What the Roadmap Has Taught Me This Year


No doubt about it. The past year has been a huge one for the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics.

Not only was it published and made available at www.mhlroadmap.org, but the Roadmap went on a tour of its own—coast to coast and internationally.

Some of the cities it has visited include Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Trenton, Louisville and New Orleans. You get the drift. It also went to Quebec City, Canada and Zaragoza, Spain. When all was said and done, the Roadmap was presented at more than 20 events. And already in 2015, there have been another half dozen stops.

People have heard the long version and the short one. Most of them have had a chance to give the Roadmap some thought and prioritize the 10 core competencies that must be developed to counter the 10 disruptors.

Every time, prioritization has been thought-provoking. And usually, it’s the first time people have thought and talked about the supply chain in the big picture. We’re all so caught up in our day-to-day immediate concerns in a tightly defined silo, that the big picture doesn’t always get much attention.

So, what have I learned from all this? Quite a bit, actually.

To begin, people’s supply chain priorities really do differ based on where they fit. Equipment suppliers have different priorities than academics whose priorities are different than practitioners and different than government and association people. Their priorities don’t clash. They’re just different.

And their priorities changed as the year went along. Early on, e-commerce was typically in the top 5. Today that’s not the case. It’s almost as if e-commerce went from being notable to being part of the assumed landscape.

As the year went on, core competencies such as planning/optimization, supply chain visibility and collaboration became important more frequently. The same can be said for high-speed logistics, but it cracked the top five less often for sure.

Meanwhile, technology/automation as well as workforce held their own throughout the year as top priorities. Sustainability floated, depending on the crowd.

But the least understood of all the core competencies is urban logistics. It rarely registered in the top five priorities. And when most were asked about it, blank stares were the standard response.

Throughout all this, I have become convinced that the world is changing more rapidly than we think. Most are still of the mind that we can deal with today now and the future at some other time—preferably when it is convenient to do so. Trouble is, the rate of change says that’s no longer a feasible approach to material handling, logistics and supply chain. Certainly not with the Internet in your pocket.

By Gary Forger, MHI Managing Director of Professional Development

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