By Kathryn Prater Indianapolis Star What you might see as just another box-shaped warehouse, Bill Bastian II sees as an opportunity. The president of Indianapolis-based Bastian Material Handling knows that inside there typically is a mile of conveyors and related equipment. Three years ago, Bastian designed and installed a six-mile conveyor and sorting system for a Cabela's distribution center in West Virginia. Bastian has ridden the wave of growth in transportation and warehousing, nearly doubling revenue since 2000 to more than $80 million today. The 55-year-old company designs custom material-handling systems that help customers "fulfill their orders quicker and easier," Bastian said. The company's most common projects include conveyors, sorting systems and retrieval technology. "People are trying to become more effective in the logistics of filling their orders and getting them out," Bastian said. About 60 percent of Bastian Material Handling's systems are made for distribution centers and 40 percent for manufacturing facilities. The bulk of its Indianapolis projects are medical-related distribution centers. Some of the company's other big projects have included an Indianapolis distribution center for CVS, an Eli Lilly and Co. facility and all material-handling systems for Roche Diagnostics. Customers also include automotive companies in Detroit and electronics companies in Los Angeles. Bastian's grandfather, Elgan Stark, founded the business in 1952 as the E.C. Stark Co. Bastian said the company had revenue of about $5 million when he joined in 1987. He bought the business in 1992 from his father, who still handles several accounts, such as the Rolls-Royce plant in Indianapolis. Today the company employs more than 200 people. "Their early investment in controls and computer technology helped them grow from being a small distributor to being a large, full-scale systems integrator," said Jim Apple, a partner with The Progress Group, a consulting firm that has worked with Bastian on projects. Apple's Atlanta-based group helps companies come up with general ideas about how to move goods from one place to another. It relies on other companies, such as Bastian, to design and build specific systems. "They've competed successfully with the bigger companies to the point that they've become a big company," he said. Unlike other conveyor systems companies, Bastian Material Handling only manufactures about 10 percent to 15 percent of the products it installs, Bastian said. "We can pick and choose technologies from anywhere in the world and integrate that into our systems," he said. He said the company has grown about 18 percent to 20 percent annually for the past seven years. The material handling industry in general saw a 10.3 percent increase in booked orders in 2006, said John Nofsinger, chief executive of the Material Handling Industry of America. Growth for the industry, which is cyclical, could drop to about 3 percent this year before picking up again, Nofsinger said. Apple said the Bastians weather the ups and downs by concentrating on their customers. "Their focus is not on trying to maximize their revenue; their focus is on solving the problem right," Apple said. "It comes from having strong family values, and the Bastians are still running the business. It comes from the top." Call Star reporter Kathryn Prater at (317) 444-6306. ___________________ Bastian Material Handling What: Designs and installs conveyor, sorting and retrieval systems for distribution centers and manufacturing facilities. It does a limited amount of manufacturing. Headquarters: Indianapolis. Revenue: $80 million. Growth: 18 percent to 20 percent annually. Employees: 200. Customers: 6,000 nationwide. Web site: www.bastiansolutions.com. Source: Bastian
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