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The Not-So-Secret Origins of Flex-Line Automation

Would you like to know more about the founders of Flex-Line? Well, duh. Of course you would. You’re here aren’t you?

Let me introduce myself, I’m Lauren. I’m proud to be third generation with the company. I have literally grown up with it.

See that picture? Yes. That’s me in the diaper. Miraculously, despite the lack of chain guards in the 80’s the only hair I have ever gotten stuck in a conveyor was my Barbie doll’s. If that isn’t a testament to how forward thinking FlexLink is I don’t know what else could be! Anyway, that’s my grandpa’s barn, and that’s where this all got started.

After getting out of the army my grandpa, Orville, went to work as a salesman for Henry Filters in Ohio. While working there he met a man by the name of Bud Layne, who you may know as the founder of SpanTech. Well, at that time Bud was an engineer for a little company we all know and love – SKF Bearings. They had just come up with a conveyor system that was going to revolutionize the industry and Bud was selling it in the United States. My grandpa and dad thought it was a great opportunity, and with that and their Midwestern work ethic they went to work selling some of the United States’ first FlexLink conveyor systems for Bud.

When Bud decided to leave SKF and found SpanTech he turned all of his FlexLink business over to them, and Flex-Line Automation, Inc. was truly born. My childhood was a blur of conveyors being built in greenhouses, garages, and barns; lifted onto flatbed trailers with tractor front end loaders. My grandparent’s phone was the company line, and anyone with a toddler can tell you how easy it is to keep them away from phones. I’ve been answering phones “good morning Flex-Line” just about since I was first able to speak. Fortunately for my ego, most people that teased me about that mercilessly have retired! And I long ago realized that UPS actually only delivers parts orders here, not baby siblings…which I told the man I would NOT sign for. Perhaps that’s why I’m an only child? Hmm, there might be something to that after all!

I remember in 1991 when we first built the office. My initials are carved into the foundation, and there may or may not be a hand print in an undisclosed location somewhere around here. I was out in the yard spreading straw and seeding grass for what seemed like days in the summer heat. Perhaps the best memory of that though, was watching my mom almost cry the first time we used the loading dock. One of our satellite facilities has eight dock doors, and only after using that and then coming back to one door do I fully appreciate the magic that is a great shipping space! I can’t even imagine hoisting a conveyor up with a tractor.

Once we settled into our space here we have never left. We have several satellite facilities that we use as needed, but we are still based in the grey machine shed in Chester, IL the home of Popeye the Sailor, and low overhead for conveyors. We have had many employees join us on this adventure, and many of them are still with us. Our inventory, customer service, and shipping personnel have been here since 1995. They’re family. We’re family, and many of our customers are too.

So, there you have it. Straight from someone who has literally grown up with Flex-Line. If you are looking for a down to Earth, friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced material handling provider you don’t need to look any farther. We are right here in Chester, IL – centrally located to serve you best.

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