MH&L U.S. Roadmap > Roadmap In Action

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The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics is more than just a report and action plan. It’s an open community of thought leaders and partners with a stake in the future of material handling and logistics technologies and practices. Here are some examples of how the Roadmap is being used:

Steve Medwin of electric lift truck manufacturer The Raymond Corp.

When he first picked up a copy of the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics, Steve Medwin of electric lift truck manufacturer The Raymond Corp. was struck by how comprehensive the document is.

“Raymond has been committed to making quality lift trucks and telematics solutions for fleet optimization,” he said. “But we don’t always have visibility to the whole supply chain and material handling industry, or all the other things that go on around our products. So from a broader perspective than just the movement of a pallet from point A to point B, the Roadmap is very helpful.”

Medwin, whose official title is Director of Systems and Advanced Engineering at Raymond, is in charge of new product research and development. His lab cooks up the innovations—such as the iWarehouse lift truck fleet monitoring and optimization telematics system—that not only make his company’s products even better, but also expands upon the offerings of other companies, such as Seegrid’s vision-guided technologies. Indeed, Medwin is responsible for Raymond’s own roadmap of planned technological advancements and upcoming innovations.

“Every so often we get a chance to take a step back and look at what we should be doing in the lab today, knowing that it might take five years to commercialize,” he explained. “So, when I first read the Roadmap, I felt that it clued right in to where the industry is going to be by 2025. It covers a lot of content in a very timely way—that’s why it really resonated with me.”

Because of his perspective, Medwin found the section about driverless over-the-road transport vehicles (pages 39-40 in the Roadmap) to be particularly relevant to the work he’s been involved with over the past few years—including driverless lift trucks. “It ties right in to some of the developments that have come out of our lab,” he said. “That concept is a logical extension of where the technology is today.”

Although Medwin was reluctant to pinpoint how his team’s research and development process has (or hasn’t) been impacted by the Roadmap’s vision, he appreciates its relevance: “It puts material handling and logistics into a societal context by tying in the impact of cultural trends on our industry,” he said. “For us, it’s an excellent background resource.”

Bill Leber, head of Business Development for automated systems supplier Swisslog Logistics’ warehouse and distribution solutions division

Bill Leber, head of Business Development for automated systems supplier Swisslog Logistics’ warehouse and distribution solutions division, was one of the original 100 contributors to the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics. So he knew how relevant the report’s content was domestically.However, the Virginia-based Leber hadn’t realized how much interest the Roadmap would generate overseas until he received no fewer than three different e-mails from his European colleagues.

“They were all saying, ‘Wow! Have you seen this report? There’s some great stuff in here,’” he chuckled. “It’s true. There really is relevant, timely information in the Roadmap about the North American material handling and logistics industry, and what it needs to do in order to continue to compete globally.”

An engineered Swisslog warehouse automation system which might include case, tote or pallet conveyance, storage, retrieval, transport, picking and more—calls for a significant investment. It can sometimes be a challenge for operations and supply chain managers to cost-justify that level of capital expenditure to their higher ups, said Leber. That’s where the Roadmap’s trove of informed predictions helps.

“We try to help our customers justify an investment in their company’s future,” he explained. “The Roadmap provides an impartial, unbiased, industry-based reference for them to use as an additional explanation when they propose to purchase automation. It helps validate their position.”

For example, Leber continued, with the rise of e-commerce and multi-channel fulfillment, lead times are already short (page 32 in the Roadmap). “The Roadmap makes an excellent case for why lead times are only going to get shorter, and why companies are going to have to be able to make faster deliveries to their customers,” he noted.

Further, because the Roadmap looks ahead to 2025, it encourages companies to take a long-term view. “It’s easy to sell the past—because the past is absolutely, 100% dead sure,” Leber concluded. “The future is a mystery. But the Roadmap provides an excellent resource about why things are changing, and how the industry will change to stay ahead of the curve.”

Randolph L. Bradley, Technical Fellow in Supply Chain Management for The Boeing Company

Randolph L. Bradley, Technical Fellow in Supply Chain Management for The Boeing Company, became a part of the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics’ open community of thought leaders in June 2013. That was when he served as one of the 100 original participants in roundtable meetings that established the Roadmap’s foundation.

Because Boeing is a member of the Center for Excellence in Logistics and Distribution (CELDi), Bradley is also a frequent participant in that group’s Advisory Board meetings, serving as the acting Industry Advisory Board Chair. (CELDi is funded in part by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Industry & University Cooperative Research Program, and is also one of the Roadmap’s six supporting association partners).

CELDi is a consortium of major research universities working with member organizations from commercial, military and government sectors to solve real problems through research,” Bradley explained.

Each member organization is paired up with a designated university. There, professors and their students conduct member-specific research projects to solve a variety of in-context problems. Members also provide employees who collaborate directly with the university research teams, noted Bradley.

“The mission of CELDi is to improve U.S. competitiveness by matching up industry and academia. The benefit for industry is getting cutting-edge research on problems of interest to us, and for academia, students get hands-on work in real-world projects,” he explained. “It gives students a taste for some of the types of problems they might tackle during a career in industry.”

Annually, the CELDi Advisory Board meets to review proposed research and select Center Designated Projects (CDPs) for the coming year. These CDPs cover topics of common interest across all the member organizations, which share equally in their funding. The final reports and any tools developed during the CDPs are accessible to all members, Bradley explained, unlike the frequently proprietary member-specific projects.

With the release of the Roadmap and its close alignment to CELDi’s mission, Bradley seized the opportunity to cross-reference past and current CDPs with the 10 major trends the Roadmap identified: the growth of e-commerce, relentless competition, mass personalization, urbanization, mobile and wearable computing, robotics and automation, sensors and the Internet of Things, Big Data and predictive analysis, the changing workforce, and sustainability.

“My idea was that by mapping the CDPs against the Roadmap’s identified trends, we could validate that we are researching the right topics, as well as identify opportunities for future projects to benefit our entire organization,” he said.

CELDi participants had already identified and researched multiple projects related to e-commerce, mass personalization, urbanization, robotics and Big Data—with more in the works, Bradley found. Key opportunities include studies about the potential impact of expanded use of domestic rail transportation, methods to achieve last-mile distribution, and wearable computing for maintenance operations.

Mapping the two together also helped Bradley to identify potential future CELDi members who also might benefit from participation in the organization, he said: “We’ve done a successful project with UPS, so with the growth of e-commerce, we think other parcel carriers, like FedEx and the United States Postal Service, for example, would also benefit from CELDi membership.”

Ken Woodlin, Vice President of Compliance, Safety and Asset Protection for Walmart

When Ken Woodlin, Vice President of Compliance, Safety and Asset Protection for Walmart, was first introduced to a draft of the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics, he was immediately drawn to the “Welcome to the Future” passage .

Set in 2025, the fictional anecdote is about John Alvarez sourcing a part for a Corvette restoration project. Alvarez communicates with a wearable computing system to locate an automotive supplier who can create the necessary part with a 3D printer, order it and pay. Through crowd-sourced delivery, the part is picked up a short time later and dropped off by Alvarez’s neighbor.

Not long after reading the passage, Woodlin gathered a team of nearly 200 compliance, safety and asset protection leaders from Walmart’s transportation and warehouse distribution field offices for an annual strategic meeting this past spring. He had already planned the meeting around the theme of transformational leadership; when he read the Roadmap’s vision of 2025, it seemed like the ideal thought exercise to kick off the event, he said.

So, Woodlin opened the meeting by reading the story of John Alvarez and the Corvette aloud.

“I wanted our compliance, safety and asset protection leaders to recognize the logistics world is changing fast and, in our support function to operations, we need to be thinking faster and in more innovative ways than we ever have before,” he explained. “We need to start solving the challenges that kind of future may bring, today.”

For Woodlin, the tale raised a host of questions he posed to the group of leaders:

  • How will our organizational logistics practices change to accommodate such a transaction?
  • What challenges will retailers have in compliance, safety and security if this is indeed the future?
  • How would almost instant part manufacturing accuracy be verified, or returns be managed if the wrong 3D part is made or ordered?
  • What would the crowd-sourced delivery verification process look like?
  • What kind of regulatory issues may arise if a future customer, like Alvarez, wanted to exchange used motor oil for new?
  • What types of talent will we need on our team to support the technologies and the regulatory and shrink assurances that make this type of future transaction possible?

“The story really resonated with me, and I could tell that it had my team thinking about the future as well,” he noted. “Many of them have participated in innovation meetings, so while the story is just a vision of what the future could be, it presents a very realistic scenario that we need to be solving for near term.”

Michael Wohlwend, Head of Services Cloud Unification, Americas at SAP and past WERC President

An audio recording of the WERC Roadmap panel discussion can be heard here

The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics was discussed during the April 2014 installment of the annual Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) Conference. Participating in a “Jeopardy”-style panel discussion were:

  • Randolph L. Bradley, Technical Fellow in Supply Chain Management at The Boeing Company
  • Jonathan A. Rader, Manager of Design Engineering at FedEx SmartPost
  • David Maloney, Senior Editor at DC Velocity
  • Paul Avampato, Vice President of Customer Service and Logistics at Mondelēz International and current WERC President

“It was a very well-rounded panel representing multiple aspects of the supply chain, and it drew in more than 120 attendees,” said Michael Wohlwend, Head of Services Cloud Unification, Americas at SAP and past WERC President, who moderated the discussion. (Wohlwend, Rader and Bradley were among the original 100 contributors to the Roadmap’s development.)

“There had already been a couple of other panel discussions on the Roadmap prior to this one,” he noted. “So we tried to take it to a different level by talking about the ten trends in a ‘how are they impacting your business’ way—in hopes of making it easier for the attendees to relate.”

The panel used a border crossing analogy as a means to get the audience to think about how the Roadmap might apply to their companies, Wohlwend said, asking participants to consider the trends in terms of: Where were you? Where is your company on these topics right now? And, where is your company going?

“Ultimately, every organization is likely on a different adoption curve based on the trends, as well as its role within the supply chain,” he said. “For example, commercial real estate companies have had to switch from leasing thousands of square feet of single-level distribution and warehousing space in the suburbs, to retrofitting inner city, multi-level buildings to accommodate urbanization and same-day e-commerce deliveries.”

By Wohlwend’s assessment, the audience seemed particularly keen to hear about e-commerce and the tightly compressed buying process that has evolved of late. The challenges associated with transportation of goods through the supply chain—including the limited number of certified drivers and how relentless competition inhibits load consolidation and lower freight cost opportunities—also drew interest.

“The trends identified in the Roadmap have completely changed the supply chain game and turned things upside down,” he concluded.

An audio recording of the WERC Roadmap panel discussion can be heard here.

Ralph Henderson, NLDC Executive Director

Video: NLDC Participants
Discuss Roadmap Topics During 1-Hour Session

During the April 14-16 National Logistics & Distribution Conference (NLDC), a one-hour session was devoted to the industry trends highlighted by the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics.Guiding the session were:

The trio spearheaded an open discussion of the topic, “Supply Chain 2025: What will happen in the world of Supply Chain in the next 11 years?”

Just 100 senior level supply chain executives were invited to participate in NLDC, said Ralph Henderson, the event’s Executive Director. This year’s crop of attendees represented a variety of industries, including retailers, consumer packaged goods, food and beverage, parts distributors, pharmaceuticals and more. Roughly 50% were returning participants, and the other 50% were new to NLDC.

“NLDC is an exclusive educational summit that just celebrated its tenth anniversary this year in Atlanta, Georgia. Its purpose is to give executives a chance to network among their peers, and to openly share both knowledge and experiences in a think-tank experience,” he explained.

“Because NLDC is very tactical and strategic, it devotes most of participants’ time to talking about what they’re doing right now,” continued Henderson. “But we also think it’s important to focus on the future, so a session featuring the Roadmap was a great fit.”

Prior the event, Henderson emailed a link to the Roadmap to registered attendees; he also surveyed them to gauge their areas of concern. “As it turns out, workforce challenges and how to solve them by leveraging automation and robotics technologies are truly what’s keeping supply chain executives up at night,” he found.

Because of that, labor issues—such as the gap between attracting and retaining baby boomers and millennials—dominated the session conversation. Participants shared their workforce concerns, as well as their strategies for recruiting talent at all levels, including young professionals, senior executives, warehouse associates, full- and part-time laborers, technicians and more. The potential impact of technologies, including robotics, automation and even driverless vehicles, to help mitigate the effects of an aging and shrinking workforce were also discussed.

Supply chain consultant David Schneider

Empowering workers at all levels of an organization with knowledge—not training—is critical to realizing the vision set forth by the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics, according to supply chain consultant David Schneider.

“Training is necessary, but is insufficient,” he asserts. “Training shows people how to execute tasks required by a specific process. But we have to take it a step further and get people throughout the supply chain to think, ‘why do I do it this way?’ and, ‘is there a better way of doing this?’”

Schneider, a member of the Association of Professional Material Handling Consultants (APMHC), delivers supply chain coaching through his eponymous firm, David K. Schneider & Company LLC. He also edits and contributes regularly to  a collection of writings by supply chain and logistics managers, engineers and consultants. He recently authored “Training = Programming” on this topic.“The true supply chain innovators operate under a consistent core mandate: ‘Tell me how you’re going to measure me, and I’ll tell you how I’ll behave,’” said Schneider. “Therefore, if you’re measuring the wrong thing, then you’re creating the wrong behavior.”

Companies that get it right measure success by how much cash is created—and understand that there’s more than one way to achieve that goal. According to Schneider, “Lowering cost is one thing you can do, but not the only thing. You have to manage your systems better; to get people to understand that, you can’t just train them. Instead, you have to build knowledge within the organization at every level, and up and down through the links in the supply chain, including external partners.”

Building trust, both internally and externally, is another key component of building knowledge, he added. “When you build trust and knowledge, and you set up the right measurement and reward mechanisms that fall outside the mindset of ‘cost control,’ then you have a supply chain that’s ready to deliver on the vision of the Roadmap.”

The supply chain innovators that empower their employees to think will leverage visibility to solve problems, standardize performance measurements, and subsequently engage in better planning and optimization.

“Supply chain systems are all interrelated, so if a company wants to be truly efficient at creating cash, they have to have a workforce of people that understand how to manage and communicate,” he added. “Everyone in this industry needs to think about how they can contribute to create more value for their customers, and as a result create more value for themselves.”

To further spread that message, Schneider will be using the Roadmap as the foundation of a series of one-day workshops for companies who have embraced his zeal for systematic thinking. “These organizations want to use the Roadmap as their focal point in planning for the creation of knowledge-based learning in their organizations.”

Randolph L. Bradley, Technical Fellow in Supply Chain Management at Boeing on left, with Jason Robke, a junior industrial engineering major at the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou)

One of the youngest members of the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics’ open community of thought leaders participated in the Chicago roundtable meeting that established the Roadmap’s foundation. Jason Robke, a junior industrial engineering major at the University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou), was an intern in The Boeing Company’s supply chain and logistics group in the summer of 2013.

When Robke’s internship supervisor, Randolph L. Bradley, Technical Fellow in Supply Chain Management at Boeing, participated in the Roadmap session, he took Robke along. It was an eye-opening experience for the Mizzou student.

“Until I attended the Roadmap roundtable, I had no idea how big the material handling and logistics industry really is, or how big of an emphasis companies are putting on their supply chains—not only now, but going into the future,” Robke said. The session also impressed upon Robke just how much demand there is for qualified graduates in supply chain-related fields: “It cemented for me that I’ve made the right choice of major in order to secure a job out of college.”

Opening students’ eyes to opportunities in the logistics field is a primary goal of Boeing’s internship program, and of its participation in the Center for Excellence in Logistics and Distribution (CELDi), said Bradley. CELDi’s past, present and future Center Designated Projects (CDPs) to the Roadmap’s 10 major trends to verify alignment to key topics.)

Through CELDi membership, corporations like Boeing getting cutting-edge research on company-specific problems, while students get hands-on experience working on real-world projects, Bradley explained. “It gives students a taste for some of the types of problems they might tackle during a career in industry.”

Also, like many companies, Boeing has noted the Roadmap-identified workforce challenge surrounding the difficulty in recruiting qualified candidates, says Bradley. CELDi participation has helped ease that somewhat.

