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The ultimate “fun” office - AK Material Handling Systems
Eileen Mozinski
Eileen Mozinski

There is a little wrinkle to job interviews at AK Material Handling Systems – candidates are asked a few questions that have nothing to do with the business or the position for which they are applying. Instead, they are asked about what they do outside of work. What kind of hobbies do they pursue? How are they involved in the community? It is part of a strategy by the company to unearth the kind of people who will fit with their team – a group company leaders describe as active and positive. The screening helps prevent bringing on someone with a negative outlook that could ruin the enthusiastic dynamic, according to company leaders.

The selective process has paid off. In 2014, Minnesota Business Magazine named AK Material Handling “The Ultimate Fun Office” in its annual 100 Best Companies to Work for Awards.

Headquartered in Maple Grove, Minn., the business was founded as A&K Equipment Co. in 1988. Today, the business employs 22 people and also operates Wholesale Pallet Rack Products as its wholesale division, which marked its 15th anniversary in 2015.

Offering complete turnkey pallet racking systems, AK Material Handling provides space planning, design, layouts, budgeting, supplying and installation services. Sometimes that means a combination of those services, like the company's recent project on behalf of grocery distributor Miner's Inc. in Duluth, Minn. The extensive project involved installing new pallet racking for the company's existing warehouse space and a nearly 86,000-square-foot new addition, all while avoiding disrupting the flow of traffic moving products to-and-from the 33 stores in the Miner's Inc. fleet.

“Timing is everything with a project like this, and we needed to do whatever it took to meet expectations,” said Brenda Harrison, AK Senior Project Account Specialist, in a project spotlight report published on the AK website.

In early 2015, three months after the installation of the first of the 9,000 pallet positions began, the project was completed and Miner's Inc.'s Don Olson labeled the install team “impeccable.” Olson, a store planning and facilities manager for Miner's Inc., lauded the precision of the finished project. “The most impressive view in the warehouse appears when you turn the corner and can see over 600 feet of perfectly-aligned racking,” he said, in the spotlight report.

But the years of operation have also brought their share of challenges, not the least of which has been the technological revolution of the last few decades. AK Material Handling, which transitioned to a focus on pallet racking shortly after the turn of the century, decided to meet this recent change head on by heading up its own efforts to build an online presence.

By creating the sites themselves, the company ensured its team were the masters of the company websites and social media outreach, according to Al Boston, chief executive officer.

It has been a successful endeavor; providing new means for reaching current and potential customers and helping drive company metrics up nearly 40 percent in the first half of 2015, according to Boston.

Both the emphasis on an active online presence and the positive attitudes of the AK team were visible online last November, when the company posted a blog entitled 'Ready Set Mo! It's Movember at AKMHS.' They invited others to join their team committing to a month of movement and growing mustaches in the name of men's health, and posted pictures of their own employees' efforts.

“Making a difference is fun and we believe that serving and fund raising as a team through events like this helps us grow as a company and as individuals,” the article said.
“That’s it, it’s as simple as that.”

Eileen Schmidt is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Greater Milwaukee area. She has written for print and online publications for the past 12 years. Email editorial@mhwmag.com or visit eileenmozinskischmidt.wordpress.com to contact Eileen. 

 
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