputation for thinking, designing and building outside-of-the-box solutions.

FloStor Engineering Inc. of Hayward, California has proven that the combination of outstanding people and quality products will support consistent growth in material handling distribution. The company’s success is repeatedly depicted in its customers’ reports of increased productivity. If automation is the key to FloStor customers’ enhanced productivity, then the ideas and knowledge generated by FloStor’s long-tenured employees are the keys to the proven performance record required for sustained growth within the material handling industry. 

Weeks and Meigs

FloStor Engineering's Bob Weeks (left) and Bob Meigs, QSC Director of Operations, at the opening of a new in-process manufacturing system for QSC Audio Products.

Based in the San Francisco Bay area, FloStor was founded in 1983 with a vision of providing creative solutions to both simple and complex material handling challenges. Robert Weeks, FloStor president, began the company in a spare room, not unlike another West Coast pioneer, Bob Packard, co-founder of Hewlett Packard. Ever the innovator, Weeks realized that there was a growing market for systems integration. He combined his marketing knowledge with a mechanical aptitude to create a company whose drive was and continues to be the creation of new solutions to old problems. 

Mentored by Tom Loberg, founder of Hytrol Conveyor Company (Jonesboro, AR), and Sam Leone, then Hytrol’s vice president of sales & marketing, Weeks continued to learn the business. Today, FloStor counts Hytrol Conveyor as one of its major product lines. Weeks says, “Much of what I learned during my early days from pioneers like Tom and Sam is evidenced in how my company functions today.” 

Putting Ideas to Work
The communication of ideas and information is an important key to the success of FloStor’s 35 employees. All FloStor employees attend a monthly meeting in which management discusses how the company makes its money. If the prior month was a good one, lunch is served. For 30 minutes, financial information is shared as gross sales, gross profits, costs of operations and net profits are discussed. Weeks says, “I try to teach each employee the basics regarding company finances. It does not matter what an employee’s job responsibility is. Each employee can impact the company’s profitability. If we succeed as a team, we’re all better for it.” 

The FloStor Team
FloStor prides itself on the longevity of its workforce. Its employees bring imagination, creativity and enthusiasm to the company. In fact, while many companies find recruitment of qualified personnel to be a challenge, potential employees often seek out FloStor. The company posts job openings on its Web site (www.flostor.com) and utilizes the services of various placement agencies. “Our philosophy dictates that we provide the best work environment money can buy,” says Weeks, “and we strive to equip our personnel with the latest that technology has to offer in order for them to work more productively and efficiently.”

Flostor employees bring imagination, creativity and enthusiasm to the company. 

According to FloStor employees, “It’s the people who make FloStor special.” Still, no company can base its success on the fact that its employees are nice people. As a team, FloStor employees are committed to the philosophy of “promises made, promises kept.” As a result, the company is often awarded large projects without having to participate in the usual bidding processes. 

Doing the right thing is a company mandate. The size of the order is irrelevant, and all customers are treated with respect, honesty and fairness. Since its establishment in 1983, FloStor has been able to attract and retain talented, independent, driven mavericks who are led by a management team who provides an opportunity for independent thinking, while setting an expectation for customer care at any cost. 

The Executive Committee…
In 1996, company president Bob Weeks formed an executive committee to help him make decisions about everything from quality control to staffing and all things in between. The committee meets monthly, and each member contributes a unique insight to the decision-making process. In addition to Bob Weeks, president, the committee includes management from the following departments: sales, systems sales, finance, engineering, systems assurance, installation and service. 

Systems Sales…
The Systems Sales Group consists of FlosStor’s most experienced people who are knowledgeable in all phases of material handling. From this group, teams representing the specific skills needed for success are assigned to each project. Eight sales engineers have responsibility for all phases of material handling systems integration, including system design and coordination with project management, and installation and service. Their success record is enviable. Each and every project over the last 18 years has been successfully completed to the complete satisfaction of the client. The team has a thorough knowledge of conveyors, carousels, ASRS systems, software controls and management software. 

Dealer Sales…
Three Hytrol Conveyor specialists are responsible for serving over 200 dealers in Northern California and Northern Nevada. FloStor provides Hytrol conveyors on a resale basis and offers product expertise and engineering services when required. Dealer schools are held on a semi-annual basis for product training. 

Dave Gonsalves

Journeyman Dave Gonsalves fabricates a custom structure for Dole Fresh Vegetables. The company maintains a complete metal working facility.

Engineering and Project Management…
A structural and pneumatics engineer, a robotics specialist and three design engineers provide customers with accurate and detailed mechanical and electrical layout drawings. FloStor was one of the first material handling integration companies to embrace the use of CAD technology to provide clients with accurate and detailed designs of their projects. FloStor project managers are specialists trained in material handling systems and bring projects in on time and on budget. 

Installation and Service…
FloStor has enjoyed a successful partnership for almost 20 years with the Northern California Millwrights, a team of skilled, knowledgeable craftsmen. Outfitted with a fleet of company-owned vehicles and the correct tools for the project, FloStor’s installation crews can accomplish the job properly, the first time, on time. They perform installation, warranty service, preventative maintenance and emergency services. To provide custom integration and meet various parts requirements, FloStor maintains a full fabrication shop. 

Electrical and Controls…
The Electrical Group consists of licensed electricians who have specific experience in industrial automation. They have “hands-on” experience with PLCs, field busses with PC controls, motion control, RF and barcode systems, and installation of all of the above. Services provided include electrical design, panel design and fabrication, project management for large installations, and field installation. 

