Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!


60 seconds with George Prest, Material Handling Industry

The Material Handling Industry's chief executive officer talks about ProMat and the future of materials handling.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
January 01, 2013

George Prest, Material Handling Industry
Title: Chief executive officer
Location: Charlotte, N.C.
Experience: 35 years in the materials handling business
Primary focus: To tranistion the association for the next generation

Modern: This month, ProMat 2013 will get underway in Chicago. As both a long-time attendee and now the CEO of MHI, how is the show evolving?
Prest:
I exhibited at the first ProMat back in 1985, and I was at every show after that until I sold the company in 2007. It has evolved as our industry has evolved. In 1985, material handling was looked at as a necessary evil and not as something that adds value. Today, many companies recognize that the supply chain is important to their profitability. That is dramatic. Our new tag line is that we’re the industry that makes the supply chain work. I really believe that. I also believe that our country’s economic future hinges on our supply chain. Without that, we don’t have a competitive manufacturing sector, and without manufacturing we don’t have a strong economy. Material handling is part of that future.

Modern: There has long been an international component to ProMat. We know that Western Europe and developed Asia have long embraced materials handling automation. As you visit or talk to professionals in emerging markets, how are they approaching automation?
Prest:
Here are a couple of fun facts. At ProMat, there will exhibitors from 23 countries and attendees from 125 countries. Many of MHI’s members are international and many of our North American members are looking at opportunities in Asia, India, South America and Eastern Europe. If you’re talking about the adoption of material handling automation, I’ve seen big changes. I went to China for the first time in 1995. I saw some highly automated plants, especially those that had been built by foreign manufacturers. Automotive assembly plants are an example of that. At the same time, the plants built by Chinese manufacturers were very labor intensive. Fast forward 17 years, and that’s changing. On my last trip, I saw a lot of automation. I think part of that is rising expectations in China. Issues around wages are cropping up and that’s driving the need for automation. For the first time in all of the years I’ve been visiting, there was talk about addressing industrial pollution. As an aside, I think the changes going on in China will mean that we’re going to be more competitive in the Americas. I see that as a huge growth opportunity in our industry.

Modern: The best companies are looking at their supply chains as an integrated process from sourcing raw materials through delivery of the finished good. Retailers are challenged with integrating store replenishment with e-fulfillment. How do you think these broader initiatives are impacting what happens inside the four walls? 
Prest:
What we’re seeing is that the roles of our customers and members have expanded beyond the four walls. They are looking at the entire supply chain. The leading companies we deal with don’t see supply chain as a cost center any longer. They see it as a way to speed their products to market and add value to their businesses. We believe that automation, along with robotics and automatic identification technologies, is making that possible. That is a shift from when I started in the business. Back then, land was readily available for big DCs, labor was plentiful and affordable and the automation wasn’t reliable. Today, that dynamic has shifted.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

Supply chain visibility is the Holy Grail for warehouses and distribution centers where the fast and efficient movement of goods is the solution to satisfying customer demand. This is especially true for the 68% of companies which are not satisfied with material movement efficiency from source to destination. These companies are seeking new ways to get the right goods to the right place at the right time. They are finding that change, complexity, compliance, competition, and connectivity are leading to further confusion.

Instead of ignoring a forklift fleet and its associated costs, asking the right questions can lead to substantial savings.

This white paper outlines five ways to increase profits with automation. By implementing automated storage and retrieval equipment-such as horizontal carousels, vertical carousels and vertical lift modules, multiple areas of a manufacturing or distribution facility will benefit from savings in inventory accessibility, floor space, time, improved ergonomics and better accuracy.

Citing difficult winter weather, executives anticipate the release of pent-up demand.

First edition takes place in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 9-12, 2014.

Article Topics

Features · 60 Seconds · ProMat 2013 · MHI · Retail · MHIA · January 2013 · All topics


© Copyright 2013 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA