The year was 1952. In the USA, the Greatest Generation was hitting their stride. Having survived the Great Depression and World War II, they were buying. Wages were about $75 a week and a house was $9,000. The brand new 21-inch black-and-white RCA TV in the den cost $99. A car cost $1,700 and gas to fuel family outings was $0.20/gallon. GM thought they might see a niche market—and completed the first Chevrolet Corvette prototype.
The world’s population was slightly more than the current population of China and India combined. King George VI died and his daughter, Princess Elizabeth of Britain, became Queen. And yes, this is the same remarkable and stylish woman who still resides in Buckingham Palace today.
Hank was singing “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” Ernest published The Old Man and the Sea, the first Mr. Potato Head was sold…and the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) was formed.
Is this remarkable or what? All of these things happened before most of us were born…but they are still around today. Have they changed? Sure. Are they still as relevant today as 68 years ago? Absolutely! So although I doubt you would have ever guessed that CICMHE, Queen Elizabeth, and the Corvette have something important in common, they do. Each has been able to evolve and adapt so that they have remained current and relevant for nearly seven decades.
The CICMHE-MHI partnership has thrived because both parties must have been committed to making it successful—and that has required changing with the times. In our case, new directions are often the result of ideas that peers would initially consider unusual…maybe even foolish. I can’t imagine that anyone except a few visionary MHI leaders thought the idea of a trade association partnering with academia made any sense. But that bold decision in 1952 created a partnership that has been highly productive for nearly seven decades.
I do not have any first-hand accounts of CICMHE in the early years; however, a significant shift began in the late 1980s. Prior to that time, material handling was prominent in most industrial engineering (IE) programs so how to teach this subject was a natural, common ground for CICMHE faculty and MHI members to interact. In the late ’80s, the IE curriculum started changing in response to the skills needed by a widening variety of companies hiring IEs.
At this same time, the material handling industry was also changing with increased use of computers and automation as well as demand for increasingly complex systems. This much radical change could have doomed the partnership; however, MHI and CICMHE decided to evolve rather than dissolve. And true to their history, new ideas that some would have considered wild and foolish drove the transformation. The fact is that many of these are today the foundations upon which the current CICMHE-MHI partnership is built.