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December 2017
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Family leadership and key partnerships guide Bublitz Material Handling to 90-year mark.
Eileen Schmidt
Eileen Schmidt

It was nearly a century ago that Jeff Bublitz's grandfather started his North Kansas City, Mo.-based construction machinery business, an operation that has since established a track record of diversifying and evolving. 

Bublitz Machinery Company was founded in 1927 by Walter J. Bublitz. At that time, the focus was on construction equipment such as steam shovels, excavators and chains. The original focus on construction equipment continued through the early 1950's, when the company diversified by servicing Yale Material Handling forklifts.

"The company was balanced 50-50 construction concern and material handling distributor. Construction tends to be more cyclical, so we diversified," said Bublitz, chief executive officer of what is today known as Bublitz Material Handling.” 

That structure remained until the late 1970's, under the leadership of Karl Bublitz, Jeff’s father. “Aerial work platforms became more commonly used in construction. Mobile aerial platforms shortened the length of time to build a building. They were self-propelled and you didn't have to erect scaffolding and move it," said Bublitz, 

That is when Bublitz became a master distributor for everything west of the Mississippi (River) for a couple of brands of aerial work platforms. The business had about 600 platforms in its fleet and branch offices in Denver, Reno, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. 

Despite this growth, Bublitz said it was "a dangerous period in our history" as aerial platforms at the time were rudimentary and unsafe in makeup. "Thankfully eventually they got regulated," he said. 

Still, when Jeff Bublitz became involved in the company in the 1980s, he began to refocus the structure to get out of the aerial platform business.

Throughout the 1990s, Bublitz worked to realign the business to be material handling-focused. He purchased the business - then Bublitz Machinery - from his father in 2003.

In 2010, the business entered into a partnership with Riekes Equipment of Omaha, Neb., and adopted the name Bublitz Material Handling. It is that partnership that brought Pete Womack, COO and Duncan Murphy, President into the Bublitz leadership team. The company was then, and remains today, a dual-brand dealership for Hyster-Yale with the addition of the Hyster lift truck line.

The move was, according to Bublitz, "a game changer." 

"We were able to really expand by the infusion of capital. We went from a $10 million a year company to a $20 million year company overnight, that was primarily Hyster," said Bublitz. “Even today, we’re mainly interested in additional expansion through acquisition.”

Today, the company has 65 employees and continues to operate in Kansas City, serving the surrounding areas including St. Joseph and Nevada, Mo.; north close to the Iowa border; and several counties in Kansas.

"When you look at the material handling industry now, most or all are partnerships or ESOP-based,” he said. "That's what keeps business dynamic."

Bublitz said the biggest challenge is staffing in a specialized industry, but the business has built an on-site training facility and employs a full-time technical trainer to help recruit and train technicians.

"We strive to have the best people working here. We've been able to attract some really great employees in the last year," said Jeff, “and we expect that to continue.”

In addition, Bublitz said the business is committed to a demanding performance guarantee that drives success in all areas of the business.

"We strive to live by a really high standard. We continually try to do things better and go the extra mile to serve our customers by doing things our competition will not and cannot do," he said. 

Reaching the 90-year mark is momentous for those involved in the business, and Bublitz attributes the longevity to the continuity of family leadership and the key partnership and diversification with the Hyster acquisition, which allowed the partners involved to help one another carry out the load in what Bublitz said can be a tough business with a lot of competition.

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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