60 Seconds with Steve Harrington, Industry Liaison at the National Center for Supply Chain Automation

Modern's editor sat down with Steve Harrington to discuss the National Center for Supply Chain Automation.

Steve Harrington, National Center for Supply Chain Automation

Title: Industry liaison

Location: Norco College, Norco, Calif.

Experience: 11 years with the center

Modern: What is the NCSCA and why is it important?

Harrington: The center was funded in 2012 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a materials handling automation technician curriculum and map the career pathway. The idea started with an NSF official who toured a highly automated Skechers distribution center and picked up on the need to develop a workforce with a higher-level skill set for the 21st century warehouse.

Modern: Seems almost obvious today, but it probably wasn’t more than a decade ago. Why did the NSF pick Norco College?

Harrington: Actually, Norco was an obvious pick. Under the leadership of Kevin Fleming, the school already had a grant program with NSF on goods movement. And, Fleming was already collaborating with other schools. NSF focuses on building collaborative technician education programs driven by emerging technologies that pay entry level living wages. They don’t fund programs forever. Furthermore, the Skechers DC was in California. So, Fleming and Hank Rogers wrote a grant request and NSF launched the program with $3.5 million.

Modern: Actually, the part about not funding programs forever is the reason we’re talking today. Tell us about it.

Harrington: So, the center will close next month. The NSF has stopped funding it, but with good reason. Enough of an infrastructure is in place that automation technician training will continue quite strongly. In the beginning, we held 16 workforce forums in 14 states around the country.

Sixty community colleges and technical high schools were involved in the early days. And we worked closely with key companies that guided and supported the center’s work. Five prominent firms involved in the effort were Target, Walmart, Home Depot, FedEx Ground and UPS.

In addition, key industry groups got involved. Both MHI and MHEDA provided strong and extended support for the program.

And, based on industry research conducted by the national center, the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) developed an industry validated automation technician certification program—Certified Technician Supply Chain Automation (CTSCA)—that was released in March 2020. For the hands-on portion of the training and skills verification, Amatrol built its Skill Boss device, which teaches and assesses 100 hands-on skills needed by technicians in today’s logistics operations (amatrol.com/product/skill-boss-logistics).

Modern: You have certainly been busy. Someone told me you didn’t start with much including a definition of what a supply chain automation technician is.

Harrington: That’s right. We built this from the ground up. Starting with writing the occupational definition based on industry feedback.

There are now more than 70 certified instructors around the country. More than 1,200 people have been certified. Nearly 170 Skill Boss training devices are in 33 states and 4 countries. And Target has built their own programs around the CTSCA program to certify their workforce.

In fact, Target is scaling to 40 training sites with four training centers delivering hybrid instruction online and in person, successfully certifying nearly 400 technicians.

Anyone interested in the program can start here: msscusa.org/certified-technician-supply-chain-automation.

Modern: You’re the only person to have been with the center from start to finish. It must be very satisfying. What’s next for you?

Harrington: With the funding for the National Center sunsetting I’ve transitioned my role to CTSCA program advocacy for MSSC. I’ve been traveling the country sharing the great news about the innovative program with academics, industry partners and key workforce development stakeholders during conferences, webinars and in-person meetings. That’s keeping me busy. 

Article Topics

60 Seconds
Magazine Archive
National Center for Supply Chain Automation
   All topics

National Center for Supply Chain Automation News & Resources

60 Seconds with Steve Harrington, Industry Liaison at the National Center for Supply Chain Automation

Latest in Materials Handling

Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association releases semi-annual statistics
Zebra study: nearly six in 10 warehouse leaders plan to deploy RFID by 2028
Conveying Strategies for Robotic Applications: How to Maximize Throughput
Combilift enters offshore wind sector with handling solution, collaborating with Siemens Gamesa
Kion Group partners with Li-Cycle to recycle lithium lift truck batteries in Europe
Record-breaking Pack Expo Las Vegas exceeds expectations
Dexterity AI and FedEx unveil robotics trailer loading technology
More Materials Handling

About the Author

Gary Forger's avatar
Gary Forger
Gary Forger is an editor at large for Modern Materials Handling. He is the former editorial director of Modern Materials Handling and senior vice president of MHI. He was also the editor of the Material Handling & Logistics U.S. Roadmap to 2030.
Follow Modern Materials Handling on FaceBook

Subscribe to Materials Handling Magazine

Subscribe today!
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
Subscribe today. It's FREE.
Find out what the world's most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today.

September 2023 Modern Materials Handling

Providers of automated packaging and carton right-sizing solutions have thrived by offering systems that deliver on labor and parcel shipment savings— now they’re looking to further evolve by looking to use lighter materials and support flexible “box-first” workflows.

Latest Resources

Conveying Strategies for Robotic Applications: How to Maximize Throughput
This webinar will discuss the recent development of embedding motion-control technology into conveyors to enable packages to be correctly presented to a robot so that throughput of the manual task that the robot has been assigned to perform is maximized.
Improve safety and ergonomics with code-compliant stairs
Outside the Box: Why parcel shippers are suddenly focusing on packing
More resources

Latest Resources

2023 Automation Study: Usage & Implementation of Warehouse/DC Automation Solutions
2023 Automation Study: Usage & Implementation of Warehouse/DC Automation Solutions
This research was conducted by Peerless Research Group on behalf of Modern Materials Handling to assess usage and purchase intentions forautomation systems...
How Your Storage Practices Can Affect Your Pest Control Program
How Your Storage Practices Can Affect Your Pest Control Program
Discover how your storage practices could be affecting your pest control program and how to prevent pest infestations in your business. Join...

Warehousing Outlook 2023
Warehousing Outlook 2023
2023 is here, and so are new warehousing trends.
Extend the Life of Brownfield Warehouses
Extend the Life of Brownfield Warehouses
Today’s robotic and data-driven automation systems can minimize disruptions and improve the life and productivity of warehouse operations.
Power Supply in Overhead Cranes: Energy Chains vs. Festoons
Power Supply in Overhead Cranes: Energy Chains vs. Festoons
Download this white paper to learn more about how both systems compare.