Against the backdrop of Glacier National Park's towering peaks, a group of logistics executives, consultants, material handling vendors, and university professors met for three days in late June. Their goal: to identify and perhaps reach consensus on the major challenges facing the material handling and logistics professions, how those challenges could affect business, and what approaches might help to resolve them.
The Material Handling Logistics Summit—admittedly an experiment—was a collaboration of the College-Industry Council for Material Handling Education, the Material Handling Institute, and the Material Handling Industry of America (the forum's main sponsor).
Day one was devoted to developing a long list of initiatives, later grouped into 14 themes by Benoit Montreuil, a professor at Laval University in Montreal and leader of the summit. Much of the discussion centered on themes that are all too familiar to material handling, distribution, and logistics managers, including globalization, the greening of the supply chain, technological issues, regulation, and security. The growing impact of demographics on human resources topped the list of challenges, followed by the difficulty of meeting stakeholders' expectations and the volatility of global supply chains. In particular, many sessions devoted considerable time to the difficulty of finding and retaining good employees, both hourly and professional.
The following days focused on how the major challenges are affecting business operations and strategies, and possible approaches to solving those problems. As a result of those discussions, the group called for more collaboration between industry and academia; recommended that more research and standards development be undertaken; and urged a greater focus on the demographic challenges facing distribution and logistics operations.
MHIA (www.mhia.org) said it would create a Web site describing the outcomes of the event; the site was expected to launch sometime this month.