Operations…
Operations personnel coordinate sales, engineering, installation and service assuring FloStor customers that the quality standards promised by FloStor are delivered. 

Seal of Approval
What do IBP Foods, New United Motor Manufacturing (Toyota/GM), Dole Foods, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Byer California, International Game Technology, Gymboree Corp., FedEx Corp., Walgreen’s Co., Illuminations Co., Carquest Auto Parts, Sun Microsystems, QSC Audio, Lucent Technologies and C&H Sugar have in common? They are all repeat FloStor Engineering customers. 

Hansen and Mangin

Millwrights Hal Hansen (left) and Tom Mangin prepare for the installation of a new major west coast distribution center for CARQUEST Auto Parts.

Why? According to FloStor’s sales team, there are several reasons: the competence and an ability to provide solutions exhibited by each member of the FloStor team; an ability to get the job done, on schedule; quality products combined with quality workmanship; and performance with integrity. Weeks says, “We like to think that our customers are our friends when we’re through with them.” With last August’s backlog of $12 million in sales, FloStor has many friends. 

Market Diversity
FloStor continues to penetrate different markets that demand sophisticated solutions. FloStor engineers do not simply “throw equipment at a customer’s problem hoping that the problem will solve itself.” They have developed a reputation for thinking, designing and building outside-of-the-box solutions. 

FloStor sales engineers have developed a diversified background in manufacturing, distribution, automated storage, and other arenas. When some markets tend to slow down, other markets are quickly identified and pursued. Reaping the benefits of a team that is willing to share information and ideas, the FloStor sales engineer is capable of moving from high-tech to food, to auto parts, even to art work in developing systems and integration projects. 

Internet Strategy
FloStor uses its Web site as its primary marketing tool. Weeks says, “Prior to contacting our references, prospective customers review the company’s Web sites to verify credentials, get a sense of who the company is, and examine past projects.” The number of visitors who seek FloStor via its Web site continues to grow, as evidenced by an increased number of requests for literature and an increased number of responses to various company promotions. 

FloStor adopted LAN and Internet technologies in 1995, instituting a Web site, email and Internet access for all employees. Today the company maintains four Web sites:

1.
www.flostor.com focuses on systems integration and includes a company profile;
2.
www.flostorconveyor.com details various conveyor applications;
3.
www.flostoronline.com is an online e-commerce store supporting the online purchase of conveyors and accessories;
4.
www.teamflostor.com is the hub of the company’s design collaboration system.

The Internet has become an integral part of the company’s design engineering, project management and marketing activities. The technology provides tools for collaboration between employees, customers and FloStor’s partners. With its proper use, company executives believe projects can be completed more efficiently and with greater quality control. FloStor will continue to support and expand its Web sites for one simple reason: they are a resource that customers have become dependent on. As an example, www.teamflostor.com continues to be enhanced. Weeks says, “Our Web sites are a significant competitive advantage. They provide a comprehensive source of information for materials handling automation, available immediately, online.” 

The Future: More Ideas
FloStor is currently expanding its infrastructure to support the increase in gross revenues. These improvements include a state-of-the-art job costing accounting system and a new project management workflow tracking system. The fact that FloStor has no long-term debt provides the company with a platform for future growth that is ripe with possibilities.

Since its establishment in 1983, FloStor has been able to attract and retain talented, independent, driven mavericks who are led by a management team who provide an opportunity for independent thinking, while setting an expectation for customer care at any cost.

Bob Weeks comments that the possibilities are endless. “FloStor continues to entertain ideas that can only benefit our growing base of customers. Growth via acquisition is certainly a possibility.” Other opportunities for future growth include an opportunity to stock conveyor on the West Coast in order to support FloStor’s dealer sales efforts, along with the provision of consulting services. The company is entertaining the prospect of entering the data collection barcode arena. In the future, FloStor may expand its sales force to serve a larger geographical region. Says Weeks, “Our customers know that they can call me at any time. We will guarantee solutions that will work for them. Any future growth will be for the sole purpose of creating solutions for our customers.” 

As a regional company, FloStor’s team is working farther from home these days. Weeks says, “We are doing jobs in Sioux City, Iowa; Louisville, Kentucky; and Emporia, Kansas. We’re also working in Los Angeles and in Bakersfield, California.” 

Hiyama Rebata Bialashewski

Keith Hiyama (left), manager of installations and service, and Dave Rebata (right), VP sales, review final plans for new system at Kraft Foods with Senior Sales Engineer Ed Bialashewski.

Members of the FloStor Executive Committee have traveled internationally since the late 1980s. They attend the Hannover Fair every two years and have also visited Japan on two occasions to gain insight into material handling automation practices from a global perspective. Weeks says, “There is nothing worse than automation that doesn’t work. We learned early on that it is necessary to constantly move forward while reviewing our progress.” 

Moving Forward
FloStor places a lot of emphasis on continual learning and personal growth. Weeks is currently reading a book called it’s not the BIG that eat the SMALL… it’s the FAST that eat the SLOW by Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton. “Each chapter contains an important piece of information that we as business owners can learn from. Ideas are our foundation. We must constantly seek new ideas to serve future markets, and we must look for new technology that will allow us to serve our customers more efficiently.” 

Evidenced by past successes and future plans, immensely committed and qualified employees, and a strong drive and vision, it is very certain that there are more ideas in FloStor Engineering’s material handling future. Stay tuned. 

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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