Chain of Thought

How good information gets you through bad times

We at Material Handling Management get a lot of press releases, as you can imagine. Most of them are garbage. Some are great sources of information—and put that information right up front. Then there's a small percent of them that hide their prize and require you to do a bit of digging beneath the vegetable and mineral matter to find the buried treasure. That was the case with a release sporting the headline "GE Capital Develops Customized Digital Sales Tools for NACCO Materials Handling Group, Inc.”

At first this looked a little too “Inside Baseball,” you know, information so specific to OEMs in the industrial truck industry that their customers wouldn't care. But with the economy the way it's been and lift truck vendors looking for any way to win more customers, this looked like it could have some relevance for you.

Turns out I was right.

The press release says NACCO “is rolling out a secure online portal customized with premium information provided by GE Capital. NMHG's management team and authorized dealers will use the new portal to more effectively and efficiently research prospective customers.”

Actually, that sounds a little scary—almost like an audit. But when I did a little checking of my own, with GE Capital, Matthew LeSage, managing director of vendor programs for GE Capital's Equipment Finance business, told me why customers like you might be interested in this too.

“With access to the resource center, a lift truck vendor can better understand their customers and can make more efficient use of the customer's time because they can prepare—knowing that this particular customer has cash flow needs and they can focus on structures that address cash flow,” he said. “If it's fleet management the customer cares about, the vendor can focus on structures that address fleet management.”

It's great to see that industrial truck suppliers are not only selling information management systems via their own product lines, but they're putting their own money into them too, by taking advantage of systems like this. It proves that even in a challenging economy—

No, ESPECIALLY in a challenging economy, information management can see you through. That message is being sent by industrial truck OEMs and their dealers as well as material handling systems integrators. While some of those industries' press releases imply it, others put it right up front.

The Material Handling Industry of America likes being up front about the strategic value of information management. In the latest in a series of Quarterly Reports, MHIA's Supply Chain Execution Industry Group reminds logistics professionals how scalable data systems are.

“The advantage to using data systems and getting information is it will move to scale,” says KardexRemstar's Ed Romaine, chair of the Supply Chain Execution Industry Group. “When business is slow, you can use these systems to find efficiencies and reduce labor and inventory. When business is gangbusters they help you meet customer demand and expectations.”

Romaine is careful not to do too much sugar-coating, however. He's quick to add that even with growth in the economy, businesses won't go back to the way they were. In the same report, RedPrairie's Jim LeTart, an SCE Group member delegate, lays it on the line:

“There won't be fast growth any more,” he says. “There will be more uncertainty about the price of fuel, for instance. As the world becomes more global, companies will need to stay on top of how these things affect their supply chain.”

That's what information management—and Material Handling and Logistics—are all about.

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