Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Applied Industrial Technologies Inc (AIT) Q2 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

By Motley Fool Transcribers - Jan 28, 2021 at 1:31PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

AIT earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2020.

Logo of jester cap with thought bubble.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

Applied Industrial Technologies Inc (AIT -2.31%)
Q2 2021 Earnings Call
Jan 28, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Welcome to the Fiscal 2021 Second Quarter Earnings Call for Applied Industrial Technologies. My name is Mariama, and I'll be your operator for today's call. [Operator Instructions]

I will now turn the call over to Ryan Cieslak, Director of Investor Relations and Treasury. Ryan, you may begin.

Ryan D. Cieslak -- Director of Investor Relations and Treasury

Thanks, Mariama, and good morning to everyone on the call. This morning, we issued our earnings release and supplemental investor deck detailing our second quarter results. Both of these documents are available in the Investor Relations' section of

Before we begin, just a reminder, we'll discuss our business outlook and make forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, subject to certain risks, including the potential impact from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as trends and sectors and geographies, the success of our business strategy and other risk factors. Actual results may differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements. The company undertakes no obligation to update publicly or revise any forward-looking statement.

In addition, the conference call will use non-GAAP financial measures, which are subject to the qualifications referenced in those documents.

Our speakers today include Neil Schrimsher, Applied's President and Chief Executive Officer; and Dave Wells, our Chief Financial Officer.

With that, I'll turn it over to Neil.

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Ryan, and good morning, everyone. We appreciate you joining us and hope your new year is starting well. I'll begin today with some perspective on our second quarter results, current industry conditions and our position going forward. Dave will follow with a summary of our financials and some specifics on our second quarter and outlook, and then I'll close with some final thoughts. We're pleased to report a solid and productive quarter for Applied, along with positive momentum building as we enter the second half of our fiscal year.

Our team executed extremely well during the second quarter and we saw a sustained sequential improvement in customer demand following the initial recovery highlighted last quarter. We are leveraging our industry position and generating incremental traction from our strategic growth initiatives. These include addressing customer's early cycle, technical MRO needs, as well as playing a vital role in supporting efficiency and performance initiatives across their critical industrial infrastructure. We believe these customer initiatives will be increasingly relevant giving a greater focus on operational risk management and supply chain considerations.

We are capturing these initial tailwinds while remaining disciplined with controlling cost as sales continue to recover. Cost accountability and execution have always been key to our culture and remain integral to our operational focus going forward. This is supplemented by operating efficiencies gained from optimizing processes, systems and talent across the organization in recent years.

While additional expense restoration will occur in the second half of our fiscal year, we expect these counter elements to provide further balance to our cost trajectory near-term and support our long-term EBITDA margin expansion potential as the demand recovery continues to unfold and we leverage our operational network.

I'm also encouraged by the strong cash generation we continue to see across the business. Year-to-date, free cash is up over 60% from prior-year levels and over 200% of adjusted net income. While influenced by the counter-cyclical nature of our model, cash flow is ahead of our expectations and up meaningfully from prior-year levels. This highlights the progress we continue to make with regard to expanding our market position while optimizing our margin profile and working capital management.

Our first-half cash generation and balance sheet flexibility leave us well-positioned entering the second half of our fiscal year. As it relates to the broader demand environment, underlying trends remain below prior-year levels during our fiscal second quarter, but continue to improve sequentially despite the recent rise in COVID rates. We saw greater break-fix and maintenance-related demand across our service center network on rising production activity, greater spending authorizations and enhanced sales momentum across strategic accounts.

Customers are remaining productive in the current environment as established safety protocols are proving effective and providing support. Demand across our Fluid Power and Flow Control segment was also encouraging, with order activity and backlog momentum building. This partially reflects firm demand from our leading service and engineered solutions capabilities as secular growth tailwinds continue across various industries.

Combined, the year-over-year organic sales decline of 10.5% in the quarter, improved from 13.5% decline last quarter. Year-over-year trends improved each month, while sequential trends in daily sales rates were seasonally strong. Areas such as food and beverage, aggregates, technology, lumber and wood, chemicals, and pulp and paper continue to show positive momentum. And while year-over-year weakness remains greatest across heavy industries such as machinery, metals and oil and gas, demand within these verticals continues to gradually improve and related indicators suggest further recovery could emerge in the coming quarters.

