Metal, fiberglass company expands

Bouncy houses are good for so many occasions. Birthday parties, family picnics, block parties, perforated metal companies' open houses, the list goes on. To celebrate its new digs, about 100 of McNICHOLS Co.'s employees, their families, customers and community members gathered in a large meeting room next to staff offices in Elk Grove Village, Ill., alongside O'Hare International Airport, on April 26.

John Farley, vice president and chief operating officer at McNICHOLS Co., greets visitors at the company's open house in Elk Grove Village, Ill.
John Farley, vice president and chief operating officer at McNICHOLS Co., greets visitors at the company's open house in Elk Grove Village, Ill.

The most exuberant partygoers, a small assembly of kids, tossed beanbags and played video game bowling. Outside the meeting room, with a backdrop of metal sheets stacked on shelves, the kids caught air in a red, inflatable bouncy house. Everyone chatted and enjoyed a buffet of chafing dishes and fancy cupcakes, good sustenance for celebrating the 65-year-old company's growth, and bouncing.

The 112,000-square-foot facility replaced the company's previous location in Elk Grove Village, a 77,000-square-foot building. John Farley, vice president and chief operating officer at the Tampa, Fla.-based company, said the scaling up allows orders to be filled with greater efficiency and speed.

About 100 people gathered for McNICHOLS Co.'s open house, ribbon-cutting and 65th anniversary party near O'Hare International Airport on April 26.
About 100 people gathered for McNICHOLS Co.'s open house, ribbon-cutting and 65th anniversary party near O'Hare International Airport on April 26.

It was easy to see why McNICHOLS needs such a large space to manage its inventory. In the middle of the warehouse there are 2,300 items to pick from in a block of elevated shelves the size of a small building. These are all large sheets of metal and fiberglass.

There's a space in the back of the building where sheets are cut to size, sheared, welded and finished. The efficiency and speed of this facility's operations impacts all of the company's operations. In addition to shipping to customers, the Chicago area location serves McNICHOLS' 17 other distribution centers across the U.S.

Scott McNichols, president at McNICHOLS Co., addresses the crowd at the company's ribbon-cutting for its new distribution center in the Chicago area.
Scott McNichols, president at McNICHOLS Co., addresses the crowd at the company's ribbon-cutting for its new distribution center in the Chicago area.

Farley said the focus on efficiency and speed in filling orders is part of a comprehensive strategy to give customers a seamless service. He said they have an ecommerce platform with a live chat feature, team of Architectural Design Consultants and ample product documentation.

People's purchasing expectations have evolved to something akin to shopping on Amazon, Farley said. When it comes to perforated metal, expanded metal, metal mesh and fiberglass grating, he said McNICHOLS is striving to be like a "grocery store" for customers. "If it's in stock, you'll have it in less than a week," he said. Amid whirring motors and "meep-meeps" of forklifts zipping around long aisles of stacked metal, and maneuvering bundles of panels into trailers lined up at loading bays, I've no reason to doubt it. Any company that can do that, and have a bouncy house to kick it off an expansion, must be onto something.

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