For Love or Money: MH&L’s 2019 Salary Survey

March 9, 2019
Our annual salary survey reveals that the typical material handling and logistics professional earns $98,088.

“The state of the material handling and logistics industry in my career has been a dynamic and changing world. It requires a flexibility in the workforce that is poorly understood by many of those on the outside.”—supply chain manager with a metal producer with 26-30 years of experience, living in the North Central region and earning $73,000

“Company management today seems to be enamored with the latest whizbang technology without understanding and then providing the resources necessary to implement any improvements to the systems of work.”—continuous improvement manager with an aerospace & defense company with 6-10 years of experience, living in the South Central region and earning $150,000

“There is still something to be said about being a woman in a male dominated industry. I feel there is a very obvious ceiling placed over me.”—purchasing manager with an industrial products manufacturer with 11-15 years of experience, living in New England and earning $62,000

“I have always made a good living in the transportation/forwarder industry. It is a good career choice for people. A lot of things in this industry are beyond our control and contribute to the bottom line profit and loss. It can at times be a very difficult job, especially when multi-tasking like I do (sales, management, operations).”—transportation manager with a third-party logistics provider with 31-35 years of experience, living in the Middle Atlantic region and earning $106,000

“Pay in general has not kept up with the general market conditions.”—purchasing manager with an automotive manufacturer with 16-20 years of experience, living in the North Central region and earning $165,000

“The material handling industry is an essential part of the supply chain and will always provide stable employment opportunities.”—corporate/executive manager with a material handling equipment manufacturer with more than 40 years of experience, living in the South Atlantic region and earning $100,000

What is it, exactly, that motivates a material handling and logistics professional? Any job in the supply chain has always carried with it a certain element of risk, which is understandable given the very nature of the job demands moving goods at the fastest speed possible to ensure on-time deliveries. Lately, though, as the economy has improved and companies are making more stuff than ever before for a global audience they weren’t even aware of until recently, the demands on supply chain professionals to perform at a consistently high level—and to get their employees to perform at a similarly high level—have never been higher.

So every year—and this year is no exception—we ask our readers what matters most to them about their job? Now, we’ve been running these annual surveys for quite a few years, and for the past dozen years (coinciding with the onset of Great Recession), the top answer has been job security. And in fact, according to the results of the MH&L 2019 Salary Survey, job security is still the top answer… but not by much. The gap between job security and the number two answer—base salary—is a mere 1 percentage point, 20% vs 19%. That’s quite a significant shift in attitude, given that just two years ago, the gap was 12% (job security at 28% vs base salary at 16%).

Obviously, an improved economy relieves some of the pressure to find and keep a job—any job—so that might explain somewhat why job security isn’t as important to material handling and logistics professionals as it was during the depths of the recession. Job satisfaction, or rather lack thereof, is another clue to explain the shift to salary. Last year, when we asked respondents how satisfied they were with material handling and logistics as a career path, 82% said they were either satisfied (46%) or very satisfied (36%). Those numbers both fell in the 2019 survey, with 44% saying they were satisfied and 32% saying they were very satisfied, for a total satisfaction response rate of 76%. That’s a pretty steep drop in one year.

Their satisfaction with their current jobs also took a hit. In 2018 73% said they were satisfied or very satisfied; this year, that number dropped to 68%. So clearly, something is precipitating this dissatisfaction and disgruntlement.

However, and this is the weird thing, the average salary for material handling and logistics managers in 2019 did not drop from the previous year. Quite the contrary, the average salary now sits at $98,088, which represents an increase of $4,391, a jump of nearly 5% from the previous year. However, salaries have been down the past couple years, so this year’s increase brings the average salary almost back to the same level they were at in 2016 ($98,440), which remains the high-water mark for material handling and logistics professionals.

In any event, if we were to paint a picture of what the “typical material handling and logistics manager” looks like, based on the most frequent responses to our various questions, the average manager is a white male in his 50s, living in the Midwest with 26-30 years of experience, and working for a manufacturer of material handling equipment. He is in charge of warehousing and logistics, has worked at his current company for 6-10 years, has a four-year college degree, did not receive a raise last year but expects a cost-of-living increase between 1%-3% this year.

The Method to Our Madness

The MH&L 2019 Salary Survey was conducted online via e-mailed invitations to a select group of subscribers. The survey took place in December 2018-January 2019, with 288 responses (a 19% increase in responses from 2018). Respondents were not compensated, but were offered the opportunity to share their opinions and insights related to their jobs and their industry. All responses were anonymous.