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Working Hard for the Money: MH&L's 2015 Salary Survey

March 21, 2015
MH&L's exclusive 2015 Salary Survey reveals that job satisfaction for material handling and logistics professionals is climbing faster than the average salary.

It's probably too soon to say the economy has fully recovered from the recession of the previous decade, but based on the findings from the MH&L 2015 Salary Survey, the "haves" significantly outnumber the "have-nots." Fully two-thirds (66%) of all respondents saw their salary increase in 2014, and 69% anticipate getting a raise in 2015. All told, the average salary for material handling and logistics professionals is now up to $86,085 (a very modest 2% bump from the previous MH&L survey, conducted in 2013).

Job satisfaction, too, is on the upswing, as 71% of respondents say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their current jobs (up 6% from the previous salary), and 74% say they are satisfied or very satisfied with material handling and logistics as a career path (an increase of 4% from 2013). These numbers reflect the highest level of satisfaction since the previous decade.

And yet, the material handling and logistics profession still seems to be a best-kept secret. When asked what is the biggest challenge facing the industry today, a preponderance of respondents say it's attracting and retaining talent. What's more, 56% say they've struggled in the past year to fill positions due to a lack of skilled candidates. This is a problem that's not going away anytime soon, and needs to be addressed on any number of levels, particularly since two-thirds (66%) of all material handling and logistics professionals are in their 50s or older, and training the next generation of managers will be of vital importance.

One thing the salary survey data lets us do is create a profile of what the typical material handling and logistics professional looks like, based on which responses to any given question appear most frequently. This "typical" professional, then, is a white male in his 50s living in the Midwest, with 26-30 years of experience in the industry, and working for a manufacturer of material handling equipment. This archetypal person is in a corporate/senior executive role, has a four-year college degree, has been with his current company for 6-10 years, and did not earn a bonus last year. And as stated earlier, he makes $86,085 per year.

Chances are good that at least a handful of readers come pretty close to fitting that exact description, but every individual has their own story to tell, so in addition to the charts on the following pages that summarize the survey findings, this article will also give voice (anonymously, of course) to many of your peers who took the time to tell us about the challenges they face in their daily work lives, as well as their ideas about what's wrong… and what's right… with the state of the industry, the economy, the government and anything else that's on their mind.

"Because of the world we live in today, especially over the last 20 years, those in the material handling/distribution field are being asked to do more, in less time, while being measured against impossible-to-maintain metrics and achieve these ever-shrinking yearly budgets."—warehouse/logistics manager at a wholesaler/distributor with more than 40 years of experience, living in the South Central and earning $60,000

"Repressive government regulations will continue to have a deleterious effect upon business and industry, whether it is shippers, clients, or carriers."—supply chain manager with a food & beverage company with 26-30 years of experience, living in the North Central and earning $86,000

"Supply chain/logistics is a very hot job right now with a greater emphasis being placed on it by companies, which is great to see. We need to ensure that the new entrants to the job force have a good foundation of business principles as well. This makes them very well rounded and able to see the entire picture of a company's operations."—senior executive at a wholesaler/distributor with 16-20 years of experience, living in the North Central and earning $146,000

"The industry does not value experience anymore like they used to. All they look at is the salary being lower for younger engineers, who will not stay in place for more than five years. They then lose all the experience/knowledge and wonder why things start going bad. I have seen it much more since 2005!"—senior manufacturing process engineer with a consumer goods company with 26-30 years of experience, living in the South Central and earning $91,000

"The job market is wide open for smart people who will work hard at what needs to be done. America's dream is not dead if we take the time and money to train our people for the skills needed to compete in a global marketplace. We need more drug-free tradespeople. We have plenty of people applying that need to work but no one has been taught to do anything. Whatever happened to voc-tech in high school?"—operations manager at a material handling equipment manufacturer with 36-40 years of experience, living in the South Central and earning $114,500

From Sea to Shining Sea

Geographically speaking, when it comes to supply chain salaries, it sometimes seems that where you do something is just as important as what you do. The largest percentage of material handling and logistics jobs in the U.S.—38%—are in the North Central region of the country (primarily the Midwest), so the average salary ($82,263) is quite a bit lower than in other regions, such as the Pacific ($92,773) and the South Central ($95,603). The lowest salaried region, though, is New England ($72,735), which is also by far the smallest area, with only 4% of the total number of supply chain jobs (see map, p. 20).

For those of us living in cold-weather states, it's kind of disheartening that the warm-weather states also pay better, too, for supply chain talent.

"With Arizona being a right-to-work state, salaries are always going to be low."—inventory/materials manager with a healthcare products manufacturer with 11-15 years of experience, living in the Mountain region and earning $58,000

"My main concern is that New Hampshire is considering a proposal to double the minimum wage increase. This will certainly hurt New Hampshire's businesses and may force some to relocate to a different state."—plant manager with a paper/printing company with 26-30 years of experience, living in New England and earning $67,500

It's Still a Man's World

Facebook recently made headlines when the social media giant revealed it offers 58 different gender options to its users. Here at MH&L, we continue to offer just two options on the survey, and while the results are still unfortunately skewed in one direction, there is at least some small sign that the gender gap—while huge—is shrinking a little bit. In our previous (2013) survey, men held 89% of all material handling and logistics jobs, with an average salary of $87,053. With just 11% of all jobs, women were averaging $62,987, or 28% less than their male counterparts.