The positive sales momentum has continued into the early part of fiscal third quarter with organic sales through the first 17 days of January down a mid-single digit percent over the prior year.

It's important to note that visibility remains limited and uncertainty persists as customers continue to manage through a challenging macro and pandemic outlook near-term. Like many, we are hopeful the business environment continues to recover as vaccines are deployed further in coming months, but we remain cognizant of the potential impact from research and COVID cases, timing of mass vaccine distribution and possible fiscal policy changes from the new administration.

As we have shown in recent quarters, we know how to manage and execute in this uncertain business environment. In addition, I firmly believe our value proposition and company specific growth potential is the greatest in Applied's history. There is evidence of this emerging across the organization. For example, we're playing a key part in the recent vaccine rollout and related COVID-19 response. Our flow control offering and support team are providing critical products and solutions for vaccine production. This includes hygienic diaphragm valves, water for injection pumps, and cleaning place flows systems used to clean and regulate material flow and temperature as the vaccine is manufactured. We're proud and grateful to be participating in this historic moment which highlights our expanding position and capabilities across essential industries.

We're also seeing positive momentum across our fluid power operations as more customers integrate new technologies into their equipment and critical assets in order to optimize productivity, safety and energy costs, while reducing broader business and supply chain risk.

In addition, demand tailwinds tied to 5G infrastructure, cloud computing and other growing technologies are driving demand for pneumatic and electronic automation systems. Our leading fluid power service and engineered solutions capabilities provide us a strong position to capture these growth opportunities, as reflected in our growing backlog in recent months.

Our technical position and long-term opportunity is further supplemented by the progress we are making in expanding our next-generation automation solutions following three acquisitions in the past 16 months. This includes our recent acquisition of Gibson Engineering in late December. Our growing automation footprint and offering focused on robotics, machine vision, motion control and digital technologies is being recognized across our industries and presents a significant growth opportunity longer-term, as we address customers' operational technology, needs in an improving industrial sector. We welcome Gibson to Applied and look forward to leveraging their innovative technology and capabilities.

Overall, from critical break-fix MRO applications to emerging technologies and specialized engineering services, our value proposition is evident, and we continue to see greater demand as industrial production ramps. These are positive developments and we are benefiting as customers themselves benefit from the value we bring to these opportunities.

At this time, I'll turn the call over to Dave for additional detail on our financial results and outlook.

David K. Wells -- Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Thanks, Neil. Just another reminder before I begin, regarding the availability of the quarterly supplemental investor deck, recapping key performance and discussion points, which has been posted to our investors' site for your additional reference. In addition, I want to highlight several non-routine items that impacted our second quarter results as discussed in our press release, in which I will exclude when speaking to our operational results on an adjusted basis.

Unusual items in the quarter include a $49.5 million pre-tax non-cash impairment charge on certain fixed, leased and intangible assets, as well as non-routine costs of $7.8 million pre-tax related to an inventory reserve charge, facility consolidations and severance. These charges are the result of weaker economic conditions and resulting business alignment initiatives across a portion of our Service Center segment locations exposed to oil and gas end markets. We remain focused on appropriately aligning cost and resources with current demand levels across our organization, following a pandemic-driven downturn over the past year. These business alignment actions are consistent with our internal initiatives and strategic focus going forward and will drive additional cost savings in the back half of our fiscal year.

Now turning to our results, absent these in our non-routine charges during our second quarter, consolidated sales decrease 9.9% over the prior year quarter. Acquisitions contributed a half point of growth and foreign currency was favorable by 0.1%.

Netting these factors, sales decreased 10.5% on an organic basis with a light number of selling days year-over-year. While still down as compared to the prior year quarter, sales exceeded our expectations with average daily sales rates at nearly 3% sequentially on an organic basis and above the normal seasonal trends for the second straight quarter.

Following a slow start to the quarter in early October, sales activities strengthened sequentially and remained firm late in the quarter, despite typical seasonal slowness and rising COVID cases across the U.S. Comparative sales performance was relatively consistent across both segments as highlighted on slide 6 and 7.

