One Supply Chain Does Not Fit All

Nov. 1, 2009
Material handlers are not just random faces in the supply chain crowd.

I hope you won't think less of me when I admit something to you: I'm a total supply chain nerd. I'm not saying that just because I'm the editorial director of Penton's Supply Chain group, or because I've covered supply chain topics inside and out for the past couple of decades professionally. You see, even in my personal time away from the office, I'm still immersed in all things supply chain. While other dads might tell their kids stories about American legends like Paul Bunyan and John Henry, I used to tell my daughters bedtime tales of that great hero Jimmy Supplychain, who single-handedly saved an entire town by planning, sourcing, manufacturing, transporting and ultimately delivering medical supplies during the great blizzard of '89. They loved that story.

People taking their evening stroll by my house this past summer often heard an incessant tap-tap-tapping coming from my window that had nothing to do with woodpeckers. Nope, it was just me, writing a second edition of my book, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (forthcoming April 2010 by John Wiley & Sons), which includes an updated chapter on distribution and warehousing, as well as a couple of all-new chapters on sustainability and lean supply chains. I'm also one of those editor types who'll go to an industry event and actually sit in on the educational sessions (rather than making an immediate bee-line to the hotel bar). Point is, I'd like to think I come by my supply chain nerdiness honestly.

So there I was last month in Las Vegas, sitting in a conference room rather than a casino, learning about reusable packaging trends when it dawned on me that I was there all alone. You'd think it would be pretty hard to feel lonely at a trade show that attracted 22,000 people, but that's exactly how I felt, at least for a little while, while I was attending Pack Expo. You see, while there were plenty of other editors at this major industry event (including several from other Penton publications), I was the only editor there representing a material handling publication. But on reflection, that's hardly surprising since MHM is also the only material handling magazine that regularly covers transport packaging.

Admittedly, 2009 has been a tough year and travel budgets everywhere are a lot tighter than they used to be, but Pack Expo is definitely a “can't miss” type of event, especially for a magazine like ours that focuses so heavily on manufacturing, distribution, facilities management, automation, technology, packaging and other core material handling functions and topics. Maybe it's just the supply chain nerd in me talking, but frankly, I couldn't imagine us not making the trip out to Vegas to learn all we could about the latest packaging trends and products. The story ideas we pick up from the show are like finding gold, and we'll be sharing these insights with you in the coming months in our continuing and ongoing coverage of how material handlers are adapting to the latest innovations in packaging technology.

Like I said, I'm a supply chain nerd, and I recognize that what's important for material handling managers is rarely the same for, say, a transportation analyst or a global trade management specialist. Don't ever let anybody kid you that “one supply chain fits all,” or that the material handling industry is so inconsequential that major topics like packaging, powered vehicles and facilities management can be ignored in favor of “flavor of the month” buzzword topics. We take material handling very seriously here, and you — the material handling managers — are not just an afterthought to us, but the very core of our mission statement.

So, in this season of thankfulness, on behalf of the MHM staff, I'd like to say thanks to all of you in the material handling community who have invested some of your time in our products. You've helped to make us the top-ranked publication for material handling managers, and for that, too, we're very grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.