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Our History

What started as one location with three associates selling one product category (bearings) is now 570+ locations and 6,200+ employee associates offering more than 8.8 million SKUs. Today, we are the leading technical distributor and solutions provider across critical industrial infrastructure.

The Company was founded in 1923 as The Ohio Ball Bearing Company in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1953, we changed our name to Bearings, Inc., followed by Applied Industrial Technologies in 1997 to more accurately reflect our diversified product lines. From the 1950s through the early 1990s, Applied® targeted U.S. expansion with small and mid-size acquisitions. In the mid-1990s, we increased the overall pace of acquisitions, expanding our fluid power operations in particular.

Since 2000, Applied has also grown internationally with locations in Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. In addition to extending our global reach, we have expanded our capabilities and enhanced our value-add. In 2013, we formed Applied Maintenance Supplies & Solutions® making us a leading national distributor of C-Class maintenance, repair, operating and production (MROP) supplies.

The year 2018 brought expansion into specialty process flow control products and solutions, followed by automation technologies in 2019. We are now a leading distributor and solutions provider across advanced machine vision, and collaborative and mobile robotic technologies.

At 100+ years, our differentiated industry position is apparent – from our legacy service center network to our leading engineered fluid power and flow control solutions, and a scaling presence across advanced automation solutions, we are a critical partner for our customers’ most valuable assets and supply chain investments.

Historical Image - 1920s


• Founded as the Ohio Ball Bearing Company in Cleveland, Ohio – 1923

• Company shifted focus from auto and truck products to the broader market of bearings for industrial products – 1924

• Established branches in Youngstown, Ohio, followed by branches in Cincinnati, Akron and Columbus, Ohio – 1927



Historical Image - 1930s and 40s

1930s & 1940s

• First out-of-state branch established in Indianapolis, IN – 1937

• Company operations totaled six stores and 50 employees – 1940

• First branch in the South (Knoxville, TN) opened, known as Tennessee Bearing – 1947

Historical Image - 1950s


• Merged with Pennsylvania Bearings, Indiana Bearings and West Virginia Bearings and became known as Bearings Specialists, Inc. – 1952

• Changed Company name to Bearings, Inc. after a merger with a company of the same name; Began trading on American Stock Exchange – 1953

• Company operations totaled 28 branches – 1956

• Acquired Dixie Bearings, Inc., which became the first subsidiary of Bearings, Inc.  – 1957

• Company promoted as authorized distributor for manufacturers of 31 bearings and 25 bearing specialties – 1958



Historical Image - 1960s


• Ten new branches added; Company operations totaled 54 locations – 1960

• A new subsidiary, Bruening Bearings, Inc. was established; Company’s stock appeared on the NYSE as BER – 1965

• Completed new building for the repair of high-speed spindles and live centers – 1967

• Acquired Bearing Sales & Service to expand distribution throughout the Pacific Northwest and increase servicing locations to 109 – 1968

• Formed advisory board to guide the Company’s further entry into the power transmission field – 1969

Historical Image - 1970s


• Expansion activities brought total location count to 113 in 24 states – 1970

• Opened first distribution center in Cleveland; Sales exceeded $100 million for the first time – 1972

• Celebrated 50th anniversary – 1973

• Opened nine new sales / service centers bringing total to 131 in 25 states – 1974

• Developed minicomputer inventory control system to automate manual functions of a stocking center – 1977




Historical Image - 1980s


• Acquisitions of Advanced Bearing and Cottingham Bearing led to increase of service center location footprint by 20% – 1982

• Established OMNEX, a fully operational online information and processing tool that linked all locations – 1982

• Bearing maintenance seminars put on by Walt Sinclair reached over 100,000 people, live or via color-videocassette presentation – 1983

• Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) was introduced to deliver transaction processing efficiency – 1985

• Each location was outfitted with a facsimile machine, seen as the most efficient method for order entry – 1988

Historical Image - 1990s


• Acquired King Bearing, Inc., adding 94 service centers, three distribution centers and five specialty shops – 1990

• Recorded more than $1 billion in sales for the first time – 1995

• Expansion of fluid power business included acquisitions of Dees Fluid Power Corporation, Flood Industries, and PTE Division of Hines Motor Supply, Inc. (1995), followed by Engineered Sales, Inc. – 1996

• Bearings, Inc. officially became Applied Industrial Technologies; listed on the NYSE as APZ – 1997

• Gained the prestigious distinction of being ISO certified – 1997

• Expansion into Puerto Rico – 1998



Historical Image - 2000s


• Applied® ticker on the NYSE became AIT – 2000

• Expansion outside the U.S. continued with locations added in Canada (2000) and Mexico – 2001

• Applied® named one of the “Best Big Companies in America” by Forbes; a member of the InformationWeek 500 as a user of innovative technology; and one of the top four business-to-business sales forces by HR Chally Group – 2006

• Recorded more than $2 billion in sales for the first time – 2007

• Expansion continued with the acquisition of seven fluid power distribution businesses (2008) and additional product lines – 2009

Historical Image - 2010s


• Applied Maintenance Supplies & Solutions® (Applied MSS℠) platform began – 2010

• International expansion led to locations in Australia and New Zealand – 2012

• Expansion of oil and gas footprint with the acquisition of 4 oil and gas businesses – 2013-2014

• Acquired FCX Performance, Inc. to become the leading flow control solutions provider – 2018

• Acquired Olympus Controls Corp., expanding our capabilities to include automation technologies – 2019



Historical Image - 2020s


• Acquired four additional automation businesses, further enhancing our growing automation offering focused on next generation technologies – 2020-2022

• Continued to advance our ESG efforts, as documented in our 2022 Sustainability Report – 2022

Applied celebrates 100 years of leadership in distribution – 2023

A Legacy of Strength in Distribution

At Applied®, we are proud of our rich heritage built on a strong foundation of quality brands, comprehensive solutions, dedicated customer service, sound ethics and a commitment to our Core Values. We also recognize the key companies that have made Applied® the distribution leader we are today:

    Bearings, Inc.®     •      Dixie Bearings Inc.®     •     King Bearing, Inc.®     •     Mainline®     •     Invetech®