This Month in Modern: Feeling overwhelmed? Take some strategic steps

You can let yourself get caught up in this whirlpool, or you can take a step back, think through what your operation needs to keep pace with today’s demands, and then take action to control what you can control.

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It’s easy to feel overwhelmed these days. While attending a conference last month, I found myself shaking my head as a well-known industry advisor ran down the list of economic and political uncertainties with a direct effect on how we now need to think and plan as supply chain professionals.

You’ve heard the list before: unsettled trade agreements and political bluster among long-standing partners; a labor crisis; continued e-commerce growth and unreasonable customer expectations putting more pressure on an already stressed fulfillment network—and the list goes on. The economy remains strong, so the heat you’re feeling today is just going to feel hotter over the next 12 months.

You can let yourself get caught up in this whirlpool, or you can take a step back, think through what your operation needs to keep pace with today’s demands, and then take action to control what you can control.

A great first step is to put together a strategic plan for you and your team to attend ProMat 2019 (April 8-11), the materials handling industry’s leading trade show and educational conference, sponsored by MHI. According to reports from MHI, this year’s event has attracted a record number of exhibitors that will be set up in both the North and South halls of Chicago’s McCormick Place. All told, the event will span more than 420,000 square feet.

This month in Modern, we offer the first of several articles to help you begin planning. Starting on page 28, we have our Show Planner, a look at the keynotes and the more than 130 on-floor seminars planned at the show.

And speaking of taking control of what you can control, this month exectuive editor Bob Treblicock shares how a team from GEODIS, one of the largest 3PLs in the world, used a strategically planned trip to ProMat 2017 to help improve its e-commerce fulfillment operation in its 250,000-square-foot warehouse in Indianapolis.

“At the time GEODIS had installed automated pick towers, conveyor and sortation systems, and put walls in some of its operations,” says Trebilcock. “But in its e-commerce picking, it was still relying heavily on the conventional processes.” In early 2017, GEODIS put together a team to explore new technologies that would improve their e-commerce operation, and it had to be user friendly, scalable and mobile.

The team planned a trip to ProMat with that purpose in mind. “They went to Chicago with their challenge carved out and used their time to narrow a solution down to collaborative robtoics and a short list of providers,” says Trebilcock. “It was a trip that put a very thoughtful process in motion.”

Starting on page 20, Trebilcock documents the team’s impressive journey. “One of the most exciting applications of new supply chain technologies is mobile collaborative robots,” says Trebilcock, “What’s surprising is that third-party logistics providers, who generally shy away from automation, are leading the way. GEODIS is a really great example of this trend, and I think readers can learn from the very calculated way they investigated, piloted and implemented robotics in their distribution operations.”

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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