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This month in Modern: Four walls and two windows

Last year, executive editor Bob Trebilcock launched a series of feature articles that we titled “The Big Picture: Where business meets materials handling.” This series has allowed us to break out of the traditional “how-to” and “case study” mold to offer an objective, broad-sweeping look at how materials handling technologies and best practices are affecting overall business strategy.
By Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
December 01, 2011

Last year, executive editor Bob Trebilcock launched a series of feature articles that we titled “The Big Picture: Where business meets materials handling.” This series has allowed us to break out of the traditional “how-to” and “case study” mold to offer an objective, broad-sweeping look at how materials handling technologies and best practices are affecting overall business strategy.

To date, Trebilcock has taken us deeper into how and why robotics are being applied inside the warehouse and DC; he’s re-examined the RFID market and explained how the technology continues to evolve at break-neck speed even though it’s out of the headlines; and he’s produced one of the most comprehensive surveys of the materials handling automation market—a report that several readers told us helped them build a stronger ROI case when pitching a project to management.

These features—nine in total so far—have been some of our best-read editorial on mmh.com, and they also serve as the foundation for our recent virtual conference that’s now available on-demand (supplychainvirtualevents.com). I strongly suggest that you carve out an hour over the next week to attend the five sessions—more than 600 of your colleagues already have.

But what I find most intriguing is that it really forces you to sit back and take a more strategic perspective. They’re designed to take you out of the day-to-day grind, if just for a bit, to help materials handling professionals reassess current operations, or re-think legacy distribution strategies that may be on the verge of extinction.

In his latest Big Picture (page 24), Treblicock takes us outside the four walls to offer us the most comprehensive survey of some of the possible game-changing factors that will be re-shaping supply chain strategy over the coming years—most notably, the expansion of the Panama Canal.

With the help of Panama Canal Authority CEO Alberto Aleman Zubieta, Trebilcock explains what the expansion will mean not only for warehouse/DC site selection but for the design of the materials handling systems inside those facilities. He also examines the possibility of Panama becoming one of the most important distribution hubs in North America post expansion and how that could alter current distribution strategies.

“There’s a new way of thinking about the warehouse and distribution center, and we’re hearing that from vendors, the managers responsible for their operations and experts across the supply chain,” says Trebilcock. “The concept has been called ‘four walls and two windows,’ with the idea being that while materials handling happens inside the four walls, a system needs visibility—the two windows—into what’s happening downstream and upstream to be truly efficient.”

In fact, three of the six supply chain experts that he’s pulled together for this month’s Big Picture will be presenting keynote addresses at Modex 2012 in Atlanta (Feb. 6-9)—an event that’s designed much along the same lines as Treblicock’s Big Picture series.

So, if you feel as if your organization needs to take some time to grasp the bigger picture and open the blinds of those two windows, the resources cited above should be on your required to do list.

About the Author

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Michael Levans
Group Editorial Director

Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 27-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 20 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past 11 years. You can reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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