Hiring and retaining a trained work force to use increasingly sophisticated technologies remains the biggest headache for material handling executives, according to the third annual report on the state of the industry, which was released today by the material handling trade group MHI and consultancy Deloitte at the biennial Modex show in Atlanta.
As part of the survey, nearly 900 high-level industry executives were asked to gauge the importance of 10 challenges facing their organizations. About 58 percent, the highest percentage of all, said they face significant challenges in building a labor force capable of managing IT networks. About 57 percent said they find it "very" or "extremely" challenging to meet customer demands for faster response times, while 56 percent said that elevated customer requirements for lower delivered costs and pricing pose significant challenges.
Of the 10 topics, respondents demonstrated the least sense of urgency about the need to meet customers' demands for supply chain transparency and sustainability; only 26 percent of respondents said that posed a significant challenge to their organizations.
Concerns about a potentially acute shortfall of human capital were uppermost in respondents' minds in last year's survey as well. This year's respondent total was roughly double that of a year ago.
About 43 percent of respondents said the biggest impediment to innovation was making a clear business case for it. That is up from 36 percent a year ago and was a recurring narrative in conversations with various vendors at the Modex show, especially as emerging technologies become more widely utilized.