John F. Maybury grew up working on minibikes and motorcycles, mechanical skills that came in handy when he started Maybury Material Handling in 1976. But finding employees with mechanical or electrical experience for his business is proving more difficult, a challenge amplified during the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re always hiring. We’re continuously advertising. Our demand is growing,” Maybury said in a recent interview.
He even has a sign in front of the business in East Longmeadow, advertising for employees. Currently, he has 93, but he can use more. They are recruiting for office staff, fabricators and installers, along with service technicians who can work independently in the field.
Approximately 20 or so years ago, schools began to focus more on college preparatory courses and less on hands-on offerings, which has contributed to the lack of skilled workers, though he has seen a resurgence as of late in technical courses being made available, Maybury says.
There is a need to promote the diverse job opportunities for those not on the college track, and trade schools are helping with that message, he believes.
In a year that was filled with uncertainty due to the pandemic, Maybury says his sales held steady, and he is projecting growth this year of 6% to 8% at the privately-held company.
Some customers halted big capital expenses mid-year during 2020, but orders are starting to come back, according to Maybury.
His business was deemed essential. The company designs, supplies and services a variety of material handling equipment, helping its customers move, lift and store their parts and products. They specialize in shelving and machines to stock supply rooms and to make it easier to get products off shelves. They are a distributor for approximately 1,300 manufacturers.
Educating people as to what exactly Maybury Material Handling does can be challenging, he says. They are the link that helps move that ketchup bottle from the warehouse to the store and to your kitchen, he explains.
“A lot of the things we do are not normal supper conversation or cocktail party conversation,” Maybury says.
Customers include Springfield-based Big Y Foods Inc. and Costco, along with several Stop & Shop stores and Home Depots, as well as J. Polep Distribution Services in Chicopee. Maybury Material Handling also works with about a half dozen Amazon distribution services and also provided seasonal lift trucks to Macy’s.
The company has constantly adapted since he started it, according to Maybury.
“We’ve definitely evolved based on the way manufacturing and distribution has evolved,” he explains.
Shelving, benches and cabinets gave way to conveyor systems and more sophisticated forklift trucks. Today, the firm supplies electric or battery-powered forklifts, and some are even autonomous. The forklifts are purchased from other manufacturers, and Maybury services them.
The company maintains more than 7,000 lift trucks. To ease customers’ fears about COVID-19, the company is rapid testing employees who visit facilities to perform maintenance work, Maybury says.
The trend toward online sales has increased during the pandemic, and buyers and companies want to streamline their process.
“Our customers ask us how to package better and move it faster,” he says. “We teach them some of the basics for storage and conveying systems.”
They manufacture carts, steel mezzanines and other steel structures in its 42,000-square-foot facility. Maybury also has another satellite location in East Longmeadow for equipment storage, as well as a site in Wallingford, Connecticut, and an office in New Jersey.
The company’s primary areas are Western Massachusetts and Connecticut, but it also serves businesses in northern New Jersey and Long Island, New York.
Maybury Material Handling is a family business. John Maybury’s father, Thomas, and mother, Joyce, worked for the company before they retired. Now his wife, Sandra L. Maybury, is the office manager and son, William R. Maybury, is the controller.
The majority of his employees are working remotely. The sales force has been remote since April, he said.
The company began offering pandemic-related items as a way to provide even more products to its customers, such as disinfectant sprayers, isolation rooms, outdoor stand-alone structures for COVID testing, polycarbonate panels, partitions, tents and screening booths. Maybury says the company has always sold modular rooms and modular offices, and cleaning solutions also have been part of the company’s catalog.
The new COVID-related offerings are part of Maybury’s goal to “try to be the one-source supplier to all our customers,” but they are not a main part of the business.
Maybury enjoys the challenges his company brings.
“I like figuring out how to solve a problem and helping someone with a problem or issue,” he says.
Maybury also is active in the community. He is the immediate past chair of Baystate Health’s board of trustees, and also is involved in the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council.