This month in Modern: Materials handling evolution

This month in Modern we find two eye-opening stories that paint a clear picture of how materials handling systems and the people who manage them are evolving to meet the needs of today’s more dynamic business environment.

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This month in Modern we find two eye-opening stories that paint a clear picture of how materials handling systems and the people who manage them are evolving to meet the needs of today’s more dynamic business environment.

First, executive editor Bob Trebilcock takes us inside the operations of Eagle Rock Distributing Co.’s 100,000-square-foot facility in Stone Mountain, Ga. Like many other distributors in the beverage industry, Eagle Rock had, for years, relied on floor storage, lift trucks and other manual systems to run its operations.

But with the launch and success of a recent growth initiative, including the acquisition of two distributors outside its traditional sales territory, Eagle Rock found that it was facing a game-changing challenge. With the integration of the distributors, it was now carrying an additional 185 SKUs of beer along with 425 SKUs of wine and 30 SKUs of distilled spirits. And to top it off, the supply chain team decided to close one warehouse to consolidate operations in two facilities instead of three.

“So, think of this,” says Treblicock. “Eagle Rock went from three to two facilities, but more importantly, they had to bring in a whole bunch of new SKUs and about 2,200 additional pallets.” Practically overnight, the company’s order profile and geography had changed—not to mention the new space problem due to the additional SKUs and volume.

Trebilcock walks us through how Fred Millard, vice president of operations, and his team quickly went to work with its system integrator to introduce automation into what had been a fairly traditional system. “I think the beverage industry is now realizing that with the right amount of volume, there are areas where materials handling automation can make a real improvement in the business,” says Trebilcock.

And while we see automation taking hold in new territory, we’re also beginning to see the evolution of the more satisfied materials handling professional. Starting on page 32, associate editor Josh Bond does a terrific job of putting context around all the findings of Modern’s 5th Annual Salary Survey.

One key finding that rises to the top this year is that average base salary jumped up to $89,760—by far the highest in the five years of this survey. However, Bond says that what impressed him the most was the “job satisfaction” findings. Of this year’s 940 respondents, 98% say they’re “satisfied,” with 55% saying that they’re “very satisfied.”

“Those numbers remain high, and compensation alone can’t account for the level of job satisfaction we’ve seen,” says Bond. “It may have to do with the fact that, following the economic downturn, respondents have told us that individual performance is being prized more than ever and companies are rewarding those who have helped the most in difficult times.”


About the Author

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 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]

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