Final version of U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics released

Roadmap identifies trends, challenges and needed capabilities between now and 2025.

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The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics has been published on The 67-page Roadmap’s report and action plan is intended to help the industry determine how logistics and supply chain trends and challenges can be turned into action plans to develop needed capabilities in the U.S. between now and 2025.

The Roadmap identifies 10 major trends in the economy, technology and society that will shape the future of the industry:

● The growth of e-commerce
● Relentless competition
● Mass personalization
● Urbanization
● Mobile and wearable computing
● Robotics and automation
● Sensors and the Internet of Things
● Big Data and predictive analytics
● The changing workforce
● Sustainability.

From these trends, a number of important themes emerged:

People, people, people: The industry already faces a workforce challenge, both with respect to finding good workers and training them. Absent a purposeful, coordinated effort in the future, these problems will only get worse. The industry cannot continue to grow without engineers to engineer, managers to manage, and workers to work.

Collaboration: It was widely believed that significant levels of collaboration in the industry could lead to breakthrough reductions in the cost and environmental impact of logistics. The report identifies number of promising areas.

Sensors, data and algorithms: The challenge for the material handling and logistics industry is to harness these technological capabilities—most of which are occurring outside the industry itself—and use them to the greatest advantage. The Roadmap makes several recommendations in this regard, including real-time optimization of distribution systems, cloud-based data from ubiquitous sensors, and sharing protocols to protect sensitive data.

New methods of distribution: The Roadmap describes these new methods and their implications for the industry, including emerging distribution models based on crowd-sourcing and delivery to mobile customers.

Coordinating the development, writing and review process was Roadmap editor Kevin Gue, Tim Cook Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering at Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “The Roadmap represents the ‘collective mind,’ as it were, of the entire industry—from end users to suppliers to academics to associations and government,” says Gue, who hopes the publication leads to collaborative solutions that address big problems. “Many of the issues described in the Roadmap will be addressed by individual companies in response to market forces and advances in technology. But other problems will require disparate groups to pull in the same direction. Standardization, widespread collaboration, securing a qualified workforce for the future—these issues will require stakeholders to work together in new ways.”

The Roadmap was developed in an 18-month-long process. Its content is based on input from more than 100 thought leaders, including material handling and logistics practitioners, suppliers, academia, associations and government. They participated in one of four roundtable events held April through June 2013. Attendees contributed their thoughts regarding the capabilities that the industry needs to develop between now and 2025. The first draft was released in October 2013 for review and comments; that feedback was integrated into a second draft, released in November 2013.

A five-person writing team developed the Roadmap. They include:

● Kevin Gue, Auburn University (Editor-in-Chief)
● Elif Akcali, University of Florida
● Alan Erera, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)
● Bill Ferrell, Clemson University
● Gary Forger, MHI

The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics is a collaborative industry effort, involving five association partners and eight publication partners.

Association Partners:
● Center for Excellence in Logistics and Distribution (CELDi)
● College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE)
● Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA)
● Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC)

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