“The CELDi connection is incredibly helpful; it gives us an opportunity to get to know students to see if we have a good match from both their and our perspectives,” he explained. “Plus, it gives us a chance to pick the students who are focused on solving the really tough problems and are motivated to get involved in research projects at their universities.”

When Boeing recruited at Mizzou for candidates in its internship program, the company specifically sought students who had participated in CELDi research projects. “We know these students from their involvement in our CELDi research and development projects, so when they come to Boeing as interns, they hit the ground running,” said Bradley. “They’ll be with us for three months during the summer, and their CELDi experience means it will be a really productive three months.”

Although most student researchers are master’s degree and PhD candidates, Robke had participated in a CELDi research as a sophomore through Mizzou’s Discovery Fellows Program. “It was such an awesome opportunity, and I was really excited to get hired by Boeing. In addition to participating in the Roadmap session, I got to travel to several Boeing facilities to see how their supply chain operates, and to learn how the world of business works,” Robke said.

One of the most valuable takeaways for Robke was the difference between studying theory and practicing it. “In class, you learn what is the ‘best solution,’ but in the real world there’s never a ‘best solution,’” he explained. “Instead, you have to identify and consider all the different trade-offs, then pick the one that fits a project’s needs at that time. That was one of the key things I learned from the internship.”

Robke added that one of the coolest things about his work with Boeing was that it didn’t end with the last day of his internship. Instead, because of his involvement with Mizzou’s CELDi program, he’s continued working on the project along with his course load. He and Bradley interact on a weekly basis, he said.

And, when the opportunity to return to Boeing this summer for a second internship came up, Robke seized the chance.

“Jason will reprise his role under me,” noted Bradley, “returning in June for three months to work a new Roadmap-aligned project on Big Data and Predictive Analytics. This will be his last internship before graduating from Mizzou in May 2015, giving us both a chance to evaluate whether to address the trend on the Changing Workforce by extending and accepting an offer.”

Richard Woolery, founder and owner of Industrial Storage – Material Handling Solutions

The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics sets the tone for the entire supply chain and material handling industry, as well as for every business that relies upon its solutions, says Richard Woolery, founder and owner of Industrial Storage – Material Handling Solutions, and member of the Association of Professional Material Handling Consultants (APMHC).

“The Roadmap’s content reminds me of the famous quote from Wayne Gretzky: ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been,’” he said. “Companies should be thinking of the Roadmap as a guide to where the industry is going to be—and how do they develop their business around that—as opposed to where it is now.”

To that end, Woolery has shared the Roadmap with several of his customers, including presenting it as a keynote address this past April to 130 logistics leaders attending their corporation’s annual conference. Each spring the client, a major global distributor of electronic components, gathers its logistics team for a series of meetings. They also invite key vendors to exhibit in a supplier showcase, an event in which Industrial Storage has participated in the past, said Woolery.

“They invited me to present the trends in material handling and logistics, and while I was developing the presentation, the Roadmap was released,” he recalled. “I felt vindicated because several of the trends I had identified, such as urbanization and the Internet of Things, were featured in the Roadmap,” he said.

During his speech, Woolery discussed how his customer’s logistics team could use the Roadmap’s insights from an operational standpoint to improve their business: “Because they distribute electronic components to commercial customers, which are key to making the Internet of Things concept work, there truly is a tremendous sales opportunity for them.”

Wearable computing is another Roadmap-identified trend on which Industrial Storage is working to develop practical applications. “We are currently developing a picking software platform that works in conjunction with Google Glass, as part of Google’s Explorer program,” he noted. “It’s a totally hands-free concept, designed to improve picking rates.”

Dr. Mickey Wilhelm, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Dean (Emeritus) of the Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville (U of L)

The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics was a badly needed study and document, believes Dr. Mickey Wilhelm, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Dean (Emeritus) of the Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville (U of L) in Kentucky. Because of that, Wilhelm decided to incorporate its content into the two courses he teaches at U of L every fall.

The first, IE 421: Facility Location and Layout is a three credit hour undergraduate course taken by roughly 40 senior industrial engineering students. Included in the course is a unit on material handling, said Wilhelm.

“I’m supplementing that unit with content from the Roadmap because it’s important for students to understand how big a sector of the economy material handling and logistics is, the direction in which it’s growing, and the changes we are already beginning to see—as well as the changes we anticipate for the future,” he explained. “The Roadmap gives them context for why we study material handling in that class.”

Wilhelm’s second class, IE 650: Material Flow Systems Design, is a three credit hour graduate course taken by industrial engineering students working on their Master’s degree or PhD. It encompasses four design units: unit loads, automatic guided vehicle (AGV) systems, closed-loop circulating conveyors, and automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS). The approximately 20 students in the class are divided into teams and complete four design projects during the semester (one per unit). Their proposed solutions are judged competitively at the conclusion of the semester.

“In the graduate course, because we’re so focused on the mathematical modeling of these systems, students have a tendency to lose sight of the forest for the trees,” he observed. “Again, the trends addressed in the Roadmap give context to the students as to why learning these system design fundamentals is important to the larger supply chain picture.”

Situated on the banks of the Ohio River, Louisville is a major logistics hub for river, interstate and rail transportation. The city is also home to United Parcel Service’s (UPS) Worldport air hub, the world’s largest fully automated package handling facility, located adjacent to the Louisville International Airport. Because of the city’s integral role to multiple supply chains, many U of L industrial engineering students complete internships (and ultimately gain employment) at UPS or other regional third-party logistics providers.

As an educator, as well as past president of the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE), Wilhelm is interested in ways academia and industry can partner to address the workforce issues highlighted by the Roadmap. In addition to preparing engineering students for the field, Wilhelm has been forging connections with technical, community and junior colleges that offer hands-on training for industry-related careers in areas such as warehouse operations.

“Collaborations between industry and education—such as the ‘Earn and Learn’ program that UPS offers—can help to prepare and stimulate students to seek careers in material handling and logistics,” he said. “I think there’s an opportunity to adapt what we’ve done here on a regional basis to other areas of our country that can help supply the talent needed to support this industry.”

The Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) recently released DC Measures 2014, its eleventh annual benchmarking study of key warehousing and distribution performance metrics.

The Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) recently released DC Measures 2014, its eleventh annual benchmarking study of key warehousing and distribution performance metrics. The study captures the 47 key operational metrics most likely to keep distribution professionals up at night. The metrics are grouped into seven categories: customer, operational, financial, capacity/quality, employee/safety, perfect order and cash-to-cash cycles.

The whole point of benchmarking, of course, is to see how one company’s performance measures up to a similar company’s (or an aggregate of several similar companies’) performance data. To make an accurate comparison, however, the metrics have to be calculated using the same methodology, or standard.

Because the accuracy of the DC Measures series of studies relies heavily on reporting consistency year over year, the report’s authors have established standard definitions of what the metrics mean and how they are calculated, explained Joe Tillman, founder and CEO of TSquared Logistics and one of 100 original participants in the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics’ open community of thought leaders.

Tillman is one of three researchers behind the DC Measures study, working with colleagues Karl Manrodt, PhD, a professor at a university in south Georgia and Donnie Williams, Assistant Professor of Logistics/Supply Chain Management in the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business at Georgia College & State University.

“Standardization is so important, we devote three-and-a-half pages of the report to defining each of the 47 operational metrics and the calculation method for each,” said Tillman.

The research team has worked hard to get the metrics standardization message out over the past 11 years, partnering with MESA (Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association) International, MHI’s Order Fulfillment Solutions industry group, WERC and other organizations to achieve consensus on the definitions and calculations, and to share those standards with end users.

Indeed, thanks to Tillman, the Roadmap includes a section on Standardization (page 25), noting, “National and international standards provide a common language not just for physical products and equipment. They are increasingly important for describing processes, procedures, skills and metrics.”

All that standardization promotion has paid off, added Manrodt. “We interview a lot of respondents and benchmarking practitioners as part of our research, and over the past five years we’ve seen increasing adoption of our published metrics standards,” he observed. “That allows the study’s users to be confident when they make comparisons between their performance and that of others in their industry.”

“Ultimately, we see the report as a starting point to eradicate bad practices,” Tillman continued. “We want companies to use the benchmarking metrics to understand where they are at in comparison to others. That allows them to take the next step, which is determining why they are at a particular level.”

To help companies turn their benchmarking data into actionable steps that result in performance improvement, this year’s edition of the report includes two case studies. These real-life examples are Tillman and his colleagues’ attempt to answer the follow-up question they most commonly encounter from companies who’ve used their benchmarking data: “Now what?”

The case studies explain how two companies used benchmarking metrics to alter their processes, justify technology investments and/or empower their workforce to find alternate solutions to boost productivity. “The examples explain how a company can make changes based on what they want to achieve, and how they want to reach those goals,” Williams concluded.

America Makes’ Director Ed Morris, who also serves as Vice President of the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM)

The topic of additive manufacturing (also known as “3D printing”) has an entire page of the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics dedicated to it—page 53.

It also has an entire organization devoted to the growth of its capabilities and expanded use in the U.S. America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, based in Youngstown, Ohio, is led by Director Ed Morris, who also serves as Vice President of the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM).

“The institute is charged with accelerating the use of additive manufacturing in the U.S. to create new, innovative products, grow existing companies’ businesses, spawn new companies, and make a positive impact on our domestic economy,” explained Morris. “Our message is that if you can think it and design it, this technology can build it.”

To spread that message, the institute has brought together a network of nearly 100 companies, non-profits, academic institutions and government agencies. It espouses a collaborative approach to the technology’s development, encouraging an open exchange of additive manufacturing information and research, as well as conducting workforce and educational outreach.

The scope of additive manufacturing is nearly as limitless as the types of materials the process employs and the products it creates, said Morris, noting: “You can print with polymers or plastics, metals, human tissue and edible ingredients to make mechanical parts, orthotics, electromechanical components, body parts or customized foods.”

The technology—which grew from its foundation of rapid prototyping systems introduced more than 20 years ago—has evolved into an ever-increasing number of approaches in varying degrees of development. Some applications have become well established. For instance, a third of recent additive manufacturing patents have involved medical applications, while aerospace manufacturing of parts not critical to safety continues to accelerate, Morris noted.

Although Morris declined to set a precise date by which additive manufacturing will become a universal possibility for the creation of products, he is confident that will happen well before the Roadmap’s view to 2025.

“We are focused on removing all the different barriers to the ubiquitous use of additive manufacturing,” he said, noting that there are a variety of obstacles to overcome. “For example, America Makes’ member ASTM International’s Committee F42 is the lead organization developing standards for the technology.”

Depending on what’s being manufactured, additional barriers include post-processing requirements, inspection challenges, and the need for more engineers who understand how to design parts that take full advantage of what can be produced using additive manufacturing’s unique capabilities, Morris continued.

Because of that, the institute actively encourages schools at all levels to embed additive manufacturing courses throughout their curricula, such as in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, medical schools and more. “Students in every one of these disciplines needs to be exposed to what this technology can do for their field,” he said.

As for how additive manufacturing will impact material handling, logistics and supply chains? Morris agrees with the Roadmap’s assertion that the process will reduce the amount of inventory a company will need to store, both in raw materials and finished goods.

“Depending on its configuration, the traditional manufacture of a classically-machined finished part uses a subtractive process with a lot of material machined away. Therefore, you have to store more raw materials than are required to make parts via additive manufacturing,” he said.

“The economics of how much material you have to store is clearly in favor of 3D printing, as well as for the storage of finished products. There are a lot of logistical benefits from 3D printing, including only storing the material that you need with a limited expectation of scrap—and that certainly has a lot of companies interested in the technology,” he concluded.

John Moore, Director of Corporate Marketing at Millwood

To give both new and veteran members of its regional and national sales force team a broader perspective on the materials handling, logistics and supply chain industry, Millwood Inc. caps off its training program by delving into the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics.

The company—which also includes Liberty Technologies a provider of packaging consumable products and engineered systems, third-party logistics (3PL) service provider Millwood Logistics Services, wood supplier Milltree Lumber Holdings, and oil and gas field environmental containment products provider Millwood Natural—provides of pallets, unit load technology and industrial packaging materials to a variety of industries.The training includes a detailed exploration of the company’s many products, engineered systems and service offerings.

“It’s a six-week formal program that we’ve developed for both new Millwood hires, including people who are recent graduates and new to the industry, as well as experienced professionals who are new to our company. We’ve also included current company employees,” explained John Moore, Director of Corporate Marketing.

“I actually participated in the first training session that started back in April,” said Moore. “This allowed me to better understand our products and how they solve our customers’ packaging and material handling needs. We’re starting our next session in early July.”

Adding the Roadmap’s perspective on the trends that will be shaping the industry between now and 2025 provides context to the program, Moore said.

“Our sales team can build on that foundation of knowledge about market and industry trends as they assist our customers,” he concluded. “We think it’s critically important for our team to understand where the industry is headed so that, as a company, we can identify opportunities for solutions that solve our customers’ issues.”

Mike Romano, Associated President and CEO

The publication of the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling and Logistics in January proved fortuitous for Associated, a leading provider of integrated supply chain solutions, as well as for their new acquired subsidiary Peach State Integrated Technologies. That’s because the company had been in the process of updating their long-term strategic plan, said Mike Romano, President and CEO.

“We had been working to develop and set a specific vision for where we could be in 2020. When the Roadmap was released, it was a good resource for us,” he explained. “It represents a solid base of knowledge that’s been accumulated in a sound manner and provides insightful perspective on the future.”

Romano and his team combined their own observations of customer needs with the Roadmap’s predictions to establish a strategic plan of what the organization needs in order to meet their 2020 vision, including the development of internal organizational capabilities and competencies.

“In terms of labor demographics, the Roadmap really discussed the shortage of qualified, skilled talent that our users will need in their operations,” Romano noted, “as well as what we as an industry can do to support our customers in filling that need.”

To Romano, that translates into a greater emphasis on automation and labor management programs as means to address the labor demographics challenges faced by end users. “The other side is, where does our company draw its talent from in order to sustain our efforts with our customers,” he observed.

“In my opinion, our industry will be migrating to more of a white collar field, because I think suppliers are going to be more consultative in the services they offer,” Romano continued. “That’s what our customers need—professional expertise—someone to help them work through the issues they’re facing.”

To that end, Associated’s corporate headquarters in Addison, Illinois will host a full-day Supply Chain Leadership Conference packed with educational sessions from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 6. Entitled “Predict, Respond, and Adapt,” the event is presented by Loyola University Chicago’s Supply and Value Chain Center (SVCC) at the Quinlan School of Business.

The conference will bring together supply chain experts and professionals from a wide array of backgrounds and industries to discuss supply chain topics, including those featured in the Roadmap. Among them: Big Data, omni-channel fulfillment, workforce, globalization, and sustainability.

“We feel that the Roadmap itself is an important and strategic document, and we recommended to the Loyola team that it be a featured topic during the conference,” Romano added.

Erric Heitmann, Vice President of Engineering, The Raymond Corp.

Held this past May 31 to June 3 in Hannover, Germany, the CeMAT exposition featured both material handling and logistics exhibits. More than 53,000 international visitors from 65 nations attended, checking out more than 1,000 booths spread across 1.3 million square feet of exhibit space.

Among the exhibitors was forklift manufacturer Toyota Material Handling Group, which is divided into four operational regions: North America, Europe, Japan/China and International. The group routinely likes to take advantage of events like CeMAT to bring its senior managers in charge of current products and future product development together, explained Erric Heitmann, Vice President of Engineering, The Raymond Corp., a part of the North America group.

“On a periodic basis we have a face-to-face meeting at a designated location around the world to review our current and future technology plans and how they harmonize with current market trends,” he said. “The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics is a great tool that provides objective input on the national trends.”

As for the global impact of each of the Roadmap’s ten U.S. trends, Heitmann and his colleagues noted a great deal of overlap. The group agreed universally that, as a forklift manufacturer, the trends with the greatest potential effects included the growth of e-commerce, robotics and automation, big data and the changing workforce.

Overall—because its content was developed by a community of industry manufacturers, distributors, consultants, academics, end users and more—the Roadmap delivers good insight into what the future possibilities might be for the distribution industry, said Heitmann.

