"To really be present in a culture, you need a physical presence,” says Scott. “You need to empower local folks, and invest in them, and get out of their way."
How often do you really notice how many things around you are on wheels? The people at Blickle do this a lot, and their delight shows when they list the endless possibilities. “We supply wheels and castors for almost every industry imaginable,” says Scott Chahalis, Blickle USA President. “Grocery and hotel carts, medical supply tables, hospital beds, school carts, musical equipment, aerospace applications… the list goes on and on.” At their temporary space in Newnan, Georgia, visitors can check out the various models on display throughout the building.
Blickle is a German manufacturer of high-quality castors and wheels. The company was founded by Heinrich Blickle in 1953, who sadly passed away only a few years later, just as the business was taking off. With five young children at home, everyone expected Heinrich's wife, Elizabeth, to sell her shares and leave the company behind. Her response? "I'll be in on Monday morning to get started." Elizabeth and her eldest son, current owner and CEO, Reinhold Blickle, grew their family business into a global leader in this multi-billion-dollar industry. (Elizabeth was still going in to work at the factory at 90 years old. She passed away in 2015.)
Despite Blickle’s success, they struggled to break into one market in particular – the U.S. “We needed real inventory, and a field presence, experts that can access the customer base and show our commitment to the market,” Scott explains. In German business, moves are made strategically and whole-heartedly, and Blickle’s first step was to tackle distribution. Their indirect delivery path- from Germany to a distribution center in Canada, and finally to the U.S. made some improvement when it came to wait times, but it wasn’t enough for long-term growth. “You can have the best product in the world,” Scott says, “but if they can’t get it by Tuesday, you lose.” In other words, all business is the delivery business.
Committed to breaking into the U.S. market, Scott Chahalis suggested a Newnan, Georgia location for multiple reasons. A competing wheel and castor factory had recently closed in the area, leaving skilled workers looking for jobs. Of course, Coweta county's German-based apprenticeship training program for local students appealed to leadership.
With the help of the state, Coweta County, and Georgia Power, Blickle completed phase one of its plan and set up headquarters and a distribution center in Newnan. Shipping product to customers from Georgia now drastically reduces wait times- customers can even get orders the next day. But that’s not the final stage of the plan. Blickle feels that the real welcome into the U.S. market will only happen one way -- through manufacturing.
“To really be present in a culture, you need a physical presence,” says Scott. “You need to empower local folks, and invest in them, and get out of their way,” he laughs. Blickle’s family-owned, close-knit culture is palpable even after 60 years in business. “People make the difference. All the time, every time.” It’s not uncommon to see all hands on deck to load a large order, with everyone from office staff to upper management loading the trucks in jeans and gloves. Their commitment to quality is matched only by their dedication to being a strong team.
In addition to headquarters and distribution, Blickle will begin full production from their Newnan facility by January of 2018. Their new home in Georgia is being planned as thoughtfully as the decision to locate here. The stunning use of glass, light, and open space is visible proof that Blickle is here to make an impact. Part of the facility will feature an innovative "Customer Experience Center", where visitors will have the chance to interact with Blickle's products for themselves, testing various models and inclines. “There’s nothing else like it in the industry,” Scott says. “We’re excited to start hosting guests and showing them what Blickle is about.”