Last week we told you that the first draft of the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics was released—and in need of your input. In its present state this document is already the product of many inputs, collected over the course of a few months during regional roadmap meetings. This compilation of observations focuses on how the arts and sciences of material handling and logistics need to be focused to meet the foreseen needs of this world by 2025.
The unenviable task of compiling and organizing all these inputs into one report went to Kevin Gue, Tim Cook Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering at Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. And believe it or not, he wants more input—from you, MH&L’s audience. He acknowledges that opening this up to such a wide universe of opinions could lead to considerable debate. He’s spent the last few months analyzing these debates. Debates about what?
“For example,” Gue states, “is there a future for large-scale standardization? Can privacy concerns be overcome to facilitate widespread collaboration of logistics operations and processes? The implications of these initiatives, should they really be pursued, are tremendous.”
Another of these debatable issues is the impact of additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, on material handling and logistics. For example, it would be great for makers of industrial vehicles. Both on- and off-road vehicles can have service lives lasting a decade or more. That means the manufacturers of these vehicles and their service providers have to maintain inventories of thousands of replacement parts for as long as those vehicles keep rolling. Imagine the amount of storage space they could free up by making these onsie-twosie parts on demand—or if the end users could print them out themselves and save on transportation costs.
As you may know by now, MH&L has opened the debating floor on this and many other topics to its own editorial advisory board—via our new “Ask the Experts” forum. In the process of fielding such questions, the topic of additive manufacturing’s contribution to environmental sustainability came up. Would it really lead to such significant benefits? Alex Scott, member of the Supply Chain Management Ph.D. Program at Penn State University, took that one on for us, and you can see his answer here. He identifies some issues the 3-D crowd has yet to address.
Taking a tour through our “Ask the Experts” forum would be good preparation if you’d like to add your insights to MHI’s Roadmap effort. Who are these experts and what do they know? Our newly-posted gallery of mugshots and one-liners will give you an enjoyable introduction.