“At Raymond, the Roadmap provides confirmation of the voice of the customer feedback that we obtain through the relationships that our sales and service centers have with our customers, as well as insights on a national basis,” he added. “This information, combined with our own internal research helps to affirm our technology directives.”

Peeter Kivestu of Teradata

The majority of the mega trends outlined in the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics are directly or indirectly connected to the use of data. The clear message is that to beat the competition in the material handling and transportation world, a company must be driven by data, both internally and externally, said Peeter Kivestu, Senior Industry Consultant, Transportation and Logistics, for Teradata. As a global leader in analytic data platforms, marketing and analytic applications, Teradata helps organizations become more competitive by increasing the value of their data and customer relationships.

“Most executives, judging by the number of reports they now have on their desks, probably would say they’re data-driven now, but the truth is that most are not,” asserted Kivestu. “Being data-driven does not mean the addition of a lot of data to your traditional processes, but rather using data to redefine, and to even invent, new processes that bolster sales, expand market share and grow the bottom line. Data-driven companies spot opportunities that are simply not visible, or actionable, to their competitors.”

Kivestu noted, by way of example, that the transportation industry has heavily embedded network services data into its processes. Truck routes are now optimized based on weather and traffic patterns, and backhauls are coordinated with the outbound routes. Maritime and rail schedules are matched to ensure efficient intermodal transfers. Entire supply chains are coordinated to ensure that goods are efficiently transported from component and packaging points to customer points.

Still, he said, there are many more opportunities for companies to take advantage of the data that the world of analytics can uncover. To help determine if your company is data-driven and already taking advantage of all the data collected, Kivestu offered the following quiz:

  • Are key product decisions framed by specific revenue targets and driven by data, rather than by tradition, experience or instinct?
  • Is your team encouraged to use exception reporting from collected data to find new ways that will make it easier for customers to use your services?
  • Do you use detail data—for example, activity based costing—to know which customers are your most profitable? Your least profitable?
  • Is the subject of measurable efficiency improvements in your operations a frequent topic of discussion?

“If you answer affirmatively to all of these questions, your company is in rarified air,” he said. “Your company aggressively goes way beyond its supplier and customer networks to competitively service and differentiate mission-critical elements. In short, you have already become data-driven.”

Answered one or more of questions negatively?

Don’t despair (and, you have plenty of company), Kivestu said: “This is not a question to be solved by IT budgets or lengthy IT spending prioritization meetings. It is about developing a culture of asking questions in a way that expects the answer to be framed by data and empirical evidence and new types of quantitative input.”

To attain those goals, Kivestu suggested a few data management guidelines.

1. Encourage employees to understand and access any detailed revenue and/or operating data to enable better planning, service levels and product management.

“You could be right in thinking you have a pretty good service offering—or even the best in the industry—with happy customers and good profit margins, but are you making it as easy as possible for customers to use your services? In today’s complex supply chains, you simply can’t accurately answer this question without data,” he explained.

2. Concentrate on how the data can make your company more profitable.

“This element starts and stops with data alignment,” he said. “If you cannot line up the specific costs of handling an item with the revenue that item ultimately earns, you cannot know which customers make you money and which ones cost you money. You must strengthen the quality of your profitability information, so you can make decisions with the level of detail that eliminates the guesswork.”

Again, he continued, “today’s complex supply chains and demand-driven logistics patterns are finely tuned. Gone are the times when you could work with averages across the region, by types of transportation or by channel. If your employees have access to detail data that is lined up, they will have reliable actionable information; absent that, as a decision-maker you should ask whether your employees are working on the basis of real knowledge or are relying on assumptions at best, and on anecdotal evidence at worst.”

3. Use the data to evaluate and improve the service component of your company.

“Companies need to use their data to create and drive initiatives that use the information available throughout the supply and demand chain to enhance innovation, particularly around customer service,” Kivestu continued.

In and of itself, any data source may not seem particularly value adding; value tends to be added when the dots are connected between a new data source and something you already have in place, he said. “Being data-driven doesn’t mean you take a lot of data and pile it into an existing project. It means integrating the data and using selected signals to trigger profitable new sales opportunities or improve customer service.”

Logistics companies are accustomed to driving their business by carefully managing both people and capital to get the most effective and efficient value. Now, they and their affiliates need to view their data as a valuable asset and manage their data in the same way, Kivestu advised. “Data, in fact, will elevate both your people and your capital. The future is about data—you already have most of it; you just need it to do its share.”

Kevin Gue, University of Louisville

The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics’ Editor-in-Chief, Kevin Gue, will be joining the faculty at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville on August 18.

Gue said he has some big shoes to fill when he assumes the Duthie Chair of Engineering Logistics: “My predecessors in the Duthie Chair are Sunderesh Heragu and Don Taylor. It is an honor to follow them.”

Additionally, Gue will become the director of the Logistics and Distribution Institute (LoDI). “LoDI’s mission is to advance the state of logistics within the Louisville metro area and beyond. This position gives me a new opportunity and resources to build a research institute in logistics,” Gue explained. That made the role particularly attractive.

“The professional opportunity is huge—it has long been my goal to build this kind of institute. LoDI is unique in that, to the best of my knowledge, it is the only university-level logistics research institute in the nation,” he noted. “It’s a big stage in a city known for logistics. I’m looking forward to working with new colleagues and to connecting with companies in the Louisville area to define and design the future of logistics.”

Previously, Gue was the Tim Cook Professor of Industrial Engineering at Auburn University, where he spent 10 years. His time there, he said, “has been an immensely satisfying phase in my career. I will miss the many close friends I have there, but the miracle of technology will allow me to maintain close ties.”

Gue will also maintain close ties to the Roadmap. He’s looking forward to developing research programs that better determine the potential of the ideas described in the document. “I have plans to develop thrust areas in new order fulfillment technologies, logistics and society, and the Physical Internet,” he added.

His first few months on the jobs will be spent acclimating to his new roles. Gue will return to the classroom as an instructor during the spring semester.

Bruce Stubbs, Director of Industry Marketing for Distribution Centers at Honeywell Scanning & Mobility

The 10 major economic, technological and societal trends identified by the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics as shaping the future of the industry align “very well” with the planned automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) solutions in development at Honeywell Scanning & Mobility, said Bruce Stubbs.

Stubbs is Director of Industry Marketing for Distribution Centers at Honeywell Scanning & Mobility, a leading manufacturer of high-performance image-and laser- based data collection hardware. The company manufactures and markets rugged mobile computers and bar code scanners, radio frequency identification (RFID) solutions, voice-enabled workflow and printing solutions.

“The factors that we are using to help determine our future product development direction are all considered in the Roadmap,” he explained. “For example, when you think of e-commerce and omni-channel distribution—with retail distribution center (DC) operations having to completely change their models in order to support the growth of e-commerce—those are the types of challenges our technologies can address.”

Retailers facing the need to process orders in hours, instead of days, can no longer solely rely on past fulfillment practices such as paper-based picking or outdated data capture systems, Stubbs said. “The hands-free, wearable technologies that are starting to emerge can continue to further enhance productivity and accuracy to be able to meet those customer demands as a next step in the evolution of the AIDC industry.”

One of the best ways to manage the complexity of those processes is to collect data in an accurate format and present it in real time, he noted. “Wearable computing has been around for a long time, and has evolved. But I anticipate that future devices will be truly hands-free; freeing both hands to perform productive activity without the necessity of performing data entry.”

Stubbs vision of truly hands-free wearable devices combines several of the existing technologies that are part of the overall Honeywell solution portfolio, including scanning and voice-directed picking. “Being able to communicate with the system of record and capture additional critical data as needed without manual data entry gives true, hands-free functionality that, to me, is the next big leap in productivity, accuracy, and ergonomics,” he said.

Stubbs declined to give any specific details about solutions that Honeywell may be planning to introduce. However, he noted that the company is actively looking to leverage the different types of expertise found throughout the Honeywell organization.

“Our aerospace division, for example, is expert in lightweight materials and ergonomics. So through the larger organization we have a lot of different technology and engineering capabilities that enable us to be more proactive and forward thinking in the types of solutions we’re going to bring to market,” Stubbs concluded.

Jeff Smith, Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University and CICMHE officer

Every two years, the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) sponsors the International Material Handling Research Colloquium (IMHRC). The event brings together academic and industrial participants to discuss the latest in material handling, facility layout and design, logistics and supply chain research.

The thirteenth installment happened this past June in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was attended by 38 university- and industry-based researchers (including the supplier and end-user communities) from around the world, said Jeff Smith, Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University and CICMHE officer.

Prior to the event, CICMHE issued a call for participation from researchers working in the areas of material handling, facility logistics, intralogistics, facility planning and design, supply chain planning and execution, or other closely related fields of study. Smith led this year’s international team of reviewers who evaluated submissions and extended invitations to selected authors. During the weeklong event, participants shared their research in interactive poster sessions.

In addition, the Colloquium includes 12, hour-long breakout sessions. “This year, we focused on the major trends identified in the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling and Logistics and used one for each session,” Smith noted, explaining that four different sessions were held concurrently on each of the three days of the event.

Prior to the gathering, attendees indicated the breakout session topics they preferred to attend. Based on those preferences, the organizers then assigned nine to 11 participants to each session, said Smith.

“In each breakout, one person was designated the leader, a second was the scribe who documented the conversation, and the participants discussed the topic at hand,” he explained. “Ultimately those notes will be compiled into a document that describes the outcome of all of the breakouts and their relationship to the future of material handling and logistics.”

Because all the Colloquium participants had read the Roadmap, each of the 12 sessions generated highly focused insights, Smith continued. “Everyone was already familiar with the premise of the Roadmap and the methodology behind its development,” he said. “That allowed each group to focus exclusively on the topic at hand.”

Both the breakout session discussions and the research issues presented at the Colloquium are documented in a series of edited books, entitled “Progress in Material Handling Research.” Smith, who is responsible for producing the paper about the breakout sessions, anticipates that this year’s book will be published in early 2015.

The corporate sponsor and host for the 2014 IMHRC was automated material handling solutions provider Intelligrated, which provided the venue at its headquarters in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason.

“We were excited to be the sponsor and host of the event, as we highly value the academic community and its contributions to moving the material handling industry forward,” said Jerry Koch, Intelligrated’s Director of Corporate Marketing and Product Management.

Intelligrated believes in the importance of industry maintaining a solid relationship with the academics guiding the development of potential entrants into the logistics and material handling field, Koch noted.

“We are one of the largest employers of co-ops and interns in the Cincinnati region—not just in engineering, but throughout our company, including accounting, finance and even mathematical modeling,” he said. “We think there’s tremendous value in introducing the next generation of students to the opportunities in our industry. It was a great opportunity for us to host their professors.”

Andy Williams, U.S. Senior Businesss Development Manager at Vanderlande Industries

In overviewing the capabilities required to support the explosive—and certain to continue—growth of e-commerce to 2025 (and beyond), the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics discusses the need for retailers to develop omni-channel distribution facilities on pages 34 and 35. The term refers to consolidating into one the separate distribution centers (DCs) traditionally used to meet the needs of three different sales channels: retail stores, resellers, and individual customers.

Achieving omni-channel distribution is a challenge that global automated warehousing and logistics solution provider Vanderlande Industries has been helping customers address for a while, said Andy Williams, the company’s U.S. Senior Business Development Manager.

“Omni-channel distribution is something that retailers have been talking about for a while,” he explained. “Now, in every facility design we do, customers are asking us to examine the opportunities for, and evaluate the impacts of, serving more than one channel in the same DC. We’re seeing the early stages of its implementation in terms of system design and validation of those designs.”

However, there is no one perfect omni-channel solution, Williams said, because every retailer is different and each company’s business model has inherent complexity. “Although each of those three distribution channels is relatively mature, the idea of combining them is not,” he noted. “The most efficient system design, as determined by the market pressure exerted on a specific company, is simply not the same. There is no ‘cookie cutter’ solution.”

Therein lies the challenge, added Williams. “There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ that we are asked to consider when we develop a design.”

To help retailers better understand all the variables associated with the creation of an omni-channel distribution solution, Vanderlande has developed a white paper entitled “Designing an Automated, Omni-Channel Fulfillment Center: Key Considerations for Multi-Channel Retailers” that was published in July by Roadmap publication partner DC Velocity. The paper examines nine key factors, ranging from the types of materials to be handled to the impact of seasonality.

“Automation truly is the solution that makes an omni-channel distribution facility work,” concluded Williams. “Through the white paper, we’re hoping to help companies get a better grasp on the complexity that surrounds this type of project to be sure they maximize their investment in such a facility.”

Kimberly Ellis, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech

Long before publication of the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics—and its section devoted to the challenges faced by the industry in recruiting the next generation of talent (pages 54–63)—MHI’s College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) and the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) recognized the need to introduce college students to potential career opportunities in supply chain, material handling and logistics fields. The two organizations teamed up to produce the first Material Handling and Logistics Classroom Day a decade ago.

The event has been held in conjunction with every MHI exhibition ever since, including ProMat and (most recently) MODEX 2014. CICMHE invites students and professors from four-year engineering, technology, manufacturing, operations, supply chain and logistics programs at the university level to experience the industry’s latest technologies and solutions first-hand.

A guided tour of the show floor is included, with stops at designated exhibitor booths, and presentations from industry experts during breakfast and lunch. It also features a mini design competition, with student teams given a problem to solve based on the material handling and logistics technologies they observe on the show floor.

Although the MODEX event was the 11th Classroom Day since its inception, CICMHE and MHEDA have made a concerted effort to continuously tweak the program.

“No two Classroom Day events have been the same,” says Kimberly Ellis, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech, and past president of CICMHE. “The design competition is a good example. The planning committee for the event, led by Dale Masel, Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Ohio University, introduced the concept a few years ago, giving the students a case study of a facility with specific needs before sending them out on their tours. It provides a context in which to consider the application of the technologies, plus a taste of the types of projects they might encounter in their careers.”

The evolution of Classroom Day has been informed largely from student feedback, continues Ellis. Every event concludes with a written survey that gauges the students’ appreciation, knowledge and interest in the industry, as well as their experience during the day. Based on analysis of that feedback, she and her colleagues from Virginia Tech, Ohio University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte have developed a paper entitled “A Program to Engage College Students in the Material Handling and Logistics Industry.”

“We think that, as a model, Classroom Day has potential for adaptation by other trade associations seeking to engage students and attract talent to related industries,” Ellis explains. “The paper is an explanation of how this type of experiential learning can provide students with motivation for future study and employment in the supply chain, material handling and logistics field.

“We know, based on the feedback, that the event is valuable to students and their professors,” she added. “Further, we’ve seen continuously increasing interest and participation from schools and exhibitors, with more than 40 companies taking part in the MODEX 2014 Classroom Day. So, clearly, more exhibitors are recognizing the importance of networking with these students while they’re still in school, both as potential future employees or customers.”

Paul Jensen, Division President, Matthews Automation Solutions

When Paul Jensen, Division President of Matthews Automation Solutions (comprised of Matthews Marking Systems, Holjeron, Lightning Pick and Pyramid Controls, thinks about the types of innovations required by supply chains to meet the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics’ vision of 2025, he thinks “data.”

“The management and integration of data is one of the leading opportunities, and challenges, for supply chains—not just in the United States, but worldwide,” he explains. “With the rise of cloud computing and its ability to manage, manipulate and analyze information via the Internet, companies have unprecedented opportunities to better leverage their supply chains and increase their service offerings—and sales.”

The reason, Jensen continues, is because data is at the heart of order fulfillment. “Data is what’s used to mark, identify, track, control and pick the products required by every order. Customers are looking to suppliers like us to help them link and integrate all that data throughout the process,” he explains.

To that end, the Matthews family of brands has developed a variety of data-driven automation solutions that boost system interconnectivity and automate complex tasks that humans can’t accomplish efficiently. For example, when a customer places an order with an online retailer, there is a variety of data associated with the customer, the order and the required product(s).

“The systems we create and supply to e-commerce businesses include solutions such as light-directed mobile picking carts that use order data processing algorithms. The software continuously analyzes order data to group orders based on required product storage locations,” he says. To enable the carts to respond flexibly to changing order data, control software guides cart operators to areas with the highest order volumes at a given time, continues Jensen. Then, put-to-light modules display how many items each order requires.

