Remembering a Champion

“An editor who hasn't found a cause in his or her industry just isn't looking hard enough.” -Bernie Knill

Being a cynic is easy. Spouting off from a distance about “how bad things are” doesn't really take much effort. Anyone can do it, and in the Internet age, everyone does.

What's difficult is having a vested interest in the success of the people you serve and going the extra mile to help them find opportunities where others only see problems. Think about it: The most successful companies do more than sign checks and send invoices. They show genuine concern for the success of their suppliers, partners, employees and customers, and their support through thick and thin is rewarded many times over. Some have learned the hard way that the wider the gulf between a company and its customers, the easier it is for both to lose footing.

Working tirelessly to uncover the facts and energize the people who depend on you defines the kind of service that causes customers to think, “Hey, there is a silver lining after all. Someone is looking out for me.”

Here at MHM, we know that our readers depend on us for support and guidance. Instead of just observing and reporting, we try to inspire and support readers as they grapple with never-before-seen challenges on their quest for prosperity. This unique approach is the very foundation of this magazine, and it was built brick by brick for 65 years by extremely talented industry journalists.

Sadly, the material handling industry lost one of its most admired and outspoken supporters when Bernard Knill, former chief editor of MHM, passed away last month after a brief illness. Born on Sept. 20, 1927, in Cleveland, Bernie edited Material Handling Management from 1957 to 2000. (At the time, the magazine was known as Material Handling Engineering.) He is survived by his wife Sally of 56 years, five daughters and one son.

Leader, teacher, artist and mentor are the words family, friends and colleagues use to describe “Bernie,” as he was affectionately known. I'll add “champion” to the list because whenever the material handling industry needed a voice, Bernie delivered.

For example, when elevator safety inspectors shut down vertical reciprocating conveyors (VRCs) with red tags and tried to regulate VRC manufacturers out of business, Bernie knew his readers would face increased installation costs from senseless conveyor installer licensing rules.

In response, he launched a decade-long series of editorial onslaughts called the “Red Tag Report.” In these reports, Bernie exposed the hidden financial motives of the inspectors and revealed links to the elevator installers union. He also fought the political battle on behalf of VRC manufacturers so they didn't have to. His unrelenting efforts eventually led to a landmark victory for the VRC business and the material handling industry in general.

And that's just one example of Bernie's amazing dedication to his readers. He earned more than two dozen awards, including a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and five Neal Awards for outstanding journalism. In 1992, the Material Handling Industry of America honored Bernie with the Reed-Apple Award, the industry's highest honor. That same year, the Material Handling Management Society presented him with the William T. Shirk Award for his outstanding service to the industry.

Few words can accurately describe this magazine's gratitude to Bernie and his contributions. After all, he's our champion, too.


For more commentary and industry insights, check out the “Material Flows” blog. Drop by and share your insights with the material handling community. It's available only at MHMonline.com.

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