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 Business > Manufacturing

1815 Landmeier Road | Elk Grove Village, IL 60007 | www.atlastoyota.com
Innovations in technology and online shopping has caused growth in an industry once considered mature.


It wasn’t very long ago that the standard application for a forklift was moving pallets of product off of warehouse racks to be shipped to the location of a retailer. Nowadays with the boom of online virtual stores, more often, it is an individual consumer ordering a single item online. Resulting in a carton, not a pallet, being picked from a warehouse shelf by forklift and being shipped directly to the consumer’s home. The shift to online shopping is changing the way forklifts are used and warehouses are designed to keep productivity optimal. It gives Atlas Companies in Elk Grove Village, one of two original Toyota forklift dealers in the country and one of the largest in North America, a market segment to help their customers thrive, warehouse design.

“We design the warehouse based on how the equipment will interact, how product has to be moved and the customer’s needs,” said Al Rawson, President and CEO of Atlas Companies, a distributor of new and used material handling equipment: forklifts, pallet jacks, industrial floor cleaning equipment and attachments. Atlas is also a dealer of about a dozen different brands but its two main lines are Toyota and Bobcat. The company designs warehouses with the proper placement of racks, shelving and conveyor belts to keep inventory moving.

Atlas is becoming more involved in automated warehouses and autonomous forklifts, forklifts without operators. Warehouse design is not the only change Rawson has seen since he joined Atlas after graduating from high school in 1976, working his way up from summertime employee to company president. Rawson has witnessed a shift from internal combustion to environmentally friendly electric forklifts, which are used by about 80 percent of Atlas’s customers in the Chicago area. He said the forklift industry as a whole has experienced tremendous growth, with 2017 and 2018 being record years.

“I think the real key is service, you can buy a product but it’s only going to perform as well as you support it,” he said. “Our technicians support all the units. We have succeeded through service and equipment repair. We are lucky to have very good technicians, which results in quick response time to customers. We also have a technician certification program, from platinum to bronze, that all our techs go through.”

In need of bigger headquarters—Atlas has additional locations in Batavia, Mokena and Bedford Park as well as an online showroom—the company purchased two buildings in Elk Grove Village and moved its head- quarters here in 2016, after re-designing the spaces to suit their needs. Ford Castino, marketing manager says, “This place could not have been built the way it is without someone with the deep, intensive knowledge of the forklift industry. Al designed it with a rhyme and reason for everything, down to the placement of a broom.” In fact, he was so detailed and organized that Atlas moved from its Schiller Park location on a Friday afternoon and began work on Monday morning, without a hitch, at its new Elk Grove headquarters. Al attributes it to his dedicated, hardworking staff. He is excited about the new facility’s functionality; it’s the perfect place to bring in students from vocational schools and train them for a career, to be an employee for life like him.