Further, to meet the demands of consumers for mass personalization services, the company has offers brand-on-demand marking systems. The printers generate customized, order-specific messaging on shipping labels and the exterior of cardboard shipping cartons. “Again, the goal is to help companies better leverage the data associated with an order,” explains Jensen. “For example, with our systems in place, an online retailer can offer a grandparent the option to imprint a personalized greeting on a box containing a present that’s shipping to a grandchild.”

Likewise, by using Matthews Marking’s MPERIA universal print controller platform, manufacturers and shippers can coordinate and control the information marked on products across their supply chains—including multiple production lines in different locations worldwide. The system communicates through wireless or Ethernet connections and interfaces with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and warehouse management systems (WMS), he says.

“MPERIA manages the hundreds of data formats needed to comply with local country messaging requirements throughout a global supply chain,” Jensen adds. “And, it helps co-packers accommodate the coding placement requests of their customers to minimize the risk of chargebacks for non-compliance.”

Finally, the company is exploring ways to offer customers mobile computing solutions as a means to leverage real-time connectivity. “We’re taking an Internet-of-Things approach to engineer solutions for off-site monitoring of an order fulfillment process, or tracking of a specific order—either by the retailer or the consumer,” he says.

Cloud computing is still very much in its formative years, says Jensen, with many companies recognizing its importance to their supply chains, yet still strategizing about how to best capitalize upon its strengths.

“But it’s coming. That’s why the solutions we’re thinking about today are strongly influenced by our vision of a future in the cloud,” he concludes. “The idea is to help our customers improve their operations through better data management functions such as performance monitoring and analysis, troubleshooting, preventive maintenance alerts and notifications.”

Jerry Koch, Intelligrated’s Director of Corporate Marketing and Product Management

Automated material handling solutions provider Intelligrated is one of many companies to use the content of the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling and Logistics as a source for its strategic planning.

“We integrated the insights from the Roadmap into our product and solutions development plan—it was one of many inputs to the strategy we’re pursuing as we work on our product planning cycle,” said Jerry Koch, Intelligrated’s Director of Corporate Marketing and Product Management.

Specifically with regard to the workforce challenges identified in the Roadmap, Koch says Intelligrated is working on a three-pronged approach to help customers address the shortage of skilled workers faced by the industry.

First, Intelligrated designs and engineers automated systems that can be used in place of manual processes that, as noted on the Roadmap’s page 47, “include undesirable, hard-to-fill jobs, high turnover costs, workplace injuries and product damage from mishandling.”

Further, the company recently unveiled a resident maintenance offering, added to the services provided by its existing aftermarket technical support team.

“The resident maintenance program helps customers with a labor challenge to address the gap in available staffing,” Koch explains. “A highly-trained Intelligrated technician works on-site, full-time, at a customer’s facility, maintaining both equipment purchased from us—as well as equipment sourced elsewhere—to ensure that it operates at peak performance.”

Finally, Koch says the company agrees completely about the need for the industry to appeal to a much broader range of talent, addressed in the Roadmap’s chapter on The Workforce of Tomorrow (page 54). That’s why the company has invested heavily in professional development initiatives, he explains.

Among them is a co-op and internship program designed to give students enrolled in regional universities and technical schools around the country exposure to the wide variety of supply chain careers. “There are co-ops and interns at every Intelligrated facility,” notes Koch. “We also host a variety of events that support education in our industry, including the recent International Material Handling Research Colloquium (IMHRC) sponsored by the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE).”

“Our company is in a very competitive job market geographically, so we understand the value of introducing the next generation of students to the opportunities in our industry,” he said. “For that reason, we are one of the largest employers of co-ops and interns in the Cincinnati region—not only in engineering, but also throughout our company, including accounting, finance and even mathematical modeling.”

The company has also developed an online training tool featuring a 3-dimensional warehouse for educators and universities to use in their classrooms. “We’ve made that available to several programs, including those at MHI,” he said.

Ian Hobkirk, Managing Director of Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors

Among the core competencies that companies must develop in order to successfully navigate the mega-trends identified by the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics is better deployment and implementation of supply chain planning and optimization tools. The Roadmap devotes nearly three pages to the topic, starting on page 29.

As one of the original 100 contributors to the Roadmap’s development, Ian Hobkirk, Managing Director of Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors, noted that there’s no shortage of sophisticated data analysis and business intelligence tools on the market.

“There’s a variety of best-of-breed applications out there, and the vendors have gotten better at integrating the different tools, enabling them to interface with each other,” he said.

Many companies have warehouse management systems (WMS) and transportation management systems (TMS) from different suppliers that were implemented separately. Today’s business intelligence tools help to bridge that gap and make it easier to access the data within each system, he explained.

“The question is, why aren’t they used more?” queried Hobkirk. “There’s a huge opportunity for companies to make supply chain optimization decisions that are data driven, rather than intuitive. In my experience, companies have the data they need, but it’s in silos and the effort required to extract and manipulate it can be daunting; particularly if leadership is unaware of the benefits. But the business intelligence tools out there now can really help with that issue.”

Even among companies that do undertake a supply chain modeling exercise, it is often not revisited, he added—and that’s a mistake. “Planning and optimization is not a one-time project; it requires an ongoing commitment to maintain the data inputs and continuously update information as circumstances change.”

So how can companies better deploy network planning and optimization? A crucial step, said Hobkirk, is to put someone in charge. “It doesn’t have to be a C-level executive, but someone’s job has to be dedicated to measuring, tracking and monitoring trends.”

Also, it’s important to get a better grasp on inventory to support other optimization activities, such as slotting and shipping. “Particularly with slotting, many companies still have yet to capture certain pieces of data, such as dimensional or cube information about each item they store,” he said. “When the new dimension and weight charges from parcel carriers like FedEx and UPS go into effect in 2015, I expect that will become a priority for many operations.”

Steve Hopper, Founder and Principal of Inviscid Consulting

With supply chain evolution having reached an “exponential-exponential” rate of universal change, participants from corporations, solution providers and industry consultants recently shared their perspectives on the subject during the Atlanta WERCouncil chapter meeting. Regional WERCouncils consist of groups of WERC members who meet throughout the year for local-level education and networking opportunities.

Led by Steve Hopper, Founder and Principal of Inviscid Consulting, the group hosted a workshop featuring MHI’s Gary Forger, Managing Director of Professional Development. Forger’s presentation, “How Will the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics Affect Your Business?,” highlighted the ten primary disruptors contributing to these changes, as well as the core competencies that businesses must develop in order to excel through the turbulence.

The 18 participants were divided into two tables to select, then discuss, the top three competencies they each deemed most critical for businesses in the supply chain to succeed and thrive, said Hopper, who was also one of the original 100 contributors to the Roadmap’s development.

“Interestingly, hardly anyone prioritized the same things,” he recalled. “At my table, the highest number of votes any one competency received was four. When we consolidated the votes from the two tables, three of the top four vote getters were the same. Several received only one or two votes, and some received none at all.”

As chosen by the Atlanta WERCouncil participants, the top three Roadmap-identified competencies businesses must develop to adapt to supply chain changes were (in alphabetical order):

• Collaboration (page 42 of the Roadmap)
• Planning and Optimization (page 29 of the Roadmap)
• Total Supply Chain Visibility (page 24 of the Roadmap)

Hopper speculated that the variety of rankings might have been influenced by the respondents’ unique places within the supply chain.

“I think the variances depended not only on each person’s paradigm, but also on individual interpretations of the terms used,” he said. “For example, I think of ‘sustainability’ as referring to renewable resources, but others at my table defined it in terms of eliminating waste through Lean processes.”

The other interesting takeaway, noted Hopper, was the significant amount of overlap between each of the ten capabilities in general, and the top three in particular.

“When you think of planning and optimization, it’s difficult to do that well and accurately if you don’t have total supply chain visibility,” he explained. “And, it’s difficult to have visibility if you don’t have collaboration with trading partners willing to share the information that you need. Likewise, in large operations, it can even be a challenge to collaborate between departments.”

Speaking of collaboration, added Hopper, the workshop was so well received by its participants, he plans to present it at the next WERCouncil officers’ conference call. “Particularly with WERC being one of the Roadmap’s association partners, it would be a great topic for other WERCouncils to highlight at an upcoming event.”

Kimberly Ellis, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech

On page 21, the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics calls the Physical Internet an “ambitious, comprehensive vision that addresses a wide variety of [supply chain-related] problems.”

The concept, put forth by Benoit Montreuil, Professor and Coca-Cola Chair in Material Handling and Distribution at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), proposes an open global logistics system that leverages interconnected supply networks through a standardized set of collaborative protocols, modular containers and smart interfaces that enable universal tracking and communication. The goal is to increase efficiency and profitability while promoting sustainability.

“As a concept, the Physical Internet makes sense, but the overall potential gains for users had never been quantified,” explains Kimberly Ellis, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech.

Ellis and her colleague, Russell Meller, Ph.D., formerly of the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Arkansas (now with Fortna), set about to do just that, thanks to a two-year research grant through the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Industry & University Cooperative Research Program, and as a project of the Center for Excellence in Logistics and Distribution (CELDi).

Ellis and Meller’s research team focused on establishing the effects of standard case sizes and an optimized logistics network on supply chain performance to determine the potential logistics systems gains. Using a case study of a retailer who stocks 1,715 consumer packaged goods products and 1,057 different case sizes to ship them, they first examined the effect of limiting the number of case sizes.

“Our hypothesis was that with fewer standard sizes they would likely end up shipping additional empty package volume (referred to as “air”)—but we wanted to see how much more,” says Ellis. “We found that when we transitioned them from 1,057 to just 80 case sizes, they shipped approximately 14% more air. With fewer case sizes, however, the pallets can be packed much more efficiently, which in turn allows greater trailer utilization and generates an overall net savings of 11%. This net reduction in air was a surprising and unexpected benefit of standard case sizes.”

The team then examined the impact of increased collaboration between shippers and transportation service providers, developing network models that considered co-loading, continuous moves, back hauls and relay networks.

“We wanted to determine the potential benefit of the Physical Internet concept in terms of cost per load, empty miles, and driver time away from home, which is a significant factor in long-haul driver turnover,” Ellis continues.

The team focused on a data set of loads put out for bid between 78 cities in the Midwest during a given time period.

“As it turns out, if only 25% of loads were shipped using this collaborative concept, the average cost to transport each load decreases by approximately 29% and trailer utilization increases by 35%. Perhaps most importantly, drivers who were previously out on the road for as much as two weeks at a time could return home every two to four days without increasing costs, likely increasing driver satisfaction and reducing turnover.” she says. The complete findings are detailed in a publication titled “From Horizontal Collaboration to the Physical Internet: Quantifying the Effects on Sustainability and Profits When Shifting to Interconnected Logistics Systems.”

Now, Ellis is spearheading a follow-on research project, called “The Physical Internet: The Path Towards Realizing Logistics Systems Gains,” to examine how companies interested in applying the Physical Internet principles to their operations might overcome some of the associated barriers. Among these operational issues are system processes (routing, scheduling and coordinating loads), facility and container processes (creating, aggregating and disaggregating loads), and the general trepidation companies have about sharing information.

Joining her in the new research project are:

Ellis anticipates that the findings will be released in early 2016.

Gary Forger, MHI’s Managing Director of Professional Development, and organizer of the event

The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics will host its first Workforce Summit, entitled “Find, Train, Retain,” at ProMat 2015 on Wednesday, March 25 and Thursday, March 26. The event showcases a series of speakers and discussion panels that will explore best practices in recruiting, educating and keeping current and future supply chain workers, says Gary Forger, MHI’s Managing Director of Professional Development, and organizer of the event.

“Just as the Roadmap was developed in partnership with industry, suppliers, academia and government, the Roadmap Workforce Summit will bring both practitioners and educators together to address these issues across eight different sessions,” he explains.

The Roadmap devoted an entire section (“The Workforce of Tomorrow,” starting on page 54) to the twin challenges faced by the industry: demographics and skill sets. A rapidly changing workforce, inadequately defined career paths, and a lack of industry appeal to potential labor pools are key demographic challenges. Skills challenges include a training and education network too small to meet projected demand for skilled workers, inadequate skills of both existing and incoming workers, and a poorly connected training and education network.

“Between now and 2018, there will be 1.4 million new jobs in logistics and supply chain. However, educational institutions can graduate only 30% of that workforce,” Forger continues. “Meanwhile, there is significant turnover and change among the jobs and careers within the existing workforce. That requires people with many new skills and abilities just to keep pace with increasing supply chain complexity.”

The sessions have been designed to give attendees a chance to hear what workforce practitioners and educators are doing already. Speakers and panelists will offer practical advice on how to adopt best practices, and the impact those steps will have on both current and future workforces. More information can be found here.

The Summit is sponsored by:

Association of Professional Material Handling Consultants (APMHC)
College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE)
Material Handling Education Foundation (MHEFI)
Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA)
Supply Chain Talent Academic Initiative (SCTAI)
Technical Career Education Program (TCEP)
U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics
Warehousing Education & Research Council (WERC)

Bill Ferrell, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Associate Dean of the Graduate School at Clemson University

Kimberly Ellis, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech

During ProMat 2015, the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics—along with the Center for Excellence in Logistics and Distribution (CELDi) and the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) —is sponsoring a presentation entitled “How To Deal with Disruptors Affecting Your Career.

The seminar will feature insights from Roadmap community members Bill Ferrell, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Associate Dean of the Graduate School at Clemson University and Kimberly Ellis, Associate Professor in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech.

Attendees will learn about the ten key disruptors—identified by the Roadmap—that are making the most significant impact on supply chains today, and the core competencies essential to their future success, says Ferrell.

“These trends in our environment are going to very dramatically change material handling and logistics in our country’s supply chain,” he explains. “When you superimpose that change with the current workforce challenge, there will have to be a change in skills and education.”

For example, Ferrell says that the way the industry’s work is currently structured accommodates the baby boomer generation. “Many of today’s tasks aren’t driven by tablets or mobile devices, which is what millennials are accustomed to and expect in their jobs,” he says. “We’ll be discussing those kinds of disruptors and the types of skills that will be needed in the future, because people need to be thinking about these questions.”

“Every one of the ten Roadmap disruptors could affect people’s future work requirements,” agrees Ellis. “For example, companies are going to need people with more technical skills at every level of their organization.”

The presentation couldn’t be more timely, continues Ferrell. “The skills gap is here, right now, today. For example, there is a shortage of employees with the skills required to support the automation technologies deployed in today’s warehouses … and the technology behind tomorrow’s logistics system is going to be more complex,” he says.

Since the Roadmap’s release, both Ellis and Ferrell have added content about the ten disruptors into their courses—particularly about research into the factors shaping these trends—to prepare their students for some of the unpredictability they’ll be facing as they launch their supply chain careers.

“It’s important that our students are exposed to topics such as supply chain collaboration and the Physical Internet initiative, which seeks to reduce the inefficiencies in the current logistics system,” adds Ellis. “Because they’ll be the people developing and providing the supply chain solutions that address these disruptors in the very near future.”

Jack Rosenberg, National Director of Logistics and Transportation Solutions at commercial real estate services organization Colliers

For operations serving customers through e-commerce and omni-channel distribution, picking the right locations for warehousing comes down to a whole host of factors. Not least among them, of course, is cost.

As the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics explored in its “Low-Cost, Low-Impact Material Handling and Logistics” section (starting on page 41), “Firms (and nations) that execute logistics operations at lower cost will always enjoy a competitive advantage.”

Helping companies reduce their real estate costs and pick the best location for their distribution facilities is 30-year industry veteran Jack Rosenberg’s area of expertise. As the National Director of Logistics and Transportation Solutions at commercial real estate services organization Colliers, Rosenberg has a unique perspective on how to evaluate the impact of today’s supply chain trends on location decisions.

“The biggest trend in supply chain right now is that everybody wants same-day or next-day service, which affects decisions about where to locate distribution facilities,” he notes. “However, the choices that companies are making about being closer to urban areas vary from company to company.”

The five biggest markets for logistics and distribution are Atlanta, Dallas, Southern California, Chicago and the New York/New Jersey area. But where companies decide to locate within those metro areas varies a great deal.

