Back to the Future

July 1, 2010
The material handling and logistics industry needs a steady influx of young professionals to ensure the viability of the nation's supply chain.

Go ahead, check the year of this magazine. I'll wait.

Yes, it really is 2010, and for those of you who are long-time readers of MHM, and I mean going back five or more years, my face may inflict a slight case of déjà vu (if not something a bit more unpleasant). My last editorial on this page was the December issue of 2004. This magazine was about to enter its 60th year.

On this page, in honor of that anniversary, I shared with you a letter from another loyal reader: Mr. W.I. Heitmiller, of St. Paul, Minn. He said he wanted to become a material handling professional. At the time he wrote that letter he had already devoted several years of his life to service in the U.S. Army and was ready for a career. This magazine made him think material handling represented a pretty good next step. He wrote:

“In the next few months I plan to investigate the possibilities, as well as my qualifications, for establishing myself in some branch of the business.”

That letter was written in 1945…to the editor of this magazine…which just got started…and was then called Flow.

Flow eventually became Material Handling Engineering and came under editor Bernie Knill's watch in the 1960s until 2000. By the turn of the millennium Bernie turned this page over to me and the magazine became Material Handling Management. However, through all the changes in titles and editors since then, readers like Mr.Heitmiller stayed with the magazine so they could not only “establish themselves” in the business, but prosper in it and provide an essential service through it.

So here we are, 65 years later. There have been several wars, and several generations of people like Mr. Heitmiller who have provided essential services through all of them. Some have transferred what they learned in military logistics to civilian life, and the art and science of material handling is better for it. I know I'm better for it, both as a consumer of those services and as someone privileged to learn and write about them.

This magazine has evolved with its readers, and 2010 represents a transition point — for MHM's readers and for material handling. Eight-thousand Baby Boomers turn 60 every day. At the same time there are 80 million millennials out there who will be filtering into the job market in the next few years to fill the voids as the Boomers retire. Our job will be to make these young people aware that material handling logistics is not a void, but one of the best introductions you can get to any business. A Fortune 500 company won't stay on that list long if it has a lousy supply chain.

In my career covering material handling I've had the privilege to meet some of this industry's heroes. Many are the pioneers behind its biggest brand names. But others are largely unsung and dedicate themselves to making sure the industry and its practitioners survive to serve.

Al Will is one of those. He's a retired Marine colonel whose specialty in the service was logistics. Today he's working with Paul D. Camp Community College in Suffolk, Va., to develop a warehouse training program he hopes will turn out a workforce that will climb the ranks of business and advance the arts of material handling and logistics. With his help and that of other heroes at the association, university and industry levels, the job you do will grow in strategic importance, not only for the good of today's global economy, but for the economy tomorrow's material handlers will fuel. This magazine is dedicated to that inheritance.

Now that I've reintroduced myself to you as editor-in-chief of this magazine, I want to thank the person from whom I reinherited this job: Mary Aichlmayr. Mary is moving on to conquer the world of corporate marketing. We at MHM hope she finds both the steak and the sizzle in her new career.