Sales in our Service Center segment declined 10.4% year-over-year or 10.5% on an organic basis when excluding the modest impact from foreign currency. The year-over-year organic decline of 10.5% improved notably relative to the mid-teens to low 20% declines we saw of the prior two quarters, while the segment's average daily sales rates increased nearly 4% sequentially from our September quarter and over 8% from the June quarter.

The sequential improvement primarily reflects greater customer maintenance activity and break-fix demand across our core U.S. service center network. Positive momentum has been relatively drive-based, though end markets such as food and beverage, aggregates, pulp and paper, lumber and forestry, and rubber our leading to recovery. Heavier industries are also starting to show positive signs while ongoing growth across our Australian operations has provided additional support.

Within our Fluid Power and Flow Control segment, sales decreased 8.5% over the prior year quarter, with our recent acquisition of ACS contributing 1.6 points of growth.

On an organic basis, segment sales declined 10.1%, reflecting lower demand across various industrial, off-highway mobile and process-related end markets. This was partially offset by firm demand within technology, life sciences, transportation and chemical end markets.

In addition, as Niel mentioned, we are seeing encouraging demand for fluid power solutions tied to electronic control integration, equipment optimization and pneumatic automation. This is supporting backlog, which was up both sequentially and year-over-year at the end of the quarter.

Moving to gross margin performance, as highlighted on Page 8 of the deck, adjusted gross margin of 28.9% declined 8 basis points year-over-year, or 19 basis points when excluding non-cash LIFO expense, $0.9 million in the quarter and $1.9 million in the prior year quarter.

On a sequential basis, adjusted gross margins were largely unchanged. Overall, adjusted gross margin trends were in line with our expectations and continue to reflect some volume-driven headwinds year-over-year, as highlighted last quarter, which were partially offset by the ongoing benefit from our internal initiatives.

Turning to our operating costs. On an adjusted basis, selling, distribution and administrative expenses declined 11.2% year-over-year or approximately 12% when excluding incremental operating cost associated with our ACS acquisition. The year-over-year decline reflects the ongoing benefit of cost actions taken in recent quarters to align expenses with volume.

As discussed in prior calls, this includes a mix of both structural and temporary actions. While we have restored a portion of the temporary cost actions, our team continues to demonstrate great discipline in controlling cost. These results highlight the resiliency of the Applied team and our operating model as well as efficiency gains from operational excellence initiatives, leverage of our shared services model and technology investments made in recent years. Year-over-year comparisons also benefited from this amortization expense, following the asset impairment charge we took during the quarter.

For your reference, our second quarter depreciation and the amortization expense of $13.5 million is a good quarterly run rate to assume going forward.

Overall, our strong cost control combined with improving sales trends during the quarter resulted in mid-single digit decremental margins on adjusted operating income or high-single digit decrementals when excluding depreciation and amortization expense.

Going forward, we will remain prudent and disciplined in managing our cost structure as we continue to roll off temporary cost actions to align with our recent performance and a more constructive outlook. Since the start of our fiscal year, we have gradually eliminated the temporary cost actions as the business environment has slowly recovered and expect to discontinue the vast majority of the remaining temporary cost actions during this current fiscal third quarter.

Adjusted EBITDA in the quarter was $68.3 million, down 8.4% compared to the prior year quarter, while adjusted EBITDA margin was 9.1%, up 14 basis points over the prior year or virtually flat when excluding non-cash LIFO expense in both periods.

On a GAAP basis, we reported an operating loss of $0.14 per share, which includes the previously referenced non-cash impairment and non-routine charges. On a non-GAAP adjusted basis, excluding these items, we reported earnings per share of $0.98, which compared to $0.97 in the prior year quarter.

Our adjusted tax-rate during the quarter of 18.6% was below prior year levels of 23%, as well as our guidance of 23% to 25%. The adjusted tax rate during the quarter includes several discrete benefits related to income tax credits and stock option exercises. We believe the tax rate of 23% to 25% for the second half of fiscal 2021 is appropriate assumption near-term.

Moving to our cash flow performance and liquidity. Cash generated from operating activities during the second quarter was $77.5 million, while free cash flow totaled $72.7 million or approximately 190% of adjusted net income. This was up from $55 million and $48 million respectively, as compared to the prior year quarter and represents record second quarter cash generation. Year-to-date, free cash generation of $151 million is up over 60% for prior year levels and represents a 206% factor of adjusted net income.

