From the Publisher: Happy New Year...

State of the economy from the publisher's perspective.

...and it looks like 2004 will give most of you something to be happy about. I just finished a 14-week tour across our great country, talking to advertisers and readers of Material Handling Management to find out their business plans for 2004 and what challenges they expect in the coming year. With only a few exceptions, most companies are looking for growth in 2004 in the range of four to six percent.

This is great news for material handling equipment and service suppliers, because for industries to achieve this goal they'll need to update current equipment and systems with new technology and hire or reinstate employees. It's great news for you as users of new equipment and services, because there have been so many improvements to help you take advantage of the opportunities in an improving economy.

My observations from these meetings were confirmed recently by the Wall Street Journal, which stated, "U.S. manufacturing last month showed the most robust activity in two decades, lifting employment to the highest level in more than three years."

The private Institute for Supply Chain Management said its November index of manufacturing activity came in at 62.8, up from 57 for October. Providing solid evidence for an improving manufacturing jobs picture, the ISM's employment index climbed to 51 from 47.7. It marks the first time since September 2000 that the number exceeded 50 (readings of at least 50 indicate growth in the U.S. industrial sector, which has lagged behind other areas of the American economic recovery).

These published reports are reasons for optimism and for investment in material handling products, systems and solutions. Waiting for someone else to make the first move only benefits your competitor who does.

Material Handling Management also has a major stake in the manufacturing turnaround - as your profitability improves, so does ours. More sales of material handling equipment and services means more investment by advertisers in our magazine, which means we can bring you more pages of news, industry reports and case histories demonstrating best practices in new product applications and system implementation.

Our goal as a provider of continuing education is to help you give your company the boost it needs in production and distribution so you can achieve a competitive edge in the markets you serve. It's a win-win situation for all of us.

This issue gets us off to a good start (in what we feel will be a great year of editorial features and columns) with:

-- material handling best practices in the military;

-- how our Innovator of the Month, Delphi Technologies, found a way to optimize packaging designs;

-- a look at the latest technologies to be displayed at the NA2004 material handling show in its new location of Cleveland, Ohio;

-- Bernie Knill's column on innovation and lessons learned on the 10th anniversary of the Denver Airport's baggage handling fiasco;

-- Clyde Witt's observations from his tour of Underwriters Laboratory's new pallet testing lab;

-- George Weimer's 2004 outlook for manufacturing; and,

-- Tom Andel's call to join the military...in its efforts to face unexpected logistics challenges.

Members of our editorial advisory board (listed on page XX) were extremely helpful in guiding us with our 2004 editorial calendar. If you've been reading MHM regularly, you might have noticed they aren't just names printed in a list - they regularly contribute opinions and answer readers' questions.

We welcome you to join them in helping our editors keep MHM relevant to your world. If you would like to meet with me and talk about your success in the coming year, I will be starting out on another cross-country tour this month and would welcome the opportunity to call on you. Just drop me an e-mail at [email protected]

I am excited about 2004 and what it will bring to our advertisers, readers, and most importantly, to our nation.

P.S.

As you read this month's feature on material handling in the military, keep in mind our fellow citizens in the armed forces who put themselves in harm's way to serve our country. Whatever form that remembrance takes, let them know about it. It's sure to raise morale and make them stronger.

Bob Eck, Publisher, [email protected]

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