“When you look at urban industrial facilities, there’s a connection between the age of a building, its proximity to a major city’s downtown and its obsolescence,” Rosenberg says. “For example, where I’m located in Chicago, the buildings closest to downtown were probably built in 1920, with 12-foot ceiling heights and that accommodate a maximum truck length of 50 feet, including the cab. Today that’s just a completely obsolete facility.”

Although there are companies engaging in urban in-fill activities—buying a site, tearing down the existing building and constructing a new, modern facility in its place—those are generally exceptions to the rule because of the associated costs.

“Most industrial distribution centers remain located on the outer perimeter of a metropolitan area,” he says. “That’s why more and more retailers are opting to use their stores as distribution centers; it gives them a means to compete with Amazon on same-day or next-day delivery services.

For three weeks in March, a delegation of 20 executives and heads of logistics departments from Eurasian countries Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan toured select cities in the U.S. The group visited Washington D.C., Atlanta, Charlotte and Chicago through the Special American Business Internship Training (SABIT) program (which also has a page on Facebook) under the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration.

The SABIT program’s 2015 Eurasian Supply Chain Management Delegation was escorted by Becky Long, International Trade Specialist, and a pair of interpreters. Comprised of CEOs and executives, the delegates’ companies are involved in logistics, warehousing and retail/wholesale, as well as manufacturing in the food processing, consumer goods, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals industries.

For more than 20 years, the SABIT program has offered delegates from international companies a chance to learn about best practices in various industries by arranging meetings with U.S. companies, trade organizations and educational institutions. This was the first year the SABIT program hosted a delegation focused on supply chain management.

Among the educational institutions toured was the Rock Hill, South Carolina School District’s Applied Technology Center. The delegates spent a morning observing high school students in the Don Frazier Supply Chain Training Program, and learning more about training opportunities at the secondary education level, says Don Gillman, ATC Director.

“They asked questions about our school and how it operates. Because we serve three different high schools, students are bused to and from our school throughout the day for career and technical classes,” he recalls. “The delegates also asked about the emphasis we place on essential workplace skills/soft skills development. They noticed the posters and displays adorning our hallways and classrooms/labs.”

Gillman says the executives also seemed quite impressed with the ages of the students and the tasks they tackle as part of the program’s hands-on learning curriculum.

“We have students from 14 to 18 years old actively engaged in on-campus warehouse facilities, operating forklifts, automated storage and retrieval machines, stretch-wrap equipment, warehouse management software and other equipment,” he explains. “I got the sense that similar education programs may not exist in their home countries.”

The delegation watched ATC students run the Back the Pack program, which organizes, packages and distributes non-perishable food items to Rock Hill school system children in need. The students also partner with the First Book organization in Washington D.C. to run an on-site book distribution program. This partnership lets students learn about receiving, organizing, order picking, packing and shipping in a real-world environment.

“We were happy to host the delegates, not only as a chance to introduce them to our school’s material handling and logistics program, but it’s also important for our students to see their class and teacher get international attention,” Gillman continues, noting that local Rock Hill news station CN2 covered the group’s ATC visit. “Supply chain and material handling are key parts of a huge, international industry, and the delegation’s visit helps our students to start thinking bigger in terms of their career.”

Also during their time at the ATC, the group was introduced to the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics via a presentation from Gary Forger, MHI’s Managing Director of Professional Development. Forger presented a brief overview of the document, piquing the group’s interest.

When their trip concluded with four days at ProMat, they learned even more about the latest Roadmap-related industry developments during the 2015 MHI Annual Industry Report keynote. Several participants commented to Long that they saw international applicability in the document, and subsequently asked her to include a copy in the follow-up information sent to them after their tour.

Gary Forger, MHI’s Managing Director of Professional Development, and organizer of the event

The following article, reprinted from MHI Solutions’ second quarter 2015 issue, was written by Gary Forger, MHI’s Managing Director of Professional Development.

No doubt about it. The past year has been a huge one for the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics.

Not only was it published and made available at, but the Roadmap went on a tour of its own—coast to coast and internationally.

Some of the cities it has visited include Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Trenton, Louisville and New Orleans. You get the drift. It also went to Quebec City, Canada and Zaragoza, Spain. When all was said and done, the Roadmap was presented at more than 20 events. And already in 2015, there have been another half dozen stops.

People have heard the long version and the short one. Most of them have had a chance to give the Roadmap some thought and prioritize the 10 core competencies that must be developed to counter the 10 disruptors.

Every time, prioritization has been thought provoking. And usually, it’s the first time people have thought and talked about the supply chain in the big picture. We’re all so caught up in our day-to-day immediate concerns in a tightly defined silo, that the big picture doesn’t always get much attention.

So, what have I learned from all this? Quite a bit, actually.

To begin, people’s supply chain priorities really do differ based on where they fit. Equipment suppliers have different priorities than academics whose priorities are different than practitioners and different than government and association people. Their priorities don’t clash. They’re just different.

And their priorities changed as the year went along. Early on, e-commerce was typically in the top 5. Today that’s not the case. It’s almost as if e-commerce went from being notable to being part of the assumed landscape.

As the year went on, core competencies such as planning/optimization, supply chain visibility and collaboration became important more frequently. The same can be said for high-speed logistics, but it cracked the top five less often for sure.

Meanwhile, technology/automation as well as workforce held their own throughout the year as top priorities. Sustainability floated, depending on the crowd.

But the least understood of all the core competencies is urban logistics. It rarely registered in the top five priorities. And when most were asked about it, blank stares were the standard response.

Throughout all this, I have become convinced that the world is changing more rapidly than we think. Most are still of the mind that we can deal with today now and the future at some other time—preferably when it is convenient to do so. Trouble is, the rate of change says that’s no longer a feasible approach to material handling, logistics and supply chain. Certainly not with the Internet in your pocket.

To that point, one of the topics never addressed by the Roadmap is cyber security. The topic was mentioned only in passing when we met with more than 100 people to build the Roadmap just 18 months ago. That “for instance” alone, should make the point of the “exponential exponential rate of change” we live with today.

As you can well imagine, we will continue to keep the Roadmap in front of people. It is the reason there is a workforce summit at ProMat 2015 and why a supply chain technician certification is under development. We are also in the process of going regional with the Roadmap and building local models in some key cities across the country.

There will be more news of Roadmap outcomes as 2015 goes on.

Mark Wheeler,
Zebra’s Director
of Supply
Chain Solutions

Zebra Technologies Corp. released the findings of a study on the Internet of Things (IoT) it commissioned with Forrester Research

At ProMat 2015, Zebra Technologies Corp. released the findings of a study on the Internet of Things (IoT) it commissioned with Forrester Research. The report, “Internet of Things Solution Deployment Gains Momentum Among Firms Globally,” found that 96% of surveyed transportation and logistics companies agree that IoT is the most strategic technological initiative their organization will undertake this decade.

The study surveyed 600 information technology (IT) and business decision makers from global companies with operations spanning a variety of industries. Among the key findings:

  • 90% of respondents either have, or plan to, deploy IoT solutions within a year, with the most important technologies being Wi-Fi, security sensors, near field communications (NFC) and real-time locating systems.
  • Anticipated IoT implementation benefits include better regulatory compliance (51%); improved delivery processes (51%); safer operations (45%); cost savings (44%); and expanded supply chain visibility (44%).
  • The biggest IoT implementation challenges cited were privacy and security concerns (40%) and system complexity (38%).

The findings closely correspond to those included in the second MHIs Annual Industry Report “Supply Chain Innovation—Making the Impossible Possible,” (also released at ProMat), which designated IoT-empowering wearable and mobile technologies a “growth technology” on the cusp of a major market explosion. Likewise, the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics predicted similar adoption rates within supply chains of IoT-enabled wearable computing technologies (pages 14 and 27).

“There are two main focuses of IoT for supply chains,” explains Mark Wheeler, Zebra’s Director of Supply Chain Solutions. “One is enhancing the customer’s experience, and the other is optimizing internal operations through better visibility, asset optimization and supply chain performance. There’s both an internal efficiency component and a customer-facing aspect, and either or both can be important to a business depending on its circumstances.”

The report’s release at ProMat was timely, says Wheeler, who notes that many attendees had IoT-leveraging solutions top-of-mind when shopping the show aisles.

“The study shows that there are very high expectations for IoT to be transformative for industries,” he explains. “People are hungry to get an understanding of what IoT is going to mean for them, and how to put it in the right perspective.”

While the potential benefits of IoT are easy to imagine, the challenge lies in handling its inherent complexity. “How do you manage all the different ways to connect to different smart devices with different sensors, all of which are going to continue to expand,” continues Wheeler. “Companies are looking for a way to reap the benefits while managing both cost and risk.”

George Prest, CEO of MHI

MHI released its second Annual Industry Report: Supply chain innovation—Making the impossible possible

MHI released its second “Annual Industry Report: Supply chain innovation—Making the impossible possible” during the March 25 keynote panel discussion at ProMat 2015. The report’s key focus is on eight of the technologies identified by the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling and Logistics as being those most likely to spur dramatic, transformational change in supply chains.

“We didn’t want the Roadmap to be a document that just sits on the shelf,” explained MHI CEO George Prest at the outset of the keynote. For that reason, MHI chose to focus this year’s study—produced in partnership with Deloitte Consulting LLP—on an in-depth examination of:

  • Inventory and network optimization tools;
  • Sensors and automatic identification;
  • Cloud computing and storage;
  • Robotics and automation;
  • Predictive analytics;
  • Wearable and mobile technology;
  • 3D printing; and
  • Driverless vehicles and drones.

“The speed at which supply chain innovation is being adopted—coupled with rising consumer expectations for anytime, anywhere service—is stressing traditional supply chains to near-breaking points,” continued Prest. “These are the eight technologies that are gaining traction as supply chain executives work to keep their companies competitive and deliver orders that are accurate and on-time.”

The report was based on an extensive list of questions posed to more than 400 supply chain decision makers (57% with CEO, Vice President or General Manager titles). A broad range of industries is represented, with participants from small to large corporations in manufacturing, distribution and related services. Half of the respondents have annual sales of $100 million or more; the balance reported annual revenues under $100 million.

The report groups the technologies into three categories—maturing, growing and emerging—based on current adoption levels and anticipated adoption over the next five years. Among the findings:

  • Four maturing technologies (inventory and network optimization tools; sensors and automatic identification; cloud computing and storage; and robotics and automation) are already in use by more than 35% of companies. Within five years their use is expected to expand to 80-90%.
  • Two growth technologies (predictive analytics and wearable and mobile technology) are being used by 24% of companies, and their use is expected to expand by at least two-thirds within the next five years.
  • The two emerging technologies (3D printing and driverless vehicles and drones) have limited applications currently with fewer than 10% of companies using them.

“I believe that we are at the dawn of an innovation wave that will soon hit the material handling industry,” said Scott Sopher, principal at Deloitte, during the presentation. “The convergence of big data, faster and cheaper computer power, and the increasing demands of customers will likely accelerate the adoption of innovative products and services in the material handling industry.”

Bill Ferrell, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Associate Dean of the Graduate School at Clemson University

During a recent trip to India, U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics’ community member Bill Ferrell, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Associate Dean of Graduate School at Clemson University presented a seminar that focused on the Roadmap and research topics it creates to students and faculty at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur.

“Kharagpur is the oldest IIT and the only one with an industrial and systems engineering program,” Ferrell explains. “I was in India on other business, and was invited to present a research seminar to around 50 graduate students and undergrads, as well as their professors.”

At the request of IIT Kharagpur’s faculty, Ferrell focused his talk on the Roadmap and its ten disruptors, as well as some of the latest developments in research surrounding the Physical Internet Initiative.

He tailored the presentation to highlight areas of specific interest to the students, including next-generation logistics systems as well as the changing skill sets that will be required to support those systems.

“One of the trends or disruptors noted in the Roadmap is mobile and wearable computing. Young people today are much more connected with mobile devices and because of that I think the overall nature of work is going to change,” he says. “For example, providing millennials the ability to be effortlessly and fully integrated with mobile devices—to request and receive information—is going to impact how tasks get completed and how efficiently that is accomplished. This is different from the way most Baby Boomers work.”

Ferrell challenged the students to work on figuring out how to leverage newer technologies to simulate and solve traditional logistics challenges. He also fielded questions, including one about the impact of additive manufacturing (including 3D printing) on logistics especially in densely populated areas, and two about the potential impact of possible changes, like the Physical Internet, on jobs.

“In a country like India, where employment is an ongoing concern, several students were very worried about that,” he recalls. “I tried to impress upon them that I don’t think next generation systems and technologies will reduce the number of available jobs, but rather the jobs themselves will change. I think that technical skills and education requirements will evolve to support these systems.”

Most of the discussion was student-led, Ferrell adds. “India is a developing country, and they have some massive logistics issues that these students will be working to solve,” he explains. “But when you look at some of the developments discussed in the Roadmap, it’s apparent that technological advances can contribute to solving these challenges quicker and cheaper.”

Ferrell cites the rise of mobile phones in India—as opposed to the placement of physical telephone lines—as one example of how technology has furthered the country’s advance much quicker than would have been possible with the old technology.

“There are some brilliant students and faculty at IIT Kharagpur. Combine this with the work ethic I observed by stopping in at one of the research labs late one evening where students were working in an interdisciplinary team to improve grain distribution throughout the country, and I think India’s future is very bright. I also am convinced that some of the Roadmap-identified technologies are going to help researchers there move forward quite quickly,” he concludes.

A variety of material handling and logistics practitioners, suppliers, government, associations and academics met to discuss development of the Inland Empire roadmap.

Inspired by the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics’ view of the disruptors contributing to the unbridled pace of changes impacting supply chains—and by the core competencies that businesses must develop in order to adapt and thrive through the ensuing turbulence—several regions have launched local Roadmap initiatives.

Among them is California’s Inland Empire. Located in the southern part of the state and due east of the Los Angeles metro area (encompassing Riverside and San Bernadino counties), the 4,850-square-mile area is a critical national supply chain hub.

Thanks to its proximity to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which receive 40% of all U.S. cargo container imports, nearly 75% of the goods arriving via those ports subsequently pass through Inland Empire distribution centers (DCs) before routing to destinations throughout the west and Midwest.

Because of the area’s importance to the U.S. supply chain, the region’s local organization of logistics and supply chain professionals—the Distribution Management Association (DMA)—gathered 14 key players to begin the process of building out a local Roadmap to 2025. The group met in late April at Target’s 1.6 million square foot DC in the area.

Facilitating the gathering were DMA members Steve Harrington, Industry Liaison for the National Center for Supply Chain Technology Education, and Carlos Vega, Senior Sales Manager for Intelligrated. Together, the two invited a variety of material handling and logistics practitioners, suppliers, government, associations and academics to the meeting (the same groups represented in the national Roadmap’s community of thought leaders).

Attendees included people from Southwest Material Handling, the APICS Inland Empire Chapter, the Riverside County Workforce Development Center, the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, McLane Foodservice and FuturePorts.

“The session kicked off with an overview of the U.S. Roadmap, including the top ten disruptors and ten core competencies,” recalls Harrington. “We then broke up into two groups, making sure that at least one representative from each community—academics, government and so on—was in each.”

The two groups debated the U.S. Roadmap’s disruptors and core competencies, as well as their degrees of relevance to the Inland Empire’s logistics landscape. One common theme that resonated with the group was the challenges associated with attracting, training and retaining a skilled workforce to the region. “The importance of people and the shortage of the talent pool in every arena rose to the top of both of our lists,” he says.

What’s interesting, says Vega, is that many of the Inland Empire’s disruptors and core competencies are the same. “The elements that give our area its greatest potential for success also represent some of our greatest challenges,” he notes.

After an afternoon of deliberation, the group’s key disruptors for the Inland Empire Roadmap were:

  • Changing workforce
  • Sustainability
  • E-commerce
  • Robotics and automation
  • Big data
  • Government regulations
  • Security
  • Infrastructure
  • Relentless competition
  • Urbanization

Their top core competencies include:

  • Workforce of tomorrow
  • Planning and optimization
  • Collaboration
  • Technology and automation
  • E-commerce
  • Infrastructure
  • Sustainability
  • Supply chain visibility
  • Risk management
  • High-speed fulfillment

“Our location’s proximity to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the rail and highway infrastructure which connects this region to the rest of the U.S., and the jobs our industry creates are all tremendous assets,” Vega explains. “But the supply chain industry continues to be challenged by the longshoreman strikes and government regulations, as well as a lack of understanding about the contributions the industry provides to the local economy.”