The strong cash performance year-to-date reflects solid operational execution, significant ongoing contribution from our working capital initiatives and that counter-cyclical cash flow profile of our business model.

Given the strong free cash flow performance in the quarter, we ended December with approximately $289 million of cash on hand. Of note, this is after utilizing cash during the quarter with two acquisitions.

Net leverage stood at 2.1 times adjusted EBITDA at quarter-end, consistent with the prior quarter and below the prior year level of 2.5 times. In addition, our revolver remains undrawn with approximately $250 million of capacity and an additional $250 million accordion option.

Combined with incremental capacity under our uncommitted private shelf facility, our liquidity remains strong. This provides flexibility to fund incremental working capital requirements in coming quarters as customer demand continues to improve as well as to pursue strategic M&A and fund other growth initiatives.

Our M&A focus near-term remains on smaller bolt-on targets that align with our growth priorities, including additional automation and fluid power opportunities. In addition, as noted in our press release, today we announced that our Board of Directors approved an increase in the quarterly cash dividend to $0.33 per common share. This represents the 12th dividend increase since 2010 and under-stores our strong cash generation and commitment to delivering shareholder value.

Transitioning now to our outlook. Based on month-to-date trends in January and assuming normal sequential patterns, we would expect fiscal third quarter 2021 organic sales to decline by 3% to 4% on a year-over-year basis. This includes an assumption of low-single digit organic declines in our Service Center segment and mid-single digit organic declines in our Fluid Power and Flow Control segment.

Again, this direction is meant to provide a starting framework on how third quarter sales could shape up if trends follow normal seasonality going forward. In addition, we expect our recent acquisitions at ACS and Gibson Engineering to contribute approximately $10 million to $11 million in sales during our fiscal third quarter.

We expect gross margins to remain relatively unchanged sequentially into the second half of fiscal 2021. We continue to see some incremental price announcements from suppliers, so the magnitude of the increases are not materially different from what we've seen over the past year. Our history highlight strong management of supplier inflation and price cost dynamics reflecting our industry position, internal initiatives and positive mix opportunities. As it relates to operating costs, based on the 3% to 4% organic sales decline assumption, we would expect selling, distribution and administrative expense of between $170 million and $175 million during our fiscal third quarter.

In addition, if sales follow normal sequential patterns for the balance of the year, we would expect a similar to slightly higher SD&A range in our fiscal fourth quarter. This represents an increase from second quarter levels and partially reflects the ongoing roll off of temporary cost actions.

As indicated, we will continue to take a mindful and balanced approach to managing our operating costs going forward. We were encouraged by our cost and margin execution year-to-date, which is providing a strong position to further discontinue temporary cost actions as we take an offensive approach to an emerging recovery and our strategic growth targets.

Lastly, from a cash flow perspective, we expect free cash to moderate in the second half relative to first half levels. Working capital will likely become a use of cash as their level start to cyclically build, and we begin to replenish inventory in support of our growth opportunities, and the recovery as the year moves forward. We remain confident on our cash generation potential and reiterate our normalized annual free cash target of at least 100% of net income over a cycle.

With that, I will now turn the call back over to Neil, for some final comments.

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Dave. Approximately three quarters ago, during the initial weeks of the pandemic, I stated my belief that Applied has never been in a better position to manage through the current environment and exit the pandemic-driven downturn in an even stronger position. Our performance since then provide strong confirmation of disposition, the tremendous team we have at Applied, and the earnings potential that lies ahead. This includes record cash generation and a 30% reduction in our net debt, our strong cost execution supporting relatively stable EBITDA margins despite the meaningful end market slowdown.

During this time, we also completed two acquisitions, supplementing our long-term growth profile, while advancing other key growth initiatives, including optimizing our cross-selling opportunity and strategic end-market positioning.

We are delivering on our requirements and commitments while moving the organization toward our longer-term next milestone financial objectives of $4.5 billion of revenue and 11% EBITDA margins. We remain cognizant of ongoing end-market uncertainty, but we're eager to demonstrate what we're fully capable of in the years ahead as we continue to leverage our differentiated industry position as the leading technical distributor and solutions provider across critical industrial infrastructure.

Once again, we thank you for your continued support. And with that, we'll open up the lines for your questions.