In 2015, the disparity is slightly less. Men still have the lion's share of the jobs in the industry, with 86% representation, and an average salary of $88,619. Women, though, have closed the gap by 3 percentage points, to now representing 14% of all jobs, at an average salary of $70,800. Men are still making, on average, 20% more than women, which however you choose to look at the numbers, is an embarrassment to the industry, particularly an industry that is constantly trying to attract and retain talent.

As MH&L's senior editor Adrienne Selko noted in a recent commentary, women are an untapped source of supply chain talent, and many of the selling points companies are using to attract young people to the industry are important factors to women as well. Emphasizing the high-tech aspects of the profession, and offering a clearly-defined career path, competitive salaries and the opportunity to create green supply chains are all things companies should be doing to recruit more women into the profession.

"I have to do a lot of 'secretarial' things in my job as regional manager, which I feel is because I am female. I feel for all the things I do that do not relate to my title as regional manager I am underpaid."—female sales manager with a plastics/rubber products manufacturer with 16-20 years of experience, living in the Mountain region and earning $94,000

"My personal opinion is that in this industry a white male would have a greater salary than a minority woman."—female plant manager with a consumer goods/durables manufacturer with 16-20 years of experience, living in the Pacific region and earning $52,000

"Women in business are not as valued as men and it's reflected in their salaries."—purchasing manager with a plastics/rubber products manufacturer with 31-35 years of experience, living in the North Central and earning $33,000

Working for a Living

The largest percentage of respondents (13%) work for manufacturers of material handling equipment, earning an average salary of $84,696. That salary is pretty close to the average for all material handling and logistics professionals, sandwiched in between the other major verticals that make up the respondent base of the industry. The lowest-paying industries, on average, are automotive ($74,309), industrial products/machinery ($76,948), plastics & rubber products ($77,053) and transportation/warehousing ($77,615).

The highest-paying industries, on the other hand, include energy/utilities ($103,250), pharmaceuticals/healthcare ($105,740) and retail trade ($110,393). All three of these verticals, however, represent a fairly small percentage of the total, so if you're thinking of shifting industries for a bigger paycheck, be aware that the number of openings is likely to be small.

In the category of "tell me something I didn't already know," corporate/senior management is the best-paying job title, with an annual salary of $125,504. When it comes to income, it's good to be the Big Boss. Consultants are also doing well ($99,857), as are supply chain managers/directors ($92,031). Those with a role in transportation/fleet/traffic management, however, have the lowest average salary among material handling and logistics executives, at $64,911.

So what matters most to you about your job? We asked that question, and respondents told us that it comes down to two key things: job stability (25% of responses) and base salary (19%). Not coincidentally, 55% of the respondents say their company either reduced staff or made no changes to staff size in 2014, indicating that the wait-and-see attitude prevalent during the recession hasn't completely gone away. Also, 59% say they'll at least entertain the possibility of changing jobs in 2015, so as the economy continues to recover, so too will thoughts of seeking greener pastures.

"Difficult to find electro-mechanical technicians these days. Hard to compete with the big companies who can offer internships, higher wages and greater opportunities."—senior executive at a material handling equipment manufacturer with 26-30 years of experience, living in the South Atlantic and earning $150,000

"With the gutting of U.S. manufacturing, the conveyor business has shifted to very competitive warehousing type conveyors from the more lucrative equipment needed for factories. Our government must start adding the cost of our government regulations and corporate tax rates to the goods coming in from outside our borders to stop 30 years of trade deficits of $500 to $800 billion per year. That wealth is bypassing working-class America totally now."—business development manager at a material handling equipment manufacturer with 31-35 years of experience, living in the South Central and earning $57,000

"The defense industry suffers during these times of international unrest."—engineering manager with a metal products manufacturer with 6-10 years of experience, living in the South Central and earning $90,000

"Hoping the economy turns around for the oil & gas industries."—supply chain manager with an oilfield services company with more than 40 years of experience, living in the South Central and earning $120,000

While material handling and logistics professionals, on the whole, are quite satisfied with their current jobs, an offer of more money at a better company—however you want to define "better"—is a powerful lure. Recruiting top talent is absolutely crucial to guaranteeing the success of the supply chain profession, but retaining top talent is equally important to guaranteeing the success of your company.

To view the complete 2015 MHL Salary Survey, click here.

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THE METHOD TO OUR MADNESS

The MH&L 2015 Salary Survey was conducted online via e-mailed invitations to a select group of subscribers. The survey took place in January 2015, with nearly 500 responses (491). Respondents were not compensated, but were offered the chance to win an American Express gift card. All responses were anonymous.


THE REST OF THE STORY

Go online to a slideshow gallery of tables detailing responses to many other questions not featured in the above article. You can also read hundreds of open-ended comments from respondents about the biggest challenges confronting supply chain managers, as well as their observations about the industry and their role within it.

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