ProMat to offer more than 80 free seminars

Fill your brain and rest your feet at one of the educational sessions to be held at ProMat 2011.

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Think you know everything there is to know about materials handling? Not so, according to the folks conducting the 80 free educational sessions located in the ProMat 2011 Knowledge Center in the back right corner of the show floor. The sessions run from 10:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, and on Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

“The On-Floor Seminars are presented by industry experts in material handling and logistics solutions,” says Terri Heisey, manager of conference progr a.m.s for the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA). “It’s a great opportunity for attendees to be educated on the latest technologies from exhibitors, industry groups and research institutions.”

Topics range from best practices reviews to maintenance to metrics. Detailed abstracts of each session, with key takeaways for attendees, are included in both the show progr a.m. and in a special seminar directory booklet. Only a few of the sessions run twice. Each theater holds 120 participants, and it’s first-come/first-served with no standing room allowed, adds Heisey.

Research findings presented
New to the sessions this year are presentations based on the Worker-Centric Warehouse research projects conducted by te a.m.s at Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Auburn universities. These institutions were recipients of research grants funded by MHIA and its College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) in 2008 and 2009.

Steve Lavender and Carolyn Sommerich received the first-ever research grant funded by MHIA and CICMHE—$50,000—in 2008. With the funding, they created the Distribution Ergonomics Research Center and worked with companies in apparel, grocery and general merchandise distribution centers to develop and evaluate ergonomic methods, tools and processes that enable workers to complete tasks more safely and efficiently.

In a session on Wednesday, from 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. in Theater C, Lavender and Sommerich will share details about their process and findings in their presentation, “Te Management and Employees to Identify and Address Ergonomics Issues That Matter in Distribution Centers.”

“The focus is looking at what can be done from an ergonomics standpoint to reduce some of the physical demands experienced by people working in distribution centers,” says Lavender. “We principally focused on back and shoulder injuries, because those are the most common musculoskeletal disorders in a warehouse environment, due to the repetitive nature of the work.”

Session attendees will walk away understanding how they might go through a similar process in their facility and develop their own solutions, says Lavender. “We’ll talk about the solutions we identified, how we arrived at those conclusions, and how we validated those solutions with different groups of end users.”

In the next phase of the research, Lavender hopes to do quantitative lab testing of some specific technologies to validate the anticipated biomechanical effect the equip.m.ent is expected to have.

Also on Wednesday in Theater B, from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m., Bryan Edwards from the Oklahoma State University Spears School of Business and Kristin Cullen, a graduate student from Auburn University, will share the results of their research in a presentation entitled “The Worker-Centric Warehouse: Achieving Worker Productivity and Acceptance of Change.”

As recipients of a $53,000 grant from MHIA and CICMHE in 2009, a joint te a.m. from the industrial/organizational psychology and engineering departments of Oklahoma State and Auburn spent a year conducting research surveys of and focus groups with employers and workers to establish a baseline of attitudes and perceptions.

The project sought to determine the factors that influence attitudes, performance, turnover and technology acceptance. Edwards and his colleagues also evaluated the types of changes that would have the greatest impact on worker satisfaction and productivity.

“We’re focusing on different aspects of distribution and trying to discover ways that we can make the workplace better, make employees happier, and how to help employees embrace new technologies and maximize its capabilities to reduce turnover and enhance proficiency and production,” says Edwards. “Beyond that we tried to weigh the cost versus the benefit of investing in some of these solutions.”

Session attendees will walk away with specific, actionable suggestions for how to maximize employee well-being and maintain productivity while improving acceptance of new technology, he adds. Going forward with the research, Edwards hopes to partner with more facilities as they implement similar ideas and measure the companies’ efforts.

Industry groups share technology insights
Additionally, “there was tremendous interest from several key industry groups in presenting technology insights this year,” says Heisey. “I anticipate a lot of interest and high attendance levels in those sessions.”

Industry group sessions are as follows:

Monday, March 21
117 Picking technologies driving improvements in order fulfillment Order Fulfillment Solutions (OFS) 11:15 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Theater D
124 Rack storage - the importance of standards and R-Mark certification Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. Theater E
109 Methods to increase efficiency, productivity and safety: The answer could be over your head! Overhead Alliance 2:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Theater B

Tuesday, March 22
203 Storage equipment-selection, application & use considerations Storage Equipment Manufacturers Association (SMA) 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Theater A
223 Conveyor & sortation systems: New applications of a proven technology Conveyor & Sortation Systems (CSS) 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Theater E
218 Warehouse in the cloud: Is a SaaS-based WMS right for you? Supply Chain Execution Systems & Technologies Group (SCE) 12:45 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Theater D
209 Methods to increase efficiency, productivity and safety: The answer could be over your head! Overhead Alliance 2:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Theater B

Wednesday, March 23
333 Pallet racks and decking - new or used - considerations for selecting, installing, maintaining and operating Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Theater G
304 It’s time to automate – how much is right for you? Integrated Systems & Controls Council (ISC) 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. Theater A
324 The five core elements of a world class WMS project Association of Professional Material Handling Consultants (APMHC) 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. Theater E
338 Casters: Do they matter? Making the right selection. Institute of Caster and Wheel Manufacturers (ICWM) 12:45 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Theater H
340 Towards safe human-robot collaboration National Institute of Standards and Technology 2:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

If you miss a session—or can’t decide between two being held at the same time—you can still view and hear its content later. All of the PowerPoint Presentations be captured in PDF format and synchronized in a Flash file with audio recordings of each session. These files will be posted to after the conclusion of ProMat.

ProMat 2011 will be held March 21 - 24, 2011 at McCormick Place South in Chicago. The tradeshow will showcase the latest manufacturing, distribution and supply chain solutions in the material handling and logistics industry.

Read all of Modern’s ProMat 2011 coverage

About the Author

Sara Pearson Specter
Sara Pearson Specter has written articles and supplements for Modern Materials Handling and Material Handling Product News as an Editor at Large since 2001. Specter has worked in the fields of graphic design, advertising, marketing, and public relations for nearly 20 years, with a special emphasis on helping business-to-business industrial and manufacturing companies. She owns her own marketing communications firm, Sara Specter, Marketing Mercenary LLC. Clients include companies in a diverse range of fields, including materials handing equipment, systems and packaging, professional and financial services, regional economic development and higher education. Specter graduated from Centre College in Danville, Ky. with a bachelor’s degree in French and history. She lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where she and her husband are in the process of establishing a vineyard and winery.

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