Questions and Answers:


[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from David Manthey with Baird. Your line is open.

David Manthey -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

Yeah. Hi, good morning, everyone.

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

David Manthey -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

So could you outline the automation outlook for -- as we enter calendar 2021 here with Olympus, AVS [Phonetic] and Gibson. And what I'm wondering is, can you now approach the market differently with the expanded geographic coverage that you have?

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So I believe we can approach the market fully, and so work that would go on now as we look across these businesses, we can share best practices that go on an approach in technology or sales engineers. We can look at support and perhaps development work from an applications engineering standpoint to start across the group. And then as we have opportunities that can exist in some of the geographies, we can leverage some back-office infrastructure that would start. So it's early to be doing that. And so each of the groups will be working with their current customer base, their current pipeline of opportunities, but we are broadening the effort to say where can we connect this automation to current, what would have been legacy service in our customers for additional growth opportunities.

David Manthey -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

Yeah. That's helpful, Neil. And on that last point, that was my second question -- is -- have you begun the process of cross-selling and the legacy Applied salespeople have been trained to at least be knowledgeable in automation and robotics, so they can pull the experts in or how is that going and what -- or if you can just give us a timeline as far as where we are and where we're going in that prospect?

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I would say, while early, we are raising that awareness of our account managers and selling teams of what is available, when they are inside of facilities where to look for the opportunities, how to start the dialog, and then providing support with automation capable individuals to help connect the dots. And so we have projects, we have early results in the pipeline across that customer base and we have growing interest in that capability. And so you can imagine more in the West, started in the Southeast and we're just getting started in that Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, but now with that growing footprint and capability, that can occur with customers that have sites and facilities across the geography.

David Manthey -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

Sounds great, Neil. Thank you.

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Thanks, Dave.


Your next question comes from Adam Uhlman with Cleveland Research. Your line is open.

Adam Uhlman -- Cleveland Research Company -- Analyst

Hey, guys. Good morning. Congrats on the solid quarter.

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer


Adam Uhlman -- Cleveland Research Company -- Analyst

I -- hey, I wanted to start with a question around cash flow. I'm wondering what you're going to do with all this cash you're generating. I guess the inventory working capital, sounds like that's a source here over the next -- a year or so over the next six months. Could you maybe dimension how you're thinking about inventory additions as business levels start to pick up? And then related to that, steel prices have jumped quite a bit. I'm sure the supplier price increases are starting to come through, any opportunity to buy ahead of that? Was that an opportunity here in the December quarter or maybe you could do a little of bit before than to mitigate the impact of higher material costs?

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. I mean we're going to continue to evaluate, and I think we have a very good cross-functional process put into place to evaluate the trade-offs between the investment in inventory tie net working capital and leveraging those pre-buy opportunities. So we'll see that continue into the back half of the year that's due to great result as you look at our cash flow year-to-date, with the working capital efficiency being the key driver of the -- over drive that we have seen.

That said, I think we'll be mindful what we put back on the shelf going to peak the rate of demand and while protecting -- the -- making device to make, to protect our customer base against outages and where it makes despite the advance of potential increases. But historically, we've done a very good job of matching and you've been able to manage that price cost inflation. We see that trend continues to move forward as we continue to leverage the inventory position and systems in place.

So back to the original question, we'll see some build in working capital as resolved this year, volume impact on AR even though we continue to make a nice job -- and do a nice job of reducing our past due position, down another 5 points year-over-year across the business. But then continue to leverage that cash flow, strategic M&A will continue to evaluate other growth opportunities to drive shareholder value.

David K. Wells -- Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

And Adam, I would add. If we look back at our second quarter, I think price was kind of a modest contribution, I think it's very similar in the third quarter. And while the input cost of steel and other commodities start to go up, it is an input for many of our suppliers, they would still be processing them through. We do see increased frequency of price increases coming, many of them may have announced periods to allow an orderly implementation to go on in that.

So I think there will be greater activity there in the announcements before it's coming through in results, I'm not -- for sure it's much of a change in the third quarter. It may be an impact, a little more into the fourth and then obviously as we get into next fiscal year and then today's point, we've got a good track record and history of managing that price cost inflation as it goes forward, but I do think there will be a modest ramping as we think about it through the end of this fiscal year.

