Chain of Thought

In Memoriam: There Was Something about Mary

If you remember when Material Handling & Logistics was Material Handling Management, you probably remember Mary Aichlmayr. She was MHM's editor in chief for a couple years before moving on to a job in one of the industries we cover. But during her brief tenure at the helm of MHM, she earned the respect of many logistics professionals. More often than not that respect grew after she interviewed them at an event for an MHM feature. You couldn't help but like how genuinely curious Mary was about your job and your business. Plus, the fact she was a woman gave her a good starting-off point for any discussion. She commented about this in one of her editorials:

"Each time I attend a conference or trade show, I get the same question: ‘So, how did you end up in material handling?' At the risk of sounding cynical, I suspect the same question would not be posed to a man. Women are still rare, both on the plant floor and in the boardroom."

They're pretty rare as chief editors of material handling magazines, too. I got to know Mary when she was a senior editor on Transportation & Distribution (which eventually became Logistics Today, which eventually merged with MHM to become MH&L). Amidst all of the recession-era restructuring going on in our readers' businesses, there was quite a bit of tumult on the publishing side as well. Suffice it to say that both Mary and I played musical chairs on various logistics publications during those challenging recession years. We were even competitors for a while. But even as her competitor I appreciated what Mary brought to material handling and logistics coverage.

Both her competitors and her colleagues believed there was something about Mary. By now you've probably noticed my extensive use of the past tense in referring to Mary. That's because she passed away last week after complications from an illness. I didn't want her passing to go without notice by this readership, because it was through her excellent reporting on stories like the Imperial Sugar Plant explosion, J&J's various recalls, and, of course, the plight and promise of women in logistics that you got a perspective that couldn't be found in other media outlets.

I admired Mary's talent for identifying topics she knew would be important to readers and I know both she and I recognized this magazine's legacy of doing so as established by Bernie Knill, who was editor from 1957 until he retired in 2000. Here's what Mary wrote about that legacy when Bernie passed away a couple years ago:

"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. ... Leader, teacher, artist and mentor are the words family, friends and colleagues use to describe Bernie. I'll add ‘champion' to the list because whenever the material handling industry needed a voice, Bernie delivered."

The material handling industry and its customers are well served by the various magazines covering it because each has a strong legacy that goes back to pioneers such as Bernie Knill and Norman Cahners. Because of their influence each succeeding generation of editors and publishers has touched the lives of both readers and colleagues in some way. While Mary was with MHM she participated in industry efforts to bring new talent to the fields of material handling and logistics. She was an officer on the board of the Northeast Ohio WERCouncil and worked side by side with industry colleagues to develop continuing education programs in warehousing and distribution. When she left this magazine she added to that talent pool by going to work for Comprehensive Logistics Inc. as marketing manager.

Mary not only encouraged women to see logistics as a promising field for their business talents, but she couldn't resist the opportunity to apply what she herself learned as editor of MHM by joining the ranks of its readers. Though she is now gone from those ranks her work while at MHM lives on in MH&L's archives. Browse through her writing and I think you'll agree with me, there was something about Mary--and she will be missed.

Some of Mary's Work:

World of Difference: Cast the Widest Net

In the Tylenol Blame Game, Accountability Proves Tough to Swallow

Changing the Rules

Deadly Dust

Girl Scouts Compete with Robots

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