For those reasons, says Vega, it’s critical for all the parties to work together to identify the challenges and build a game plan to expand opportunities for the region. To that end, a larger gathering is planned for the fall to revisit those lists and solicit additional data to form the basis of an initial draft of the Inland Empire Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics, says Harrington.

Jennifer Pazour, Ph.D., assistant professor at UCF

In teaching the Masters’ level Engineering Logistics course in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems at the University of Central Florida (UCF), assistant professor Jennifer Pazour, Ph.D. assigned her students the task of identifying something new within the field.

“Students worked in groups of up to three to identify an open research question or an emerging trend in supply chain,” she explains. “To help them get started, I recommended the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handing & Logistics as a source.”

The assignment comprised three components, Pazour says. Students prepared a written report describing the trend or technology’s current state, both in terms of academic research and its use in practice. They also had to create a one-page flyer that explained their topic then give a brief presentation that included a question-and-answer session.

“The students definitely used the Roadmap to get them started on their projects, and the fact that its information is very accessible and all presented in a single document makes it a terrific resource—particularly for students, or anyone who is a novice in this area,” she says. “Because it was developed by experts that makes it that much more valuable.”

Pazour noted that the topic choices of the nearly 40 students in the class—a mix of freshly-minted college graduates in school full-time, along with more seasoned professionals already employed in the field—seemed somewhat influenced by their experience in the industry.

“Several of the younger, more traditional students were interested in the futuristic-type technologies. For example, the potential use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in grocery stores to eliminate checkout lines for an improved customer experience, and the gamification of warehousing tasks such as Google Glass-assisted picking,” she recalls.

Conversely, the students currently employed in supply chain-related careers picked research topics that have already emerged within the field, noted Pazour. Among them were drone deliveries of products, e-commerce applications and utilizing robotics for material handling in the warehouse. “Those choices may be because I encouraged those in the field to select something that might be applicable to a work project,” explains Pazour.

Pazour will be moving on to a new position in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in August. She already has plans to use the Roadmap in the supply chain course she will be teaching in the fall.

Additionally, Pazour—who received a Material Handling Educational Foundation (MHEFI) scholarship as a graduate student—plans to continue her work in applied operations research, developing mathematical models of systems.

“I’m motivated by the real world problems in industry, specifically material handling and logistics issues. Roadmap-wise, I’m getting ready to begin some new work on the omni-channel questions it addressed,” she says. More information about Pazour’s work can be found on her personal website.

Jon C. Adams, Treasurer of Columbus McKinnon

At various times throughout the year, the corporate leadership team at Columbus McKinnon gathers to discuss strategy. The company designs, manufacturers and markets overhead handling systems—including hoists, actuators, cranes, and lifting and rigging tools—that are deployed worldwide to move, lift, position or secure materials in a variety of industries.

“These meetings are a chance for our team to step outside our usual focus on the short-term and what’s happening in the now,” says Jon C. Adams, Treasurer of the company.

Prior to the group’s first planned gathering in April, Adams discovered the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics.

“When I found the Roadmap—and its longer-term view of where the industry is headed—I thought it was exactly the type of information we should be reflecting upon as we go through our strategic planning process,” he explains.

As part of the strategic planning process, Adams shared the Roadmap with his colleagues and requested that everyone review it prior to a planning meeting that occurred in April. He also arranged for Gary Forger, MHI’s Managing Director of Professional Development, to facilitate via dial-in a discussion of the Roadmap’s predictions during the session.

The dozen members of the team participating in the sessions, all direct reports to Columbus McKinnon CEO Timothy Tevens, took time to discuss the Roadmap and the mega-trends most likely to impact their business, Adams recalls. The group, through the facilitation of Forger, had a spirited discussion around the merits and subsequent impact of these “disruptors.”

Although participants represented different aspects of the organization—including finance, marketing, sales, human resources and information technology departments—the group agreed unanimously on the most significant disruptors that are expected to have the greatest potential impact on the company’s future growth objectives.

“While I think we all recognized that these trends exist, engaging in this exercise was a good way to shake up the thinking of our group,” he says.

From a longer-term, strategic perspective, Adams and his colleagues agreed the Roadmap established the groundwork for supporting many of the key initiatives that will come out of the planning sessions.

“In fact, in subsequent discussions after the session with Gary, we often referenced back to the Roadmap as further support for making certain decisions,” he concludes. “We found that reviewing the Roadmap as part of the strategic planning process was an extremely valuable exercise.”

Philip Alfano, Superintendent of the Patterson Joint Unified School District

Normally reserved for educators and administrators at the high school and community/technical college level, this year’s installment of MHI’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Educators Summit will also include regional workforce development and business leaders on the first full day of the event. The four-day gathering runs July 20 to 23, and will be hosted by the Patterson Joint Unified School District in Patterson, Calif.

In addition to learning about the latest best practices in instructional materials, teaching techniques and partnerships, the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics will be featured in a breakout session specifically for the workforce development and business participants.

The session will be led by Daniel Stanton, MHI’s Vice President of Education and Workforce Development. The group will review and rank the most critical disruptors contributing to supply chain changes, as well as the core competencies that businesses must develop to excel. A special emphasis will be placed on topics related to education and workforce development, explains Angela Jenkins, MHI’s Education Coordinator.

“The CTE Educators Summit has traditionally included educators from across the country that either already have a material handling and logistics training program in place, or are looking to start one,” she says. “This year, however, we felt that it was important to give educators an opportunity hear from the workforce and business side—and vice versa.”

The reason, adds Jenkins, is because the most successful supply chain-related career and technical educational programs are the ones that have forged strong partnerships with local industry.

That’s absolutely true, agrees Philip Alfano, Superintendent of the Patterson Joint Unified School District. In 2009 Alfano’s school district started its business logistics technical training program—open to grades 10-12—to prepare students for direct entry into distribution and warehousing positions. The program was developed with guidance from MHI, connections Alfano made with local businesses and workforce development leaders, and through a partnership with Modesto Junior College.

“We established a really good business advisory committee, with representatives from local and regional distribution centers including Amazon, Grainger, CVS, Kohls, Restoration Hardware, Costco, Gallo, Sierra Pacific, and more,” Alfano explains. “In addition to advising us about the skillsets they need as employers, they’ve also worked with us to create job opportunities for our students.”

Amazon, for example, guarantees up to 10 positions for the school’s students upon completion of the program. “If they stay with Amazon for a year, Amazon will then pay their tuition—up to 95%—to continue their education. Grainger and Gallo have also developed similar programs,” he says.

Additionally, in 2014 the school received a $2.5 million bond fund to build a new, 6,000-square-foot warehouse with adjoining classrooms, and a $500,000 grant from a California Career Pathways Trust (a part of the California Department of Education) to staff and equip the facility.

The new building dramatically expands the school’s current working warehouse, a 400-square-foot space from which students maintain inventory and fill customer orders for nonprofit book distributor First Book. The facility is slated to open in the fall, and a tour of it will be included during the CTE Educators Summit.

“We’re excited to be hosting the Educators Summit this year; it’s an event that has been very valuable to our program’s development,” adds Alfano. “We’re particularly looking forward to getting input from other educators, as we work to complete the set-up of our new building, to ensure that our students get the maximum benefit.”

With its strategic location and skilled worker population, Kern County in California has become a supply chain and logistics hub for many corporations over the past decade. Among the 40 major distribution centers (DCs) located in the county are facilities owned by Frito-Lay, Bolthouse Farms, Grimway Farms, Ross, Target, Sears, IKEA and Famous Footwear. Regionally, more than 25,000 people are employed in the field.

And yet, as noted by the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics, the industry is struggling to attract skilled, qualified workers. More than 270,000 new jobs nationwide are projected to be added in the field annually by 2018; Kern County is not immune to the workforce struggle.

That’s why, in late April, the Kern High School District’s (KHSD) Regional Occupational Center (ROC) in Bakersfield, Calif., partnered with MHI’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program to host a summit to address the growing supply chain labor needs of local industry. The Supply Chain Logistics Business/Education Luncheon included leaders from many of the area’s DCs. It also included representatives from local schools, community colleges and universities.

Brian Miller, KHSD ROC’s Assistant Principal, organized the event. “Several months ago we were approached by some of the local operations asking for our assistance in developing career and technical education programs that could help fill their labor gap in the logistics and supply chain fields,” he explains. “There currently aren’t any career path training options at either the high school or community college level in our area.”

Because the KHSD ROC is a public education career and technical training institution that offers classes to both high school students and adults, adding such a program was a natural fit, Miller says. He started researching available curricula and other resources, which led him to MHI’s CTE program.

“Through MHI, we learned about similar programs around the country, including one just four hours north of us at Patterson Joint Unified School District,” he says. “One of the first steps in developing our program was to bring both industry representatives and educators together to talk about how we might form a partnership. That’s why we hosted the summit.”

Speakers included Daniel Stanton, MHI’s Vice President of Education and Workforce Development, and Philip Alfano, Superintendent of the Patterson Joint Unified School District.

“There was great discussion about how the employers could help educators meet their needs by helping us tailor our instruction to the jobs they have available,” notes Miller. “They understand the labor force needs, not just of today but also of the future. For example, our local distribution park has several more facilities scheduled to be built, so the demand will continue to be there.”

As an immediate outcome, the KHSD ROC created a new, six-week summer school pilot program called “21st Century Careers in Logistics” to introduce students to career opportunities in warehousing and distribution. Following the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC)’s Certified Logistics Technician foundational level course, the 20 students enrolled are spending 4.5 hours a day learning about the field and getting hands-on experience, including an opportunity to become forklift certified.

“We’ve also been able to utilize some of the contacts we made at the luncheon, bringing them in as guest speakers and asking them to host facility tours,” he explains. “It gives our students exposure to the types of jobs, benefits and chances for upward mobility available to them with an education that puts them on that career path.”

The long-term goal, says Miller, is to establish a pathway that allows students to begin their supply chain and logistics education in high school, then carry that knowledge forward to a two-year technical or community college program—possibly at the local Bakersfield College, which also participated in the summit.

California State University – Bakersfield also attended the luncheon, and they already have a supply chain management concentration in their business department. So there’s another great connection if students wanted to continue their education even further,” he adds.

Several of the summit participants also agreed to join an advisory group to guide Miller as he develops the program and its sequence of courses. “I’m hopeful that we can get students in classes by January 2016,” he says. “We feel like we have some good momentum with our education and industry partners, and we’re eager to continue making progress.”

John Caltagirone, Director of Loyola’s SVCC

Mike Romano, Associated President and CEO

The workforce challenges explored in the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics were the topic of a panel discussion during the second annual full-day Supply Chain Leadership Conference. The Conference—presented by the Loyola University Chicago’s Supply and Value Chain Center (SVCC) at the Quinlan School of Business and hosted by integrated supply chain solutions provider Associated at its suburban Chicago headquarters in Addison, Illinois—was held in early June and attended by 125 participants.

In a panel discussion, three supply chain leaders examined how industry can develop and retain talent whose skill sets keep pace with the tremendous flux currently impacting the field. Just last year it was predicted that more than 50% of supply chain jobs would change by the end of 2015.

Moderated by Gary Forger, Managing Director of Professional Development at MHI, the three panelists were Sharon Rice, Vice President of Strategy at APICS; Betsey Nohe, Vice President of Supply Chain at Morton Salt; and Harry Haney, Associate Director Customer Development at Kraft Foods. Discussion included what measures session attendees could take immediately to both develop and retain their supply chain talent pool for a short-term impact within the next year or two.

One of key insights the panelists shared was the importance of industry and academia forging partnerships to tackle these workforce challenges, says John Caltagirone, Director of Loyola’s SVCC.

“The panelists suggested that corporations throughout the supply chain—including manufacturers, distributors, retailers, wholesalers and more—should tie into a school not only to get the right training for their current employees, but also to establish a pipeline of new personnel with the skills needed to succeed,” he notes.

In fact, during the panel discussion Caltagirone learned from Morton Salt’s Nohe that her company plans to establish a cooperative work-study program with Loyola. The idea is to give the school’s supply chain students an opportunity to rotate through a variety of jobs within the company to gain hands-on experience while also earning both pay and credit.

“That type of program is really important both for students and for companies,” he continues, noting that Loyola has been working with a company that has experienced a lot of turnover of their new hires after a year of employment. Caltagirone’s team found that these staffers, graduates from a variety of supply chain and industrial engineering university programs, weren’t adequately prepared for the reality of day-to-day supply chain operations.

“A lot of schools, including Loyola, emphasize analytics in their programs. But the need at the corporate level right now is for operations management, so there’s been a disconnect with what we teach and what they need,” he says. “We’re working to help students understand that starting as a supervisor at a distribution center is simply the first step on a path to advancement through their career.”

Additionally, Loyola will be developing a certificate curriculum to support this company and others with qualified students. “We plan to offer the program to students who don’t necessarily want to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree, but would like to get additional training in a specialized area of the field, such as distribution operations or inventory management,” Caltagirone continues.

During the panel, Kraft’s Haney mentioned that his company looks to partner with schools to serve as talent “suppliers,” recalls Caltagirone.

“They would like to work with a handful of educational institutions that they know are preparing students with the skill sets their company needs. It’s a great strategy,” he adds. “Depending on much of a commitment a company is willing to make, it should consider providing a staffer to serve as an adjunct professor at the school, or offer education on-site at their facility.”

Mike Romano, President and CEO of Associated, agrees. “Our industry cannot sit and wait for fresh talent to come to us anymore; we have to be proactive and reach out to educators in order to pursue the right skills and talent,” he says. “It may seem obvious, but as an industry we have tended to recycle talent—and in the face of the changes both in our industry and experienced by our customers, we can’t afford to do that anymore. We need to seek opportunities for our industry to be more visible to the younger workforce as well.”

Associated began partnering with colleges and technical schools within the greater Chicago area about eight years ago to develop curriculum and establish a pipeline of potential new hires, Romano recalls. Because nearly half of the company’s workforce are technicians servicing customers’ equipment, Associated has built particularly deep relationships with trade schools—including volunteering the firm’s technical training experts to serve on the schools’ curriculum development boards.

“We want to contribute to the skills these kids are getting so they come out ready for our environment,” he says.

It was a point that most of the Conference attendees seemed to take to heart, Romano notes, saying there were a lot of nodding heads in the audience. “The biggest difference I’ve seen over the past few years is the number of people within our industry who have embraced these workforce development and retention challenges as a business issue and are now taking the initiative to tackle it,” he concludes.

Inspired by the findings of the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics and the second MHI Annual Industry Report “Supply chain innovation—Making the impossible possible,” two of MHI’s industry groups transitioned to new names and formats in the spring.

Holding their official launches during MHI’s October 4-7, 2015 Executive Summit & Annual Conference are the Automation Solutions Group (ASG)(formerly the Integrated Systems and Controls Industry Group) and the Information Systems Solutions Group (ISSG) (formerly the Supply Chain Execution Systems & Technologies Group).

The new solutions groups represent a step away from the traditional activities of the industry groups. The product-focused groups focused more on developing and authoring standards for the construction, operation and safety practices surrounding materials handling equipment says Jerry Koch, Director of Corporate Marketing and Product Management at Intelligrated and Chair of ASG.

“The goal of the new solutions groups is to focus on the supply chain marketplace, its challenges and its solutions as a whole, and the to engage the marketplace to figure out what the opportunities are,” Koch explains. “As a solution group we can facilitate that conversation by bringing together everyone in the industry.”

That’s because membership and participation in each of these two new solutions groups is open to anyone—including MHI members who may not currently belong to (or fit into) an existing industry group, and to non-members, including users. It was a natural extension of the collaborations many suppliers were already engaged in as they partnered to engineer and provide complete solutions to their customers.

Both solutions groups formed officially at MHI’s Spring Meetings, adds Koch, and have been busy developing programming to establish each as the definitive resource for identification, integration, deployment and use of existing and future material handling solutions in supply chain operations.

ASG has a number of market research and outreach activities planned, says Koch, who notes that the group divided its initiatives between himself and two other leaders. Serving as ASG Vice Chairs are Bill Leber, Director of Business Development and Marketing at Swisslog Logistics, and Shana Relle, Global Marketing Director for Logistics and Material Handling at Intralox.

