Saying goodbye to 2010

Here's a look at the trends that caught our attention in 2010

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Sure, 2010 was a tough year for business. But at Modern, I was fortunate to cover a number of great materials handling stories. Here’s a look at my favorite stories from the last year, and the trends they represented.

The robots are coming: The rise of robotic materials handling was our Big Picture for August. While robots in the DC is still an emerging trend, I believe that the cost of robotic technology is increasingly in line with the cost of labor in the distribution center, especially in high volume mixed case palletizing.

Office Depot: Flexible automation: Office Depot new Pennsylvania distribution center, featuring Kiva’s mobile picking solution, was our cover story in August. On the one hand, it complemented our Big Picture on robots. What was most interesting, however, is how Office Depot employed automation, including the Kiva solution, to further a broader supply chain strategy to streamline store replenishment. The office supply retailer is connecting is supply chain operations with its larger business goals.

Del Monte: Best in class: One of the trends I’ve been following this year is the growth of automated materials handling. In fact, the state of automation was the topic of our Big Picture for December. With nearly 40 automatic guided vehicles, Del Monte’s new distribution center in Topeka, Kansas, is a perfect example of an industry leader putting automation to work in a distribution setting.

Crate & Barrel: The sustainable distribution trendsetter: Few topics remain as controversial as sustainability, or going green. To a large degree, I think that’s because the topic has become so politicized outside of business. That said, survey after survey shows that sustainability is top of mind for C-level executives and boards. It’s only a matter of time before it impacts all of us in the supply chain. Crate & Barrel is a shining example of a company that put it’s money where it’s mouth is when it comes to going green in the warehouse.

DSC Logistics uses labor management to get the job done: Despite a recession, labor management remained one of the bright spots in the supply chain execution software world. Why? Done right, labor management delivers a real ROI and delivers it in a short period of time. DSC Logistics, the Chicago-based 3PL, has a done a fantastic job of rolling out RedPrairie’s LMS across its network of distribution centers.

RFID Update: Seven years after the Wal-Mart mandate, RFID in the supply chain is coming into its own in exciting ways.

What am I going to be watching in 2011? I want to learn more about how, if at all, the new focus on mobility is impacting the supply chain. In August, we launched a pallet and packaging newsletter that has become widely read; while few of us give any thought to pallets, I’m going to be interested in how new regulations related to treating pallets going back and forth to Canada will impact users; how issues related to mold will continue to play out; and whether any other retailers follow Costco’s lead with a new pallet spec. I’ll also continue to watch the market for automated materials handling in 2011.

For now, Happy New Year to all of Modern’s readers and play safe during the holiday. 

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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