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Published: Monday, 8/12/2002

Findlay firm is big in product delivery

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Charles Bills is president of Ohio Logistics Ltd., which opened in Findlay in 1988. Charles Bills is president of Ohio Logistics Ltd., which opened in Findlay in 1988.
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FINDLAY - Started in Tall Timbers industrial park here in 1988, the firm now known as Ohio Logistics Ltd. operates a string of five distribution centers stretching to Elmira, N.Y., through which it manages the movement of products ranging from auto parts to television picture tubes.

But don't make the mistake of calling the firm a warehouser.

“We're not a warehouse; we're an inventory management system,” chastises Charles Bills, Ohio Logistics president.

Capitalizing on a trend of manufacturers farming out their supply management and distribution systems, Ohio Logistics has grown from a firm without a single customer to an $8.5 million-a-year regional player in the fast-growing logistics field.

“Things look very good and feel very good,” said Mr. Bills.

Not that the company's existence has been problem-free.

Executives are scrambling to find new customers to replace LG Philips Display, which is closing a picture tube manufacturing plant in nearby Ottawa. The factory and its suppliers represent 35 to 40 percent of business at the firm's 800,000-square-foot Tall Timbers Distribution Center here.

The recent national slump in manufacturing, which accounts for most of Ohio Logistics' business, took a bite out of sales. But that is rebounding as the sector recovers.

Mr. Bills is circumspect about setbacks. “You adjust,” he explained. “You look at ways to lower your expenses.”

As for the loss of the Philips business, he said: “That's going to be a big void to fill. But it has allowed us to sit down, regroup, look at our strengths and weaknesses, increase our strengths, and take it to the marketplace and sell it.”

Ohio Logistics opened its fifth warehouse in Horseheads, N.Y., near Elmira in April. The 200,000-square foot facility, in leased space, will serve a customer that has hired Ohio Logistics to manage inventory and distribution. Mr. Bills declined to identify the customer other than to say it is a firm that supplies parts to the auto industry.

In all, the Findlay firm has 2 million square feet of warehouse space. That includes three warehouses operating here as Tall Timbers Distribution Center and facilities in Willard, Ohio, Gas City, Ind., and State College, Pa.

Each warehouse, except the one in Findlay, serves a single customer whose products include food and beverage containers, auto parts, forklift components, and steel.

Mike Schneg, an official at a plastics firm that uses the Findlay company, said Ohio Logistics prices are comparable to competitors' but it offers better service.

“They are able to do more than just store freight,” said Mr. Schneg, logistics manager at a factory in Ottawa, Ohio, operated by Silgon Plastics, Inc., of Chesterfield, Mo. Ohio Logistics can reorganize shipments, locate more truck trailers in a pinch, and is slightly more flexible in scheduling, he said.

Ohio Logistics' fleet includes 10 truck tractors and 60 trailers. Another business unit offers document storage and destruction services.

Mr. Bills, 45, is managing partner of a local investment group that owns the company. He previously managed a string of warehouses in Lima that supplied auto parts stores.

He came to Findlay when he heard that a group of investors was making plans to open a distribution center to serve companies located in Findlay's foreign trade zone - a federal designation that provides import tax advantages - in the Tall Timbers Center. Backers initially expected Findlay-based Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. and Whirlpool Corp., which makes appliances here, to be major customers. That didn't materialize.

“We opened the doors with no customers,” Mr. Bills recalled. Instead, the firm began to sign up auto industry suppliers.

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