ASG’s first event will be a panel discussion at MHI’s Executive Summit & Annual Conference event, says Leber. “We want to add value to the industry through an external focus,” he explains. “By identifying market trends and issues—such as those highlighted by the Roadmap and the MHI Annual Industry Report for example—then specifically seeking out end users to participate in a panel. We’ve asked them to share the automation strategies they’ve implemented to address those challenges, and the benefits they’ve gained from their investments in automation.”

Moderated by Koch, the panelists include:

  • Kevin Vliet, Director of Material Flow Engineering for Tesla Motors
  • Kevin O’Meara, Senior Vice President of Operations at Interline Brands
  • Joel Marpe, Divisional Vice President of Northern Plains Supply Chain for Walmart Stores

Likewise, ISSG will also present a panel discussion during MHI’s Executive Summit & Annual Conference, says Chair Alan Reigart, Vice President at St. Onge Co. Together with ISSG Vice Chair John Reichert, Director of Client Solutions at Tecsys, Reigart and the rest of the ISSG group will host the “Five-Year Outlook for Supply Chain Management Systems Convergence” on Monday, October 5 at 9:30 a.m.

“Warehouse control systems (WCS) and warehouse management systems (WMS) have evolved into a more blended solution called warehouse execution systems (WES),” Reigart says.

He notes that these information systems seek to leverage trends such as Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and cloud-based computing to benefit supply chain operations. “We want to help the user base understand how all the softwares fit together within their operations and network to make the information a continuum they can leverage,” he adds.

Moderated by Dwight Klappich, Research Vice President at Gartner, ISSG’s panel of systems suppliers will discuss how these emerging systems blend demand sensing, forecasting, predictive analytics and planning with automatic data collection and order, warehouse, workforce and transportation management. Panelists include:

  • Jeff Cashman, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Business Development, Alliances and M&A at Manhattan Associates
  • Chad Collins, Chief Operating Officer for Highjump
  • David Johnston, Senior Vice President of Global Industries and Solutions at JDA
  • Maha Muzumdar, Senior Vice President at Oracle
  • Hans Thalbauer, General Manager of Extended Supply Chain for SAP

More information about ASG and ISSG will be offered in two interactive sessions during the MHI Executive Summit & Annual Conference. Held on Tuesday, October 6 at 9:30 a.m. and again at 2:30 p.m., “Discover MHI Solutions Groups” will offer more details about MHI’s newest venues for industry collaboration.

The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling and Logistics will be featured in a panel discussion held on Monday, October 5 during the 2015 MHI Executive Summit and Annual Conference at the Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

The session, “Leveraging the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics,” will be held at 2:30 p.m. Moderated by Dan Gilmore, President and Editor in Chief of Supply Chain Digest, a panel of industry experts will discuss how the Roadmap is being used to drive innovation in a variety of settings. Recent examples range from companies defining business strategy to communities striving to better align the needs of local businesses, educational institutions and government entities.

Panelists include:

The Roadmap is not only featured in the panel discussion, but the theme for the entire event—“Transforming Global Supply Chains”—was developed as a means to further explore the trends identified initially by the Roadmap and further examined in the MHI 2015 Annual Industry Report. Other session topics include omni-channel fulfillment, automation, information systems and the supply chain workforce.

In July, the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling and Logistics was featured at the Second International Physical Internet Conference, held in Paris. This year, Gary Forger, Managing Director of Professional Development at MHI, delivered a Plenary address focused on the relationship between the Roadmap and the Physical Internet (PI) Initiative.

The original idea for the PI comes from Benoit Montreuil, Professor and Coca-Cola Material Handling & Distribution Chair at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). To increase efficiency, profitability, sustainability and resilience throughout supply chains, Montreuil proposes an open, global and hyperconnected logistics system that deploys a standardized set of collaborative protocols and modular containers. Adding smart interfaces to the components enables universal tracking and communication, collectively leveraging multiple, openly interconnected supply networks.

Nearly 260 participants from Europe, Asia, North America and Africa attended the 2015 PI Conference—more than double the 120 who attended the inaugural event in 2014. To Montreuil, the growth in participation reflects larger public acknowledgement of the concept’s relevance and importance to the supply chain of the future.

“There was more representation from industry, government and academia, as well as from all over the globe,” he says. “And the breadth and depth of understanding about what the Physical Internet encompasses has expanded. People are starting to get that it’s not just about moving smart containers—it’s about how products are designed, made, supplied, deployed, used and disposed of as well.”

Additionally, Montreuil and his colleague, Professor Eric Ballot at Mines ParisTech, host of the 2015 PI Conference, saw the event as an opportunity to educate more people about the synergies that exist between the Roadmap and the Alliance for Logistics Innovation through Collaboration in Europe (ALICE) program.

Backed by the European Commission, the ALICE work groups have published five separate Roadmaps that identify the challenges and opportunities within European supply chains and logistics networks (sound familiar?). The five ALICE Roadmaps call for more research and innovation to better synchronize the movement of goods throughout the continent. Topics include:

“The Physical Internet is really at the core of the ALICE Roadmaps—which also share many common points to the U.S. Roadmap,” explains Ballot. “ALICE outlines a framework for the different complementary actions that need to occur in order to make Europe itself a Physical Internet between 2030 and 2050. That doesn’t mean we should wait until 2050 for this to happen; it means we have to start now to achieve that goal.”

Montreuil agrees, saying he’s particularly encouraged by the growing number of inquiries he’s been fielding from companies of all sizes, eager to learn how the Physical Internet will potentially impact their business. He says a vivid example of this growing momentum is that industry leaders such as Bayer and Procter & Gamble not only attended the Conference, but also presented papers about their ongoing research and innovation work towards exploiting the Physical Internet.

“Companies and regions that are ahead of the curve are looking at the research and development investments they need to make—and about the platforms they need to put in place—in order to maximize profits and economic development with the Physical Internet,” he concludes. “They understand that when it’s in place, it will change their business completely.”

From left, Detlev von Platen of Porsche Cars North America; Troels Adrian of the Metro Atlanta Chamber; and Gary Forger of MHI

In August, the Supply Chain Leadership Council of the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) hosted a panel discussion featuring topics addressed in the U. S. Roadmap for Material Handling and Logistics. Gary Forger, MHI’s Managing Director of Professional Development, moderated a panel of three local supply chain experts:

The panel discussion focused on the future of logistics, and logistics of the future, says Troels Adrian, Director of Supply Chain & Advanced Manufacturing for MAC.

“The conversation centered around how businesses are responding to the 10 disruptors identified by the Roadmap,” he says. “Each of the panelists took three or four of these key challenges and shared their perspectives on each. It was a fascinating conversation.”

Chaired by Detlev von Platen, President & CEO of Porsche Cars North America, the MAC Supply Chain Leadership Council focuses on creating jobs and marketing the 29-county metro Atlanta region to logistics companies and advanced manufacturers, Adrian explains.

“The Council hosts supply chain presentations and discussions quarterly,” Adrian continues. “We had a good turnout for this topic, with approximately 70 high level operations and logistics executives in attendance.”

With the growth of automotive manufacturing in the Atlanta region, the audience had a particular interest in the Mass Personalization section of the Roadmap (pages 12–13).

“There was discussion surrounding how to give a customer the features they want in a vehicle, for example, while still keeping the costs reasonable and the production time efficient,” he recalls. “The panel discussed the level of standardization that has to go into the customization process to make it both affordable and timely.”

Other topics of audience interest included E-commerce (Roadmap, page 10) and the challenges associated with Relentless Competition (Roadmap, pages 11–12) to meet customer demands for faster delivery times and increasingly lower prices on products with shrinking margins.

Although the session was only open to MAC members, Adrian notes that it was a good representation of the types of topics that participants can learn more about at MHI-sponsored MODEX, held in Atlanta, April 4–7, 2016.

Dr. María Jesús Sáenz, current Director of the Zaragoza Logistics Center

How can corporations in different industries work together to mutually reduce their supply chain costs and improve their competitive advantage? Through a concept called “horizontal collaboration.” The idea is one of the subjects of research conducted by Dr. María Jesús Sáenz, current Director of the Zaragoza Logistics Center.

Linked with the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), ZLC is a research and educational institute focused on Supply Chain Management and located in Zaragoza, Spain.

Together, the schools have established the MIT-Zaragoza International Logistics Program, itself a collaboration of industry, government and academia. This successful partnership have led to the creation of the MIT Global SCALE Network an international alliance of leading research centers dedicated to the development of supply chain and logistics excellence through innovation.

In her role as a professor at the MIT-Zaragoza program, Dr. Sáenz works with masters degree students. Under her guidance, students have been conducting research for the past two years, seeking to learn more about how to improve horizontal collaboration practices across boundaries (a topic examined by the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics on pages 42 – 44).

“My research has primarily focused on how two members of a dyad in the same supply chain relate to each other, learn from each other and learn together in order to be more efficient in their overall relationship performance,” she explains. “With MHI’s support, we’ve expanded the focus of the research to horizontal collaboration.”

As Dr. Sáenz explains it, the horizontal collaboration approach considers how two companies that belong to different supply chains might work together to leverage merge their logistics flow. That might mean two different suppliers in two different industries selling to the same buyer. Conversely, it could be two competitors. Either way, horizontal collaboration “provides a new opportunity for more cost savings in the supply chain when members of two different supply chains can work together,” she says.

During the first year of the research project, Dr. Sáenz tasked a master student with gathering data about collaboration across boundaries, surveying supply chain and operations managers in order to understand how they established and implemented their horizontal collaboration practices. The student gathered information from nearly 350 data points, as well as illustrated the practices with a variety of case studies about companies engaged in horizontal collaboration as a business model. Participating companies included those in the home appliance, automotive, retail, and food and beverage industries.

This year, the second of the research program, two students are taking a closer look at horizontal collaboration between separate automotive supply chains, and between logistics service providers. “The idea is to gain another perspective from the survey collected in the first year of the project,” she explains.

Dr. Sáenz, along with two co-authors, recently published a book on the topic, “Enabling Horizontal Collaboration Through Continuous Relational Learning.” She and her students will also be presenting the results of their two years of studies at MODEX 2016 on Tuesday, April 5 from 10 to 11 a.m. in a presentation entitled, “Horizontal Collaboration Across the Automotive and 3PL Supply Chains.” For more information, contact Dr. María Jesús Sáenz at

As a leader in the material handling and supply chain industry, MHI has launched the new #iWorkInTheSupplyChain awareness campaign. The campaign aims to promote manufacturing and supply chain as an innovative and rewarding career choice, as well as to change the perception of jobs in the industry.

Through both the hashtag and an interactive, Blog-based website at, MHI seeks to connect, engage and inspire next-generation workers to pursue manufacturing and supply chain careers. The campaign launched with a video that shares the unique, first-person stories of a variety of manufacturing and supply chain professionals.

“New and emerging manufacturing and supply chain technologies are requiring highly-sophisticated skillsets an equally sophisticated, well-trained and well-paid workforce,” says George Prest, MHI CEO. “Because supply chains work behind the scenes, you only hear about them when there is a disruption. We, as an industry, have to do a better job communicating the amazing and rewarding career opportunities available. That’s the goal of this campaign.”

During the October 2015 MHI Executive Summit and Annual Conference, Brian McNamara, President of Southworth International Group and 18-year member of the MHI Board of Governors, hosted a panel discussion featuring the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling and Logistics. For McNamara—who will step down from his four-year tenure as Chair of the Education Committee at the end of this year—the session marked a significant milestone in the growing influence of the Roadmap since its initial publication in early 2014.

“The session included a great mix of input from multiple organizations with a stake in the supply chain, and therefore the Roadmap, including material handling and logistics practitioners, suppliers and academia,” he says. “The panel discussed how insights they’ve gleaned from the Roadmap have been used within their organizations to drive both strategic planning and innovations.”

The session, “Leveraging the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics,” was moderated by Dan Gilmore, President and Editor in Chief of Supply Chain Digest. Participants included:

“Each panelist talked about using the Roadmap as a means to set their operational agenda going forward,” McNamara continues. “For example, how do end users like FedEx Smartpost and Caterpillar organize themselves internally to meet the challenges they’ll be facing in the future supply chain. On the academic side, the educators talked about training the workforce of the future, both at high schools and community/technical colleges, as well as at the university level.”

The highly interactive session was packed with nearly 80 attendees who also engaged the panel with questions, McNamara notes.

“Clearly the Roadmap is serving its purpose. When we set out three years ago to create the document, we saw its potential to unite the various segments of our supply chain field,” he explains. “That session confirmed for me that this is, indeed, an inclusive document that really brings everyone to a common spot. It’s a rallying point for the different stake holders in our industry to find ways to collaborate, integrate, interact and connect.”

The panelists noted several ongoing the action items, which McNamara says is in perfect alignment with the continuously evolving nature of the Roadmap itself. “There’s never going to be a finished end product in terms of the Roadmap,” he says. “Its horizon has to keep stretching every couple of years, and what was critical 18 months ago has to be revisited—there are issues facing our industry today that weren’t even mentioned in the development of the initial document.”

Key discussion points included the following, says McNamara:

  • Acquiring technology
  • Innovating technology
  • Planning for leadership needs
  • Developing skill sets
  • Validating strategy and programming
  • Engaging government
  • Strategizing “to where the puck is going”
  • Elevating working conditions and lifestyle
  • Integrating education and business

“In fact, the session set the stage for the development of the next iteration of the Roadmap, which kicked off with a roundtable workshop session that followed this one,” he says. “The potential of an evolving Roadmap to positively influence all of the issues impacting future supply chains is unlimited, and its achievement will be the direct outcome of the amount of collaboration going into its ongoing development. I’m looking forward to seeing the power created if and when these many parallel contributors converge.”

Dana Stiffler, Research Vice President at Gartner

While the dearth of candidates for supply chain job openings has been frequently reported, not much attention has been paid to academia’s response to the need. And respond it has, says Dana Stiffler, Research Vice President at Gartner, noting that progress in both the establishment and expansion of supply chain degree programs has been impressive.“As recently as 15 years ago, the closest program to a supply chain degree would have been in operations research, transportation or logistics, but was not called ‘supply chain,’” she says. “It’s been a relatively recent phenomenon to see sourcing and procurement, logistics and fulfillment, supply chain planning, aspects of manufacturing, and service management pulled into one curriculum.”

Gartner first started examining the topic in 2008 at both the undergraduate and graduate level. The third edition of each—“Top U.S. Supply Chain Undergraduate University Programs, 2014” and “Top U.S. Supply Chain Graduate University Programs, 2014” —identifies program strengths and gaps. The reports also review the progress made in the development of these programs over the preceding three years.

The undergraduate report ranks 40 different institutions; the graduate report ranks 35 (the top three in each are Michigan State University, Penn State University and University of Tennessee; complete top ten rankings can be found here). Rankings are based on a combination of each program’s scope, internship and co-op opportunities and participation, and perceived value by industry.

Since the first report in 2008, supply chain curricula has expanded greatly, Stiffler notes. Students entering the workforce today have a broader supply chain view, better understand technology fundamentals, and grasp the importance of analytics and modeling.

To even qualify for inclusion in the rankings, a degree program’s name must include the words “Supply Chain,” she adds. That’s because Gartner’s clients were struggling with finding recent graduates with an end-to-end view of supply chain.

“We kept hearing that graduates were coming out of programs with an exceptional understanding of logistics or procurement, but not a whole lot else,” she explains. “That’s great if you just want to focus on network design or beating up suppliers, but as supply chain began to emerge as a competitive differentiator among corporations, finding graduates with a broader view became much more important to the industry.”

While a few engineering programs offer supply chain degrees, the majority are coming out of business schools, she adds. And, at both the urging and financial support of industry, many more schools have added supply chain degrees—with every program having virtually 100% placement of their graduates. Further, supply chain has become the highest paying business major for many schools, Stiffler says: “The average starting salary for undergraduates is $53,584, although top students are commanding an additional $25,000 or more.”

That’s something students (and their parents) have noticed.

“The number of full-time undergraduates in supply chain is up 56% since 2011. At the graduate level, there’s a 34% increase in students during the same period for both part- and full-time students,” she adds. “Parents and students are taking a hard look at the cost of higher education, and how easy or difficult it is to get a job in a given field has become a big factor in choosing a course of study.”

