Setting MH&L's Agenda

MHL is proud to present the members of its first Editorial Advisory Board. This group of professionals represents an eclectic cross section of disciplines that play a key role in ensuring the free flow of goods and information through all industries. Represented on the board are experts with backgrounds in military logistics, education, training, consulting, manufacturing and distribution. They will share their insights with you in every issue of MHL. As part of this introduction, we've asked all of them to weigh in on what they see are the priorities for material handling and logistics professionals in the near future.

Alan Will, retired Marine Colonel, logistics specialist

I like the idea of including the production portion of the supply chain in the scope of Material Handling & Logistics. Material handling is an enabler for efficient production. Raw materials and production all involve the functions of transportation, warehousing and distribution, as do final delivery of goods and services for consumption. There's also the timing issue associated with material handling. Lean manufacturing relies on the “the right place, at the right time, in the right amount.”

Jim Shephard, president, Shephard's Industrial Training Systems

These people working in material handling today have to understand the big picture. They need to make the connection between warehouse layout and the manipulation of product coming into the building. The new generation coming into the workforce might be more inclined to understand the concept of making better money for less effort. A good logistics operation will let them do that. Buildings are being designed to improve throughput, and their operations are incorporating more robots, conveyor systems, and double-deep rack systems.

Joseph C.Andraski, President and CEO of VICS (Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions) Association

Companies are going to be faced with doing more with less, consequently training, education and practical experience will be important to their success. Given the turn over that has occurred over the last three years, there are capability gaps. The cost of logistics is sure to sky rocket. Most companies are not aware of business practices that are relatively easy to put into practice and consequently they are spending unnecessarily.

Bert Moore, founder of IDAT Consulting & Education, specialists in automatic identification systems

The next few years will be a transition period for many. Companies will need to prepare for increased use of 2D symbologies as well as radio frequency identification for shipping container and item identification. Much of this will be fundamental for the push towards mass serialization that will intensify in the next few years.

James A. Tompkins Ph.D., CEO, Tompkins Associates, supply chain consultants

We in the supply chain, logistics and material handling business must help our organizations understand that planning and managing our companies' supply chains to maximize competitiveness will spark the ability to profitably grow. A capability to import materials from low-cost countries is necessary, as well as ways to export products and services to emerging markets. Free trade is the secret to full employment - through the creation of economies of scale, increases in efficiencies, and greater competitiveness that leads to a higher standard of living for all.

Tan Miller, director of the Global Supply Chain Management Program at Rider University, College of Business Administration

The technologies and systems available to automate many warehousing functions continue to increase at a rapid rate. RFID, laser guided vehicles, GPS, and robotics offer in varying degrees the hope of both current and future dramatic increases in productivity. The question is, how quickly will these technologies make inroads to a broader set of industries and applications? For many firms and industries, a relatively manual methodology remains the dominant material handling approach - even in 2010. The investments and in some cases the risks of technology are significant. So too though is the potential for significant productivity breakthroughs.

Russell Meller, the Hefley Professor of Logistics and Entrepreneurship at the University of Arkansas

Our current way of doing logistics is not sustainable. If you could look inside all the trailers going down the road, they'd be nowhere near full. When you see a 40 ft shipping container coming down the road on a 53 ft trailer bed you realize the waste. And with a 48 × 40 pallet you can only cover 90% of the footprint of today's standard trailer. That's not good synchronization. We think the time is right to come up with a broad enough set of standards — trailer size, pallet size and carton size — and synchronize them. My view of synchronization is to combine standards with cloud computing to come up with an e-Bay form of collaborative distribution. Imagine an exchange that says “I'm going from here to here, whose loads can I take?” Billions could be saved in fuel cost and carbon output if we could make this work.

Joel Anderson, President & CEO of the International Warehouse Logistics Association

It is time to promote a national freight-oriented public works program that puts people back to work, building infrastructure connections that benefit all citizens, while creating sustainable jobs in the supply chain that will outlast construction deadlines. While we cannot and should not attempt to preserve all jobs disappearing in an evolving economy, we can address the nearly 10% unemployment in the U.S. by rebuilding and maintaining our Interstate highway and bridge system, creating on-dock rail and intermodal transfer points, grade separations and connecting geographically disadvantages locales to the streams of commerce.

Thomas MacLean, vice president of operations for Osborn International, part of Jason Inc.

In the next few years I see the biggest challenge in distribution to be managing logistics costs in an ever widening supply chain. Today sourcing product abroad is more the norm and the associated logistics costs need to be understood and managed as they apply to individual products. In a world market, managing those costs associated with keeping product available and moving it to your customer will often determine who survives and profits.

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