MHI Releases 10 Megatrends for the Materials Handling Industry

  • Pack Mule Releases Trends in Materials Handling Industry - The Changing Work Force
    The Changing Work Force


MHI has just released what they have identified as the 10 megatrends for the materials handling industry. They gathered 100 thought leaders and asked them what they saw now and in the future, arriving at a consensus of 10 important areas that those who want to succeed in our industry need to pay attention to.

Additionally, they concluded that companies that focus purely on cost reduction and process improvement are fighting a losing battle; our industry has been squeezing these areas for years. Success in the future will require innovation.

According to the MHI roadmap, the ten areas that will impact our industry the most over the coming years are:

1. The Changing Work Force
2. The Growth of Ecommerce
3. Relentless Competition
4. Mass Personalization
5. Urbanization
6. Improvements Across Product Cycles
7. Mobile and Wearable Computing
8. Robotics and Automation
9. Sensors and the Internet of Things
10. Big Data and Predictive Analytics

Over the next 10 weeks, we will provide our own perspective on each of these trends and hope to encourage a substantive discussion on each of them. We know that our customers and dealers have valuable perspectives to share.  In fact, with permission, we will share these thought provoking insights with others, and invite them to comment.

We also added an eleventh subject that wraps up the 10 MHI megatrends: If your business is good and you are getting the job done, why should you care? For many companies, we believe that the answer to this one—since it will dictate the companies’ response to the first 10—may be the most important question of all.


#1 The Changing Work Force

The first of the megatrends—The Changing Work Force—isn’t just first on the list. According to the MHI group, it was the more critical than any of the others, more than the hot-topic items such as new technology such as sensors and wearable computers. It seems that no matter how technologically advanced we become, we still have to depend on good people.

MHI defined several specific problems in terms of the changing workforce.  They are:

  • inadequately defined career paths
  • the industry’s lack of appeal to several potential labor pools
  • an undersized and poorly connected training/education network
  • inadequate skills in the existing and entering workforce

Basically, it says that a lot of potential employees don’t see a future in material handling and those that do (as well as those we already have) don’t have the skills to do their jobs well. The good news is that our industry is in no way alone in having to deal with these deficiencies. The better news is that each one of them can be remedied if we pay attention to what this changing workforce needs from their job.

We believe that every employee is entitled to the following four things from his or her employer:

1. A well-defined job with a clear path for advancement.
2. The tools they need to do the job.
3. Empowerment to do the job successfully
4. A measurement and reward system that everybody (employee and management) fully understand and adhere to

The first of these—and arguably the most important—is that the employee has the answers to two questions:


If you want to see how well you’re doing, just ask one of your material handling people this question: how do you know when you’re doing a good job? If the answer is “Nobody’s told me I’m not,” you need to improve the definition of the job. Similarly, if the only way that person can advance is to move to another department or even another company, the job definition needs to be improved. Beyond that, every employee needs to know how his or her job contributes to the overall vision of the company; that their success is important to the success of the company.

The tools every employee needs includes the requisite skills and knowledge to get the job done. As employers we have a responsibility to determine the skills and knowledge the job requires and make sure each employee has them.

Empowerment is probably the stickiest of the four subjects. Traditionally managers have resisted empowering their employees either because they were afraid that the employees don’t share their objectives and values or because they thought employees didn’t have the skills and knowledge to be the resident experts in their jobs. If we do the first two things right—and completely—we solve both of those problems.

Finally we have to recognize that every employee knows how he or she is being measured, what the criteria for success are, as well as what’s in it for the employee if that employee does a really good job. We get and retain good employees better if they feel that they are responsible for their own success.

We’ve been believers in all of the above for a long time. Everybody in our company knows what our vision is and how their good work contributes to it. Our vision is for Pack Mule to provide the Best-in-Class Tools for Moving Materials Horizontally in Industrial Environments. And because of their efforts every day we think we’re accomplishing that.

But you should judge for yourself. Have a look at these.