Over the past 40 years, BHS, Inc. has grown from a regional Midwestern producer of industrial/traction battery stands to a global material-handling powerhouse. As the company celebrates its 40th anniversary, here’s a look back on how that growth occurred — and how BHS leadership plans to keep it going.
The Origins of BHS, Inc. in the Industrial Battery Industry
Marty Huber got his start as a dealer with an inventory of industrial batteries and a single employee. His desk was an unmounted door straddling two 55-gallon drums.
“It was makeshift,” Marty said.
Huber faced challenges in those early days. Interest rates hovered north of 20 percent, for one thing. And Huber was young for the industry, still in his early 20s. He looked even younger. That made it hard to win sales contracts with the older business crowd. So Huber cornered the local market not on battery sales, but on smaller-dollar service contracts.
“We grew through the back door,” Marty said. “We grew through service. We had 13 people in the service department…we had one guy trying to sell, while we were all getting dirty out in the shop.”
Service led to trust, which led to battery sales. Then came a fateful betrayal that laid the groundwork for BHS, the company that would eventually eclipse its origins in the battery dealership.
In late 1978, Marty had a large Monsanto contract to fill, including batteries and battery stands. At the last minute, his stand supplier diverted his order to a larger dealer. That left Marty in a tough spot.
“Monsanto doesn’t care what my problems are,” he said. “They’ve got deadlines, you know?”
Lacking the stands he needed to meet his obligations, Marty started buying steel and building them himself. He delivered despite the setback. Then, in 1979, he founded BHS as a manufacturer. The company began building just one thing: battery stands. But soon, the product lines grew — and so did the team.
BHS, Inc Today: Serving Diverse Industries and Applications
Marty Huber founded BHS, Inc., continually reinvested in the company’s growth, and developed an application-focused, customer-oriented approach to manufacturing. But it was Jim, Marty’s son, who led the process of product diversification leading up to the 40-year mark.
“We know how to build ROI-focused custom solutions,” Jim said. “We have advanced manufacturing equipment and a workforce that knows how to use it. Why not bring those resources to applications outside the battery room?”
Under Jim’s leadership — with Marty stepping into a support role — BHS began to study the material-handling challenges that face manufacturers and warehouse operators. In 2014, they launched their Material Handling Equipment line, starting with industrial Lift Tables.
Discussions with clients in the electrical supply industry soon inspired Jim and his design team to conceive of the Parallel Reel Payout, which would become the first in a growing line of solutions for handling electrical materials. By 2016, BHS had officially announced its entry into the electrical industry.
Regardless of the product line, Jim said, BHS sets itself apart with a focus on custom material handling solutions. The cookie-cutter approach to product development doesn’t work for every end-user, Jim said.
“You can’t solve every material-handling problem with an off-the-floor model,” he said. “We work with our dealers and end-users to understand where the bottlenecks are, the specific industrial processes that get in the way of productivity.”
Then the team at BHS gets to work building custom solutions, Jim said.
“That’s the approach that makes us different from the next guy,” he said. “That’s why we’ve been around for 40 years. That’s why we’ll still be here 40 years from now.”