Adam Uhlman -- Cleveland Research Company -- Analyst

Got you. Thank you, that's very helpful. And my second question here is really on the oil and gas, it sounds like you did some more restructuring of your footprint there. But I'm wondering if you're seeing any green shoots in that industry at all?

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We talked about in some of the heavy -- heavier industries, perhaps having some of those oil and gas, I mean in it -- I mean, we did the evaluation, as we look and also extend that outlook led us to making the adjustments, service centers that participate more in that oil and gas sector and reducing the number. Obviously and unfortunately, right, that impacts individuals, but it does -- we have opportunity to redeploy some of those resources to other growth initiatives.

So I would say it's quite early to see many green shoots say in oil and gas. We will have a presence, we're still good from a Permian standpoint, from an Anadarko standpoint, should participate in that, but from a percentage of our business, right, it's less than 5% today, and I expect that it stays at that level over a period of time.

Adam Uhlman -- Cleveland Research Company -- Analyst

Okay, thank you.


Your next question comes from Chris Dankert with Longbow Research. Your line is open.

Christopher Dankert -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Hey. Good morning, everyone. I guess just thinking about the opportunity for preventative maintenance and software revenue, any sense for kind of what inning we're in there with customers? I mean, is it still really early days? What's the additional opportunity with some of those preventative maintenance stuff? And ultimately do you think adding some of that software revenue can be margin-accretive for you guys? Just any thoughts there would be great.

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So I would say it is still early. I mean, our approach on Applied, Internet of Things and how we connect, we are working very well with our leading manufacturers and we are targeting specific customers. And I think most customer approaches are focused, they are focused on facility or areas of facility, prove out success, harness the data that is available off of equipment, and use that for predictive maintenance or perhaps for broader remote monitoring across multiple sites, especially, it with less travel, less physical presence that they're having in their own facility. So I think that is early.

We are having success. And as we do, we can replicate that with that customer in the facility and across their landscape. And as we do it within the industries, we can more but, for I think us, we think it is a great opportunity. It is very early innings. We are excited about it. And so we're participating, but we think it's one that ramps over a period of time.

Christopher Dankert -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Got it. That's helpful. I guess just to kind of quick follow-up on that. Is this an offering you guys are kind of leading with or is at the moment, preventative maintenance more of a customer pull thing where they're requesting it?

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

We are leading with the enabling technologies that help in their discrete automation opportunities. So some of it may be predicted preventative maintenance, but in many places, it's using vision products to help with quality inspection or perhaps manage out some physical labor that was previously doing it. The use of collaborative robots helps from a labor density standpoint in this time and provide some ongoing productivity in there.

The data connection ones are now to say, we've had sensor-embedded products for a long period of time and that customers are wanting to connect those and understand that operation in going through. So I think there's many elements into it and it's not just technology and monitoring for preventative maintenance.

Christopher Dankert -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Make sense, make sense. Thanks for that. And then I guess just the last one from me. Talked a lot about automation, but we haven't heard a ton about linear motion, just any comments on how the growth's progressing there? Any additional focus on M&A or we still kind of -- are we kind of shifting the M&A focus more to automation? Just any comment on linear would be great.

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think for us overall in priorities and we're active across -- Dave touched on them -- some in automation rate, which has been the most recent couple in that. We continue to be focused on and busy from a fluid power standpoint and we will look to how we selectively add to our capabilities and footprint, whether that be in flow control or the service center. So for us, linear motion, depending on the size can be across some of those segments in the industry. So I would -- it has the opportunity to contribute as we have going forward, but there is a big focus on fluid power, automation and flow control.

Christopher Dankert -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Understood. Thanks so much.


[Operator Instructions] Your next question comes from Steve Barger with KeyBanc Capital Markets. Your line is open.

Steve Barger -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Good morning, guys.

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Steve Barger -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

I'm just going to stick with the growth initiatives. Now that you have the footprint on the West Coast and the Southeast, the Northeast, are you looking for further geographic coverage in the Midwest or can you do that here? And as you learn more, do you have the ability to organically create a business unit or do you need to do that by acquisition?

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I think we'll continue to look at companies and organizations that would provide additive benefit and capabilities, and so, even while we're in those geographies, perhaps, there is another way to further augment. But as we grow in scale and start to leverage some of the back shared capabilities of the technology, of the application engineers, greater amount of sales engineers, even some of the virtual selling capabilities that exist today, we feel like we can grow in geographies also, leveraging footprint and capability that we have.

