Volume 9 | Issue 3 | Year 2006

It is a mega industry that encompasses a variety of companies, products and technologies – everything from cranes to conveyor systems – built and programmed to store, stage, move, transport, lift and carry a range of goods, from TVs to washers and dryers. Facilitating its growth while researching best practices and key metrics is the Material Handling Industry of America, the organization that forms the umbrella under which all material handling activities occur.

Material handling and logistics, by definition, is the movement, protection, storage and control of materials and products throughout the process of their manufacture and distribution, consumption and disposal. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bureau of Labor Statistics, material handling and logistics is one of America’s largest and fastest growing industries. The consumption of material handling and logistics equipment and systems in America exceeds $125 billion per year, and producers employ in excess of 700,000 workers. Material handling and logistics is a complete process and includes a wide range of equipment, technologies and services essential to productive manufacturing, warehousing and distribution operations.

MHIA is the leading non-profit trade association of material handling and logistics providers. Members include equipment and systems manufacturers; systems facilitators/integrators; consultants/simulators; third-party logistics providers, software developers and publishers of material handling & logistics goods and services for sale in the U.S.

MHIA members are pioneers and leading manufacturers in the field of material handling and logistics. Their solutions increase the quality, safety, productivity and profitability of manufacturing, warehousing, distribution and logistics operations. Since its inception in 1945, MHIA has been industry’s resource for productivity solutions through the effective use of material handling and logistics equipment, systems
and technologies.

750 strong
“We have 750 member companies that work together in affiliated groups with 18 sub-level associations that cover a variety of technologies, everything from storage and lifting to radio frequency and IT,” notes MHIA CEO John Nofsinger.

“Our members convene to address specific issues to develop national and international standards, to find ways to integrate various technologies into material handling systems.” MHIA also maintains a college industry council, which, since 1952, meets regularly. Comprised of leading universities that teach material handling and logistics topics, MHIA further oversees the foundation that awards scholarships to students; to date it has awarded over $1.5 million.

In addition, each year MHIA holds the industry’s premier trade/conferences. ProMat attracts a significant number of buyers who do not attend other trade shows. They come to ProMat with purchasing plans in hand and the power to buy solutions for their supply chains. In fact, it is predicted that ProMat 2007 attendees spend more than $25 billion on material handling and logistics for equipment and services every year.

This year’s NA 2006, held in March, saw 480 participating companies and brought together close to 20,000 people from 60 nations “to see these better mousetraps people work on,” Nofsinger quips. Those better mousetraps have accounted for between 11-13 percent growth this year and an anticipated 3-5 percent industry increase in 2007, and likely into 2008, says Nofsinger, who adds, “We see all positive expectations.”

The complexity of managing supply chains that span continents and dominate markets demands strategies, equipment and systems that are agile, adaptable, and aligned, he notes. With product lifecycles shortening and worldwide competition increasing, success depends on effective material handling and logistics solutions for the global supply chain — being able to deliver the right product to the right market at the right time.

“New technologies in linear motor/motion design have changed the way mobile equipment functions, and there have been many improvements in conveyance systems,” Nofsinger points out. “The biggest changes in the industry occur on the global level, promoting the need to provide broader solutions and to build products that are more capable and efficient. This association’s history is based in engineering but now we’re becoming more balanced between engineering and business.”

He adds, “We’ve seen growth in the IT sector, particularly as people attempt to integrate the flow of information at point-of-purchase,” Nofsinger comments. “There’s also more of a push for RF technology – as Wal Mart and others continue to evolve it becomes more effective and efficient.”

Indeed, many forces will be at work to keep material handling and logistics on a healthy economic path; these include:
• Continued shift toward applying equipment versus new plant capital spending.
• Consumer demand for variety, availability, convenience, quality, and affordability.
• Material handling and logistics being seen as a strategic versus tactical activity.
• Globalization and consolidation of American companies.
• Concurrence with which goods and information are moved along supply channels.
• Mass customization and electronic
• Shifts to outsourcing.
• Continued pressure to reduce inventories.

Material handling and logistics has assumed a very strategic role in the improvement of order-to-delivery cycles, inventory reduction and satisfying changing buying culture and behavior. As a result, according to the MHIA, “we expect exceptional opportunities through the decade for the industry both domestically and internationally.”

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