Don't Call Me. Just Go To ...

March 1, 2001
An interruption from a telemarketer leads chief editor Tom Andel to the most significant trend in material handling today.

Don't Call Me. Just Go To …

It’s bad enough when telemarketers call you at home, but at work? They’re calling me at work! Ever hear the pessimist’s motto, "Life is hell, then you die?" I say telemarketing is hell and death is no escape. I’m convinced one day a telemarketer will see my name in the obituaries and page me at the funeral home to ask how I like the coffin I bought.

Here’s what I heard upon answering my office phone the other day:

"Hello, Mr. Andel, I’m doing a survey for a client in the material handling industry. Do you have a few minutes?"

I could tell this was a kid barely out of school who had no idea what material handling was. She was reading from a script. A marketing firm working for some system vendor was obviously behind this. I wanted to hang up, but I didn’t want to get a possible advertiser mad, so I said the first (repeatable) thing that came to mind.


"What would you say is the most important trend in the material handling industry?"

"Consolidation," I snapped. I just wanted to get this over.

She asked me 10 or 20 more questions about leading vendors, customer requirements, yadda, yadda, all engineered so I might mention her client’s name a few times. Finally I heard what I was aching to hear. "Thank you for participating, Mr. Andel. Have a nice day."

"I was until you called." (Again, that’s the first response that came to mind.)

"Sure. Later." (That’s what I said, because I knew it was true. I knew I’d hear from another of her kind some time soon.)

I got back to work, but I couldn’t stop reviewing the answers I gave this kid — particularly the first one. "Consolidation." It was a knee-jerk answer, but it really is a phenomenon in the material handling industry. The fact that I sat in on an editors’ briefing by FKI Logistex the day before helped spur that reflex. FKI just grouped Mathews Conveyor and the Buschman Co., competitors for many years, under its new Automation Division umbrella. FKI also combined SNE, Davco and Industry General Corp. to form the Integration Division.

During Q&A, I played devil’s telemarketer and asked a few annoying questions of my own.

What will this mean to the distributors of those companies?

"We’re developing an interactive Web site within the Automation Division that started out to support the Mathews distributors," answered John Westendorf, CEO of that division. "The next step is to bring the Buschman product line in to the same arena so the Buschman distributors can use the same tools. It’s a CAD drawing access pricing module where the distributor can go in and configure his own piece of equipment or subsystem based on his CAD input. He will price it out and place orders from that site. That’s the e-commerce we’re excited about."

They’re not alone. I did some research after the press conference and found out that the market for engineering collaboration tools was expected to top $185 million by the end of 2000 — a 63 percent growth rate compared to the previous year. According to the Daratech market researchers who did the study, that makes this segment of the product process management market second in growth rate to supply chain management.

Web technology is consolidating the world of material handling. It’s making alliances out of rivalries. And according to Nassim Bayat, CEO of FKI’s Integration Division, the next logical progression will be to make commitments out of alliances. We’ll probably continue to see the venerable material handling brand names that have been around for decades, but somehow, below the surface, their support networks will be international and interconnected to better serve your need for systems and services.

There, I’m done. I’m done with telemarketers, too. The next time one calls me at work with questions about material handling, I’ll just tell them to go to ...

Tom Andel

chief editor

[email protected]