So it could be a mix as we go through and so we're going to continue to be active and busy as we evaluate that, but as we grow, we're opening up the ability to build on what we have and then leverage existing Applied resources that are in the service center selling side, but also in fluid power and flow control.

Steve Barger -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

And as you think about the automation robotics, fluid power, flow control, I guess just bringing it back to automation and robotics specifically and maybe IoT implementations, can you tell us what percentage of revenue that is right now and what that growth rate is? Or what do you expect it to be relative to the rest of the business?

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I don't know if I have it top of mind or at hand on percent of revenue. I know we are having success in this environment and so while it's new to us, the things that are coming into the pipeline and as we move these projects along, they are working hard to commission and get implemented what they have in that side. So, probably early to start comparing on the growth sides. As we march through less declines in sales and start to return to growth likely as we think about our fourth quarter and beyond in that, I expect this area to contribute at that rate and greater than that rate to be part of the pulling effort.

Ryan D. Cieslak -- Director of Investor Relations and Treasury

Yeah Steve, this is Ryan.

Steve Barger -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

And -- yeah.

Ryan D. Cieslak -- Director of Investor Relations and Treasury

Just as it relates to the size, do you think about the acquisitions that have been made specifically over the last 16 months to three of them, we talked about the size of Olympus Controls, we initially did it around your $45 million to $50 million of revenue, the last two that we did with ACS and Gibson, about half that size in terms of revenue, so that as you do get to an idea of -- on an annual basis, what those three acquisitions represent today.

The other point though on top of that is, there is a number of offerings and capabilities that we have within our fluid power business and across our service center network where there is certainly automation tied to it. So when you kind of mine that on top of that, that certainly would be incremental as well, but it is still be a -- probably -- certainly a lower percentage of the business today, but with the view that continues to ramp as we continue to build out the network, both organically and through acquisitions.

Steve Barger -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

No, that's great detail. I guess what I was really trying to get at is, if you look at that, call it $90 million to $100 million in revenue, whether it's historically or on a go-forward basis, and I know it's tough to compare over the last year. Is that part of the business, growing faster than the Fluid Power segment itself and how additive is that to the organization? And I guess is that also accretive that $100 million to the Fluid Power segment?

Ryan D. Cieslak -- Director of Investor Relations and Treasury

So I think it can grow at that rate higher and we've talked from an accretive standpoint. Today I'm more at company average. I had -- the potential is to be above that. And so that's our view and what we'll be working toward.

Steve Barger -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. And then that just leads into my last question. Free -- but free cash flow has been outstanding as you noted, you talked about cash conversion moderating in to your return to growth, which is understandable. But just as you think about mix and the growth initiatives, is that creating sustainable changes to the cash flow profile through cycles?

Ryan D. Cieslak -- Director of Investor Relations and Treasury

Well, if you look back, right? We're at higher peaks, as we go through now and we think we have continued to improve and mix up our ability from a cash generation standpoint. And we do things internally with shared services and approach, how we leverage technology, and we think our effective use of inventory and management in that side. So we do expect it to moderate, but we expect to be performing at a higher level than in time, right? We think working capital as a percent of sales can get to the 20%.

Steve Barger -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. Okay, thanks.


At this time, I'm showing we have no further questions. I will now turn the call over to Mr. Schrimsher for any closing remarks.

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I just simply want to thank everyone for joining us today and your ongoing support and we look forward to talking with many of you throughout the quarter. Thank you.


[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 46 minutes

Call participants:

Ryan D. Cieslak -- Director of Investor Relations and Treasury

Neil A. Schrimsher -- President and Chief Executive Officer

David K. Wells -- Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

David Manthey -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

Adam Uhlman -- Cleveland Research Company -- Analyst

Christopher Dankert -- Longbow Research -- Analyst

Steve Barger -- KeyBanc Capital Markets -- Analyst

More AIT analysis

All earnings call transcripts

AlphaStreet Logo

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Applied Industrial Technologies, Inc. Stock Quote
Applied Industrial Technologies, Inc.
$100.58 (-2.31%) $-2.38

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning service.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 05/23/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.