Time for Follow the Leader. You're It!

April 1, 2001
You have the authority to write the battle plan for your company's market victory.

Time for Follow the Leader. You're It!

Sometimes you can pick up the most useful information from the most unlikely places. For example, I'm no mechanic, but I subscribe to Popular Mechanics because every once in a while there are nuggets that provide good leads for Material Handling Management. These were from one recent issue:

:• A quick-assemble assembly line made of TurboCell Plug & Play modules. Each module is equipped with a conveyor and a pair of robot arms that accept custom tooling. Material handling is all about flexibility in the face of change, and this is a perfect example. (Manufacturer is Prodel Automation, Copell, Texas.)

• How about a pair of BIP 2000 robot legs? These legs were designed to assist the physically disabled for everyday living, and can not only walk level surfaces, but climb stairs. How far away are industrial applications -- say, moving heavy or hazardous loads within a plant or distribution center? (Source: France's National Institute for Research in Information Technology and Automation.)

• Hot fuel cells are being touted as alternatives to the natural-gas-fired turbines electric utilities use to meet peak energy demand. The DaimlerChrysler Hot Module runs at 42 percent efficiency, twice that of the turbines. A 250-kilowatt version will soon be online at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

These are inspiring inventions! That's the idea behind this special supplement to MHM. The best material handling strategies are often inspired by ideas that come from other disciplines. Unfortunately, upper-level managers and executives like you rarely have time to seek such inspiration from far-flung resources. When you are inspired, chances are slim that the cause has anything to do with material handling.

This edition of Material Handling Strategies presents a variety of ideas that, if adopted by senior executives like yourself, can have a profound impact on a company's bottom line. You'll learn how:

• Work teams can contribute to customer satisfaction;

• Manufacturing can sharpen your competitive edge;

• Marketing can strengthen manufacturing in that effort;

• Engineering education can keep you from becoming a commodity;

• Network modeling yields higher return on assets;

• Leasing material handling systems yields higher return on investment.

You have the authority to write the battle plan for your company's market victory. These strategies will help you win allies within your organization.

Tom Andel, chief editor

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