Stiffler anticipates that all of these trends will continue, which is good for heads of supply chain at hiring companies with job openings to fill. That said, she strongly recommends that supply chain management actively pursue academic partnerships—through establishment of internships, co-operative education opportunities and even adjunct professorships—in order to successfully recruit program graduates.

“Our research indicates that the companies that leave that all to their human resources departments really struggle, because supply chain is a moving target,” she concludes. “Only a business leader in supply chain can ensure that graduates with the skill sets that meet an organization’s needs are recruited and hired.”

Ron Ringness, Partner and Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Technology at Millwood, Inc.

In April 2014, unit load and packaging technology provider Millwood, Inc. started using the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics as the capstone of its ongoing training program for its regional and national sales force team.

“More than half of our sales and support personnel are already familiar with the Roadmap’s perspective on the materials handling, logistics and supply chain industry,” reports Ron Ringness, Partner and Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Technology. “We felt it was important to feature the document and its insights at our annual strategic planning meeting.”

Led by Gary Forger, MHI’s Managing Director of professional development, more than 60 Millwood staffers divided into small groups to discuss the ten primary disruptors identified by the Roadmap as contributing to changes faced by the supply chain industry. They also ranked the core competencies that businesses must develop in order to thrive the pressures of continual change.

As voted by the Millwood team, the top three competencies businesses must develop to adapt to supply chain changes are (in alphabetical order):

  • Collaboration (page 42 of the Roadmap)
  • Planning and Optimization (page 29)
  • Total Supply Chain Visibility (page 24)

However, to Ringness, both the Workforce of Tomorrow (page 54) and Urban Logistics (page 44) stood out as being of key importance to his business’ strategy.

“With regard to workforce, we’re aggressively searching for good people in several markets as we expand in sales, customer service, engineering and manufacturing,” he says. “It can be difficult to find good, qualified people that are readily available, so that’s something we’re continuously focused on.

”Further, Ringness notes that more and more manufacturing and distribution activities are being located (and re-located) closer in to urban areas. “There are a variety of advantages for companies to do this, in spite of higher real estate costs and potentially smaller tax benefits, because it reduces freight costs and offers them easier geographic access to a larger labor pool.” That trend will likely result in smaller facilities that need different types of storage equipment, such as deep lane access within racking and other types of unit load handling systems that utilize floor space more efficiently, he says.

“To me, from a strategic point of view, that type of insight helps guide our decisions about the types of products we develop and market,” Ringness explains. “Everybody who attended the session really enjoyed the interactivity of the presentation, and the opportunity to step outside the day-to-day and think bigger picture. The Roadmap session confirmed that our overall strategy of trying to stay ahead of the curve is a good one.”

Edgar Ramos, Professor of Supply Chain Management at Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas

The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics, originally released in January 2014, has been translated into Spanish for distribution in Central and South America. The translation is published on, and replicates the original 67-page Roadmap report and action plan. The document provides a framework to help the industry identify the logistics and supply chain disruptors that can be turned into action plans to develop core competencies needed in the U.S. between now and 2025.

The translation was spearheaded by Edgar Ramos, Professor of Supply Chain Management at Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas, with collaborators Angel Hurtado, an independent consultant in innovation and technology management; Edwin Montes, Professor of Strategy Marketing at Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola; and Ruth Arano Stanton, independent consultant.

Ramos had already integrated the original English version of the document into his teaching materials for the first session of the undergraduate Supply Chain Management course he’s teaching at Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas in Lima, Peru. Further, he’d used the document for the Logistics Executive Seminar at Universidad de Piura, and during an Operations and Logistics Management course at Universidad Nacional Pedro Ruiz Gallo, as discussion material for the topic of Trends and Technology in Supply Chain.

The Roadmap’s content is based on input from more than 100 U.S. thought leaders—including material handling and logistics practitioners, suppliers, academia, associations and government. Contributors shared their thoughts regarding the capabilities that the industry needs to develop between now and 2025.

So why would a U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics be relevant to Latin America?

“The importance is to recognize the gap between logistics and supply chains in developed countries, in this case the U.S., and emerging countries in Latin America,” Ramos explains. “With the document translated into Spanish, we can reach more Latin American experts in the different industries and academic programs to help prioritize our focus for improving our region’s logistics and supply chain practices.”

With the translation now complete, Ramos has scheduled it as a component of a program for Latin American supply chain leaders in June 2016, during a discussion of the Future of Supply Chain. Additionally, Ramos will be hosting a session to kick off the development of a supply chain and logistics Roadmap for Peru in mid-May, 2016.

“I am scheduling several roundtable discussions with many different universities and supply chain/logistics programs here in Peru as part of creating that Roadmap,” he adds. “Peru’s industry leaders and public entities have also been invited to participate in the sessions. I’m eager to get started.”

Dana A. Magliola

Lindsay T. Schilleman

John C. Elliott

Underwritten by MHI, a new analysis and report developed by three of North Carolina State University’s Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) fellows has been released. The report, “Understanding the Economic Impact of North Carolina’s Supply Chain: Conduit for Prosperity and Economic Development,” and provides detailed perspective on the importance of the supply chain in North Carolina. It was researched and prepared by SCRC fellows Dana A. Magliola, Lindsay T. Schilleman and John C. Elliott, three Jenkins’ masters of business administration (MBA) graduate students at NC State’s Poole College of Management.

Elliott initially started the research during the spring 2015 semester, focusing first on the transportation sector within the Tar Heel state. Magliola and Schilleman then took over the project in the subsequent fall 2015 semester. The pair was tasked with expanding Elliott’s initial work into a wider examination of the North Carolina supply chain and its economic impact, both within the state and on the broader national economy. Areas for analysis included direct, indirect and induced employment, labor income, output, gross domestic product (GDP) contribution and taxes.

The undertaking was, in a word, enormous.

“We discovered that a comprehensive view of the supply chain had never been done before, at least not in North Carolina that we are aware of,” Schilleman says. “In fact, it almost became two research projects—one to figure out how to do a state-level supply chain economic impact analysis, and the second to actually do the analysis itself.”

For that reason, Magliola and Schilleman captured the best practices they noted in other economic impact studies and developed a “how to” guide included in the final report, explaining their methodology. “We saw an opportunity to bring all these best practices into a step-by-step, systematic process to help others who might want to undertake their own supply chain economic impact analysis elsewhere,” notes Magliola.

Their first task, recalls Schilleman, was to define the supply chain. “That led us to identify 14 different supply chain sectors within North Carolina,” she says. Leading sectors include Pharmaceutical, Biologics & Medical Products, Chemical Manufacturing, Industrial Machinery & Transportation Equipment Manufacturing, Transportation, Distribution & Logistics and Tobacco & Foodstuffs.

“We also felt that it was important to bring the numbers into context, not just within the state, but also nationally and globally,” explains Magliola. “We ultimately settled on a parallel format for each section of the report, allowing us to talk about each sector in the same narrative style, which we think makes it easier for the audience to better understand each sector’s impact.”

According to the report, North Carolina supply chain industries employ nearly 12% of the state’s workforce, or more than 479,800 employees. Supply chain average labor income is more than $67,700, 56% higher than the state’s average non-farm wage. Indirect and induced impact on North Carolina’s economy accounts for an additional 770,000 jobs across all industries. Together that represents more than 31% of North Carolina’s entire labor force.

Interestingly, industries that the state is known for—including textiles, furniture and tobacco—are still relevant contributors to the economy, while newer sectors (such as pharmaceuticals and biologics) are gaining ground. “In the more-established sectors, North Carolina clearly has the lion’s share of a shrinking market,” says Magliola. “From a planning and policy standpoint, the state needs to be thinking about what measures to take to replace this potential hole in the economy as the dynamics continue to change.”

For that reason, Magliola and Schilleman presented a preview of the report to members of the Port and Rail subcommittee of the North Carolina State HouseSelect Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions on February 1. The report was formally released on February 9 in Charlotte, at the Council for Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Charlotte Roundtable.

Additionally, the pair will present the report on April 4 at MODEX 2016 in Atlanta at 1:00 p.m., as part of the Supply Chain Education Summit.

“It’s been interesting to see how many audiences are finding the report to be of interest,” Magliola concludes. “We thought about that as we were writing it. For any policy maker or business person who wants to understand what the North Carolina landscape really looks like, this is an excellent resource for them.”

The full report can be accessed here.

When North Carolina State University’s Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) fellows Dana A. Magliola, Lindsay T. Schilleman and John C. Elliott embarked on an analysis and report (underwritten by MHI) studying the economic impact of North Carolina’s supply chain on the state, one of their first discoveries was that no “how to” recipe existed.“In fact, it almost became two research projects,” recalls Schilleman. “One to figure out how to do a state-level supply chain economic impact analysis, and the second to actually do the analysis itself.”

That’s why the trio—all Jenkins’ masters of business administration (MBA) graduate students at NC State’s Poole College of Management —ultimately dedicated a full seven pages of “Understanding the Economic Impact of North Carolina’s Supply Chain: Conduit for Prosperity and Economic Development,” to a methodology and process overview.

They’ll be detailing that aspect of the report during MODEX 2016 on Monday, April 4 from 1-2 p.m. in Room B208 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. Their presentation, “Telling the Story of the Supply Chain: Measuring Economic Impact,” is a part of the MODEX Supply Chain Education Summit.

By including the best practices they noted in other economic impact studies and developing a “how to” guide, the trio hopes that researchers conducting similar analysis in other states will be able to easily reproduce their methodology. “We saw an opportunity to bring all these best practices into a step-by-step, systematic process to help others who might want to undertake their own supply chain economic impact analysis elsewhere,” notes Magliola.

They even included a one-page “cheat sheet,” summarizing the process into “five easy steps.” In order, they are: define and categorize; gather data; run Impact Analysis for Planning scenarios; analyze data; and compile report.

The full report can be accessed here.

Robert Handfield, Bank of America University Distinguished Professor of Supply Chain Management at NC State’s Poole College of Management, and Executive Director of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC)

The methodology applied by North Carolina State University graduate students to research the recently published Understanding the Economic Impact of North Carolina’s Supply Chain: Conduit for Prosperity and Economic Development” can be easily used by a company seeking to quantify the value created by its own supply chain activities.

“Our students have conducted an economic impact analysis for a large, multi-state energy company—utilizing essentially the same methodology—to help demonstrate the value their operations bring to the regions in which they operate,” explains Robert Handfield, Bank of America University Distinguished Professor of Supply Chain Management at NC State’s Poole College of Management, and Executive Director of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC).

“For the energy company, students looked at the data regarding that company’s supply chain spending by region and by each of the states they operate in, just as was used to analyze the economic impact of the North Carolina supply chain,” he continues. “Factors included spending on contracted labor and equipment sourced locally, plus the direct and indirect employment numbers created by their operations. Because that firm has a commitment to spend with diverse suppliers as well, we also did a benchmark study to look at those numbers and calculate that impact.”

For smaller, single location companies, the same methodology still applies. “If your company pays people in a specific industry a salary, some percentage of that salary goes to the local grocery store, local utilities and other local contractors,” Handfield explains. “You can simply look at payroll and conduct a basic impact factor analysis.”

That said, notes Handfield, the skillset required to identify and analyze the metrics is probably beyond the capabilities of most small- to mid-size companies (and even some of the big ones). For that reason, he strongly urges businesses interested in conducting an economic impact analysis connect with their local university and create a project through the business school.

“Because it is a rather specialized capability to conduct and configure this kind of study, if you don’t have an economist on your staff, it’s an excellent graduate student project,” he says. “We teach our students to do this type of research and analysis. Real-world projects are a great way for them to apply their knowledge and gain experience for the benefit of a business.”

Handfield welcomes inquiries from companies interested in taking on such a project. “It’s a really unique way to look at the value creation of an industry or of a company that isn’t entirely obvious,” he adds, noting that the findings can often complement the data typically included in an operation’s annual report.

More details about the methodology applied to the development of the North Carolina Supply Chain report will be shared during MODEX 2016 on Monday, April 4 from 1-2 p.m. in Room B208 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The presentation, “Telling the Story of the Supply Chain: Measuring Economic Impact,” is a part of the MODEX Supply Chain Education Summit.

The full report includes a seven-page explanation of the research and analysis process, plus a summarized, one-page methodology “cheat sheet.” It can be accessed here.

Dr. María Jesús Sáenz, current Director of the Zaragoza Logistics Center

Eliminating the barriers that exist within today’s physical supply chain to create a universal, open logistics community that mimics the Internet is evolving into more than just a vision. Ways to convert the concept of the Physical Internet into reality are being actively studied by researchers around the world.

Among them, Dr. María Jesús Sáenz, Director of the Zaragoza Logistics Center (ZLC) in Zaragoza, Spain, has been investigating ways that corporations in different industries might work together to mutually reduce their supply chain costs and improve their competitive advantage through “horizontal collaboration.”

The horizontal collaboration approach considers how two companies that belong to different supply chains might merge their logistics flows, explains Dr. Sáenz, whose research (supported by MHI) looks at methods to improve such practices.

“Horizontal collaboration might mean two different suppliers in two different industries working together and sharing resources because they sell to the same buyer. Conversely, it could be two competitors,” she notes. “Either way, horizontal collaboration provides a new opportunity for greater supply chain cost savings when members of two different supply chains find ways to work together.”

Having formally researched the concept for two years with the assistance of her masters’ degree students, Dr. Sáenz and two graduate research assistants will share their latest findings on Tuesday, April 5, from 10-11 a.m. at MODEX 2016 during the Supply Chain Education Summit. The presentation, “Horizontal Collaboration Across the Automotive and 3PL Supply Chains,” is sponsored by the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics—which examined the topic on pages 42 – 44 of the Roadmap—and the MIT Global SCALE Network. (ZLC is a research and educational institute focused on Supply Chain Management. The program is linked to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with the two schools having established the MIT-Zaragoza International Logistics Program.)

“Achieving the level of collaboration needed to evolve towards a fully functional Physical Internet will require a profound change in business and managerial mindsets,” she adds. “Companies will have to redefine the competitive landscape as they join forces with other enterprises—including their rivals—to develop the Physical Internet.”

For more information, contact Dr. María Jesús Sáenz at

Bill Ferrell, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Associate Dean of the Graduate School at Clemson University

Figuring out how best to help today’s students—whether at the undergrad, graduate or continuing education professional level—develop the skills that will keep them abreast of the latest supply chain developments is a high priority for the leaders of the College-Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE), says president Bill Ferrell, Fluor Professor of Industrial Engineering & Associate Dean of the Graduate School at Clemson University.

Ferrell and his CICMHE colleagues, Elif Akcali, Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Florida, and Phil Kaminsky, Chancellor’s Professor & Chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at the University of California, Berkeley will share some of the latest developments in these education programs at MODEX 2016. On Monday, April 4, the trio will present “Preparing Today’s Students for Supply Chains of Tomorrow,” in Room B211 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. as part of the Supply Chain Education Summit. The presentation is sponsored by CICMHE.

“It’s interesting how some of the big picture ideas that were identified in the Roadmap have truly come into focus,” he says. “Specifically Big Data and analytics are requiring students at all levels to gain skills in order to be competitive in the workplace and help their employers succeed in the supply chain.”

Universities and colleges are responding to these needs in a variety of ways, Ferrell continues. Among them, there’s been a growth in online and distance learning courses targeted to working professionals who wish to sharpen their skills or learn more about a specific area.

“It’s ideal for someone already in the field who perhaps doesn’t live in close proximity to the school, or has a work schedule that demands a flexible education program,” he says. “These can be continuing education type programs, or graduate classes that lead to a certificate.”

Schools are also introducing new classes and degree programs in both business and engineering curricula specifically targeting supply chain analytics. “At Clemson, our MBA graduate degree program recently added a concentration in analytics to their offerings,” he says.

Finally, some schools have started adding adjunct teaching staff with “real-world” experience, specifically persons who have built a career in the supply chain. “They’re often called ‘professors of practice,’” Ferrell notes. “Business schools and some engineering departments are bringing these instructors to the classroom to share their practical experience with students. With the pace of change in our field, schools truly are looking at a range of ways to give students relevant information to strengthen their skill sets.”