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Leading The Material Handling Revolution

Brothers Mark and Stephen Andres are ready to “make it happen.”

On October 31, 2002, a CAL-OSHA state inspector visited Toyota Material Handling Northern California in Hayward, California. Stephen Andres, who was then 24 and had only recently started to delve into the operations side of the business, was the only one available to escort the inspector around the facility. After the visitation, Andres endured a two-month process of training all 180 of the company’s employees in different safety techniques, and then evaluating all company locations to ensure the proper equipment and processes were set in place.

Andres made it through the nerve-wracking experience, which turned out to be the defining moment of his blossoming career in material handling. From that experience, he quickly learned how important things like Workers’ Compensation and insurance costs are in this field. Now 27, Stephen serves as vice president of operations at the company, and is one half of a sibling duo that is among the brightest of the rising stars in the industry. His brother, Mark Andres, 31, is the company’s vice president of sales. But neither man thought he would ever work in material handling.

As the sons of company president Rich Andres, neither Mark nor Stephen took an interest in their father’s company while growing up. Mark, in fact, admits that, if anything, his father’s position had an adverse effect on the boys’ career decisions. “We were both reluctant in the beginning to follow the family path because we didn’t want the feeling of taking an easy handout,” he says. Both brothers received associate’s degrees from Los Positas Junior College and had jobs in retail before finally giving material handling a shot.


The Hayward, California, headquarters of Toyota Material Handling Northern California

Mark joined the company in 1995 as a utility worker in the shop, “delivering parts and cleaning toilets.” Stephen came aboard a year later when the company opened a marketing department. Before long, the brothers were moving up the ranks. Mark soon became rental coordinator, then moved into outside sales, which he credits with helping him lose the “stigma” of being the owner’s kid. “When you’re a child of the owner, there is always that stigma hanging over you—whether it is real or perceived. But on a sales call, family background didn’t matter. I could just go about my business and be successful.”

Both men worked hard to carve out their own niches in the industry and eliminate any speculation that they’re riding their father’s coattails. “It’s bred into us that we have to work that extra mile just to shake that monkey off our back,” Mark says. “It just comes naturally that it’s something that we have to do. We want to work hard and make it happen.”

A Material Handling Revolution
Although the boys were initially hesitant to begin careers in material handling, both now see the value of joining the industry. “It’s not the dirty industry that everybody thinks it is,” Stephen says. “When people think of material handling, they think of a tough industry and that it’s just grease and dust. But there’s so much more involved than that. Material handling is a great industry to work in as a young professional.”

Mark concurs, and believes that young people have a lot of opportunity in this industry. “I would like to see more young people. New ideas and fresh points of view will help grow this industry. It’s an industry that’s ripe for the taking; it’s on the edge of a revolution.” Mark issues an open challenge to other young people. “If you see something that can be done better, do it better. It’s not complicated: Going the extra mile for the customer is going to give you the edge.”

The brothers use these words of wisdom as the basis for their day-to-day activities. Mark oversees the sales department, consisting of 10 customer service specialists, 10 salespeople and 2 specialists. He is responsible, among other things, for setting and meeting the budget, maintaining inventory levels, and managing the company’s customer relationship management software. One of the best features of the job, he says, is “the ability to have a blank canvas every day. We’re always trying to lead the industry in the way we manage our sales reps and the way we go to market. Our intent is always to find ways to get customers into large fleets without getting into the very competitive, in my opinion, diluted market that forklifts have gotten into these days.”

Andres Brothers

Toyota Material Handling Northern California's Stephen Andres (left), 27, and his brother Mark, 31, are “sharpening their edge” as two of the industry's young leaders.

Stephen works with employees at all four company locations, performing tasks in facility management, safety compliance and training. “My favorite part of the job is dealing with new things and different people each day. There’s a different plate each day, which keeps it exciting.” Stephen also handles all the marketing and advertising for the company, including mailers, ads in industry publications, as well as print ads with wineries and agricultural newspapers. The company recently began advertising again with 30-second radio spots during sporting events.

One of the company’s most successful sponsorship deals is with the Oakland Raiders. Toyota Material Handling Northern California provides the team with flatbed carts to haul equipment and injured players off the field. Toyota forklifts appear in the stadium concourses during home games. There is also a TMHNC-supplied cart, decorated like a UPS van, that delivers the first ball onto the field each game. “We have logos all over those carts—top, bottom and sides—with our 800 number,” Stephen notes. “It gives us good exposure, because we’re on national television.”

The Andres brothers helped make 2005 a record-setting year for the company, with similar results expected in the future. “I see definite growth, with machines becoming very sophisticated because of advances in the equipment computer systems,” Stephen says. “Technology changes are advantageous for the younger generation because we adapt a little more easily to them. More mature, experienced professionals in the industry sometimes shy away from the new and changing technology.” The operations manager in him is quick to counter, however, adding that technology changes will cause internal training expenses to rise.

Another concern the brothers see results from increasingly strict emissions laws. In California, these regulations currently are on hold but are something for distributors in all states to monitor. Stephen believes that the possible hardships caused by proposed environmental regulations can be overcome by the myriad lobbying groups working with state and local governments. Mark contends that smaller dealers will be affected negatively, especially with their rental fleets. “Distributors who have zero-cost or low-cost units that are 10 or 12 years old are going to incur quite an expense, either getting those units back up to speed or purchasing new, compliant equipment. This will also affect the customer base out there.”

Issues like these are what make the industry fun for young professionals like the Andres brothers. “You have to innovate in this industry. If you roll with the punches and grow, change and evolve with market, you’ll be successful. If you stay in one place, you’ll be run over by it,” Mark says.

It’s a common mantra among individuals from material handling’s old school, that forklifts will always lift, they’ll always lower, and they’ll always go forward and backward, so don’t make it too complicated. Mark perhaps speaks for many in the younger generation by amending that philosophy slightly. “We don’t advocate getting complicated, but if something doesn’t seem to be working, change it. Don’t wait for it to get better.”

The next generation of material handling professionals, with the Andres brothers taking the lead, are ready to take the reins. A material handling revolution may indeed be on the way.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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