When NA 2008, the biennial material handling industry trade show and conference, opens its doors in Cleveland later this month, it will do so against a backdrop of economic uncertainty. The show's organizer, the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA), expects a mild market contraction in the industry this year. The group's forecast calls for new orders in the material handling equipment sector to slow by some 5 to 7 percent in 2008, a decline from the 8-percent growth recorded last year.
For material handling equipment manufacturers, the bright spot in the picture right now is exports, which are forecast to grow 18 percent in 2008 before slowing modestly in 2009. The outlook is less rosy for domestic con- sumption. MHIA forecasts that consumption (ship- ments plus imports less exports) of this type of equip- ment in the United States will contract about 5 percent in 2008 and 2009.
Yet despite the economic instability, MHIA has high hopes for the show. It expects to draw some 500 materi- al handling and logistics exhibitors and thousands of buyers to the event, which will be held at Cleveland's I-X Center from April 21-24.
A chance to get educated
Promising to be one of the highlights of the four-day event is the keynote address by Andrew Winston, author of Green to Gold. In his address, titled "How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build High- Performance Supply Chains," Winston will discuss the business case for creating sustainable supply chains. (See our interview with Winston from the March issue.)
The conference also includes several other educational opportunities:
The first of the two workshops, "The Basics of Material Handling A Foundation for Better Planning and Results," is a one and a half day program that begins on Saturday morning and wraps up mid-day on Sunday. The workshop provides an introduction to the field of material handling, including systems analysis, equipment selection, and the relationship of material handling to other activities and operations of the industrial plant or warehouse. The course serves as both an introduction to the field and as a refresher course for those who want an update on the latest trends. Participants will learn how to plan and analyze material handling systems, how to improve material handling operations, and when to apply material handling automation. Key features are case examples and a guided exercise to ensure mastery of the techniques presented.
The second workshop,"Lean Material Handling and Work Cells," runs from mid-day Sunday through Monday afternoon. The course examines how material handling enables lean manufacturing and what methods are typically favored when implementing lean practices and work cells. This workshop shows how to plan effective cells using a simple six-step procedure. It includes case examples and a guided exercise that ensures mastery of the techniques presented.
The instructor for both workshops is H. Lee Hales, president of Richard Muther & Associates, who will use material developed by the firm's professional engineers and consultants. Richard Muther & Associates is a consulting firm with expertise in material handling and cell planning.
Navigating the hall
In addition to these educational programs, NA 2008 will include a trade show featuring nearly 500 exhibitors. In order to help attendees find what they're looking for, show organizers have divided the 150,000-square-foot show floor into four distinct centers based on the products and services offered. In addition to the Knowledge Center (described above), they are:
The latest equipment and solutions
Exhibitors at the event will display a wide variety of solutions for moving, storing, controlling, and protecting materials and products. Among the technologies highlighted at this year's show will be equipment and systems in the following categories:
How to register
The organizers of NA 2008 have made it easy to register and prepare for the show. NAshow.com offers attendees access to free badge registration, exhibitor search tools, floor plans, matchmaker services, and a "My NAShow" Agenda Planner to organize a personalized itinerary. It also offers detailed information about the educational conference sessions as well as travel and hotel information.
On-site registration is $25, or $10 with VIP registration coupon available from exhibitors. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday.