"An editor who hasn't found a cause in his or her industry just isn't looking hard enough."—Bernie Knill
We here at Material Handling & Logistics (launched in 1945 as Flow Magazine) couldn't leave 2015 behind without celebrating it as our 70th year serving as the voice of the material handling industry. I wasn't around for the launch, and I still hadn't been born by the time legendary editor Bernie Knill came onboard in 1957 (by which time the magazine was known as Material Handling Engineering), but Bernie's influence on this publication and on the industry he covered so long and so thoroughly continues to be enormous.
We all like to think our lives and our careers have meaning, but Bernie took it deeper than that. He identified real-world problems and advocated for long-term solutions, rather than just assuming technology providers or the government would fix everything.
MH&L today is well known for its in-depth coverage of the slow-to-evolve forklift safety standards (including our recent live Twitter chat on the topic), but it was Bernie who, back in the day, was instrumental in pushing the original OSHA standard. He also established alliances in the industry to make a difference on specific issues like powered industrial truck operator training (PITOT), working closely with industrial trainer Jim Shephard, who has maintained a close relationship with MH&L ever since.
Plain and simple, ever since Bernie's day, MH&L has championed workforce issues, whether it be workplace safety, labor issues, discrimination, or talent recruitment and development. And lately, the very real threats endangering the continued existence of that workforce have become a pressing concern for the industry.
"North American companies are already having a tough time attracting and retaining people to work for their logistics and distribution operations," points out supply chain consultant Marc Wulfraat of MWPVL International, who spoke at the recent MHI Annual Meeting (and congratulations to MHI on their own 70th anniversary this year). The U.S. population is getting older, Wulfraat points out, with a shrinking pool of workers taking on the burden of supporting an expanding group of people outside of the workforce (i.e., those younger than 21 or older than 65). By 2030, according to current projections, the U.S. will experience a 5.4% labor pool reduction of roughly 20 million people.
"Changing demographics will drive major growth in the North American automated material handling industry," he predicts, "and the automation of unit/piece handling will be in significant demand as companies look for ways to reduce their reliance on labor." In short, he says, the North American material handling and logistics industry will start looking a lot more like Europe, where for many years automation has been seen as a critical requirement to maintaining competitive advantage due to the high cost of labor and land.
The good news, though, is that a new group of workers—Generation Z—is just now entering the workforce, which Dan Charney, managing partner of Direct Recruiters Inc., characterizes as "the most digitally connected generation yet." These workers are very tech-savvy, loyal and flexible in their approach to their careers. However, Charney adds, they prefer quick advancement and work/life balance over salary, and they want mentors to help them achieve their goals.
You can expect, then, for MH&L to provide you with full coverage—online, in print and however else you access information—of the industry trends you'll need to follow in 2016—from the impact of automation on the size and composition of future workforces, to the various ways companies are coping with the generational shift among their employees. We may be 70 years into it, but we're still learning new and exciting ways to best communicate with our ever-evolving audience.
This issue, then, which celebrates our 70th year, is dedicated to Bernie Knill, who for more than 40 years led and inspired the material handling industry. We also salute all those others who've worked on MH&L throughout its long and proud history. Above all, know that our mission will never change. That mission will always be to serve the material handling and logistics industry with the best and most relevant reporting possible. Thank you for staying with us through our ongoing journey.