Accel finds Columbus's affordability, location key to growth
For a company like Accel, Inc., a contract packaging business for a variety of goods produced elsewhere, making the Columbus Region home is a perfect fit.
The area is affordable, it is a great place to raise children, it supports active and winning sports teams and maintains a vibrant arts culture. These and many other amenities act as a magnet for other businesses to locate here, says Tara Abraham, chairman and CEO of Accel.
"Accel's business is focused in the retail personal care, consumer packaged goods and medical industries," she says. "From a business perspective, it has been advantageous to us geographically, with all of the headquartered companies in those industries located here."
And many of those companies not situated here aren't that far away, she says.
"Logistically we are within a one-day drive of 70 percent of the nation's GDP, and we can land the largest cargo plane at Rickenbacker," Abraham says.
The company, started in 1995 with five employees, was designed to provide "world class" contract packaging for the nation's leading corporations by packaging their products "flawlessly, profitably and to maximum consumer satisfaction."
Key to company growth has been innovation, Abraham says.
"From its earliest days to today, Accel focuses on delivering the quality our customers demand on time," she says. "Innovation has allowed us to expand our scope of services with our first customer and provide opportunities for us to land our next customer."
It's worked. During its peak season, Accel now has more than 800 employees. It began in a 1,200-square-foot, multi-tenant building but now operates out of a 500,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.
As with most companies, there have been twists and turns along the way, including the significant lesson knowing how to roll with the punches.
"Well-intentioned commitments, whether by clients, vendors or banks, do not always happen as the uncertain future unfolds," she says. "We constantly try to diversify our client base no matter what a client promises. We always work on improving our operations."
Complacency can also be an enemy.
"We have learned that when things are going well we should be the most worried," Abraham says. "Competitors know you are doing well and you become a target. They are looking to improve on your accomplishments, so you had better do so as well."
The company strives to get involved in clients' manufacturing early in the design process, Abraham says.
"We look for ways to maintain the desired look, while trimming costs out of our assembly time and material requirements," she says. "Our goal is to engineer the lines for maximum output with the result being an increase to our clients' bottom line and getting products on their shelves faster."
Automation could be key to the company's future success. Accel's employees hand assemble products now that end up inside a shipping box, but the company is looking to improve that process.
"We like to believe that we are thinking inside the box, whether figuratively or literally," Abraham says. "We will continue to actively diversify our client base, and we will continue to examine our operations to improve."
TC Brown is a freelance writer.
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