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Materials handling: Intelligrated aims at growth

By Bob Trebilcock, Editor at Large
June 15, 2012

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Modern Materials Handling, Logistics Management’s sister publication.

The materials handling industry was in the news recently with an acquisition valued at more than $500 million. This time, I’m not talking about Amazon’s $775 million acquisition of Kiva Systems. Rather, it was the announcement on June 8 that Intelligrated has agreed to be acquired by a holding company owned by the Permira funds. With $435 million in revenue, Intelligrated was number 10 on Modern’s list of the Top 20 systems suppliers for 2011. The deal is expected to close in late July or early August.

While Kiva has seemingly gone quiet since the Amazon acquisition, leading many in the industry to wonder whether it will remain in the market, Intelligrated’s management remains firmly in control of the company’s operations, said Chris Cole, Intelligrated’s CEO. “I want to make very, very clear that the company management remains very heavily invested in Intelligrated and that will continue,” Cole told me the other day. “There is no change in the operations of the company.”

Instead, the deal represents a recapitalization that will give Intelligrated the financial strength and international experience to grow “as we want to grow,” Cole said.

In many ways, Intelligrated’s is a story of rapid and noteworthy growth. The company was launched on September 4, 2011, one week before the 9/11 attacks. Since then, it has grown into a serious international player. By Modern’s estimates, Intelligrated is likely the number 2 systems integrator in North America behind Dematic. Along with a significant presence in Central and South America, Cole said the company has had real success north of the border with companies like Canadian Tire and Forzani. “Frankly, we’ve been very popular with US multi-nationals expanding into Canada,” he said. He expects to approach or top $500 million in worldwide sales in 2012.

That growth led to the change of financial partners. Along with capital from Cole, co-founder Jim McCarthy and the Intelligrated management team, the start-up was funded by Gryphon Investors. Additional capital was added in 2006 by Tudor Investors. Nearly eleven years later, Gryphon remained an investor. That’s a lifetime in the investment world. What’s more, Intelligrated was the largest investment in Gryphon’s portfolio. To take the company to the next level meant bringing on investors with more financial strength. Enter Primera. “They’re a $26 billion family of funds,” Cole said. “They not only have the financial strength to help us grow, they have resources and a footprint outside of the US that can help us expand our geographic reach.”

What’s next for Intelligrated? Cole outlined several plans:

International expansion: With Europe slowing, Intelligrated plans to expand its existing presence in Latin America and look for opportunities in Asia.

Expansion of services: Expect to see more of an emphasis on concepting, analysis, design and after-market services. “Right now, we’re running the maintenance departments for some of our customers,” Cole said. “That’s something we couldn’t provide as a start-up company. Now that we have an installed base, we can flesh out those services.”

Expansion of hardware and software offerings: “I think we have a very strong product line, but there are segments and niches that we don’t fill,” Cole said. “We’ll continue to look for ways to broaden our appeal.” While Cole declined to specify the hardware and software technologies he’s interested in adding to Intelligrated’s portfolio, don’t be surprised if there are acquisitions in the future.

With ten years behind him, where does Cole want to see Intelligrated ten years from now? “What I want to see ten years from now is what I want to see now, which is to be a trusted partner for our customers,” he said. “We want to give them the best materials handling system to drive their bottom lines.”

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Editor at Large

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484 and .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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