MHI: 70 Years of Evolution to Meet Our Industry’s Changing Needs


Adaptable. Vital. Inclusive. Three words you might not typically hear to describe an organization celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2015. And yet, those are just a few of the descriptors used by three of MHI’s board members when discussing some of the reasons behind our association’s continued importance to the supply chain, material handling and logistics industries.

What started in 1943 as an association that unified the transportation of goods supporting American troops in World War II was formally incorporated in 1945 as the not-for-profit Material Handling Institute. Since then, the organization’s growth and development has been strongly influenced by the importance its membership has placed on collaboration, standardization and education.

“I consider MHI to have been my godfather for more than 40 years, and a good godfather it has been,” says John Hill, director of St. Onge Company, current MHI Director at Large, and one of MHI’s longest serving leadership members. “The organization has shown it is willing to grow and change and expand to meet the interests of the members and the industry. MHI provides the infrastructure that enables good people to gather to get more done than they could accomplish independently.”

Hill knows the benefit of that collaborative access firsthand, having initially joined MHI in 1971 as a member of the fledgling automatic identification industry.

“There were only about six companies making these technologies at the time—with roughly $1 million in combined sales—and we wanted a way to collaborate without violating anti-trust laws to make our new industry more visible in the marketplace,” he recalls. “Several other trade associations weren’t interested. Only MHI said ‘yes, that technology is applicable to our industry.’”

Without MHI, says Hill, bar coding wouldn’t have been recognized or implemented nearly as fast. “That’s because MHI had credibility in the marketplace, and they gave us access to standards groups, such as ANSI, that we wouldn’t have had otherwise in order to codify the technical standards for bar coding,” he explains. “MHI also allowed people from our industry to interact with others in manufacturing and distribution, which helped build our market. Thanks to MHI, we all grew.”

By Jeff Woroniecki, MHI Chief Operating Officer

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