Automation: MHI debuts U.S. Roadmap

Industry seeks your input and end users offer their vision of the next ten years

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MHI, the organization representing materials handling in North America and the sponsor of ProMat and the upcoming Modex event in Atlanta (, unveiled the first draft of the Material Handling & Logistics U.S. Roadmap at its annual meeting in Orlando last week. 

The first draft is the result of four roundtable events in the spring of 2013 that brought together material handling and logistics practitioners, suppliers, academia, associations, publications and government. At each event, roundtable attendees “contributed thoughts about the capabilities and resources that the material handling and logistics industry needs to develop between now and 2025.”

The report was introduced by Kevin Gue, a professor at Auburn University and the editor of the roadmap. “We are on the cusp of real transformation in retail distribution and manufacturing,” Gue said at the event. “The big changes will only happen if we come together in new ways.”

The challenge to the industry, he added is whether the industry will determine its future or have it forced upon it. “Will we lead or be led?” Gue asked.

The first draft is just that – a draft. It will be open for feedback until around October 15th.

Those of us who attended the event also had the chance to hear from a panel of five industry practitioners who participated in one of the round table events. They represented the American Society of Transportation and Logistics, Boeing, Disney, FedEx SmartPost and Nestle USA. The group covered a variety of topics, from Big Data to visibility. If there was a common theme or two from the discussions it was the need to work together in order to get to the next level of supply chain efficiency – that collaboration thing - and the need for talent.

To the first point, Matt Weinberg, a supply chain analyst with Nestle USA, and Randolph Bradley, a technical fellow in supply chain management for Boeing Defense, Space & Security, discussed ideas such as combining warehouses with other companies to share and minimize costs and standardizing the size of packages that move through the supply chain. “Stats from the Federal government state that the average trailer is 42% and the average trailer with a load is only 56% full,” Bradley said. “There’s a $65 billion opportunity if with can ship full trailers with the right standardized containers and packages.”

To the second point, several panelists pointed out that supply chain management and logistics is gaining recognition within organizations, yet the industry still has an image problem when it comes to recruitment.

“How many of us go to our kids’ career days and tell them what we do?” asked Laurie Hein Denham, president of AST&L. 

“When I go to college fairs, I get asked why FedEx needs mechanical engineers,” added Jonathan Rader, manager, design engineering at FedEx SmartPost. “We just haven’t marketed the industry well.”

Big challenges are ahead of us. But, in response to the question posed by Gue at the beginning of the presentation, it appears as if the material handling and logistics industry is poised to lead and not be led.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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