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Be All That You Can Be, Join the Material Handling Industry

In the Inaugural Edition of MHEDA Edge, MHEDA’s online member magazine written for the material handling industry’s next generation of leaders, we published an illustration of well-known comic strip superheroes: Superman, Wonder Woman and SpiderMan. A more realistic superhero is James Johnson, branch service manager at Oram Material Handling Systems located in Springfield, Missouri. He is an upcoming leader, and someone you should know.

James Johnson

James Johnson supervises shop and field service technicians, as well as the rental dispatch and billing functions at Oram Material Handling Systems.

James Johnson is a great example of one of our industry’s next generation of leaders. After graduating from high school, he learned his craft while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. The importance of well-maintained howitzers—what most people know as tanks—used by our soldiers in a combat zone cannot be underestimated. Soon after coming home, Johnson found himself working in a truck dealer’s service department. A friend suggested that he consider working on forklifts. And the rest, as they say, is history.

One of the crucial skills learned in the U.S. Army, according to Johnson, 33, is the ability to communicate with a variety of other people. “In the service, you have to do what you’re told, but you also must learn to communicate with others. My team was responsible for recording the condition and work performed on various types of equipment, all of which were critical to the safety of military personnel.” Today, in addition to supervising a team of 12 (many of whom are many years older), Johnson spends much of his day in dialogue with customers, vendors and suppliers. While supervising shop and field service technicians and the rental dispatch and billing functions, Johnson also has learned the value of patience, another skill acquired while serving overseas.

Just as the U.S. Army urged its young recruits to be all they could be, Johnson urges his peers in our industry to be all they can be. He explains, “I started as a service technician but have continued to learn all that I could about the equipment and about how to serve our customers in order to provide solutions in preparation for my current job.”

According to Johnson, he’s having a great time in an industry that affords him the variety he thrives on. “The material handling industry is fun. I have relationships with a variety of people, and it’s interesting to talk with them. A customer may call and because we have a relationship, we may visit for five minutes before we begin to discuss their problem.”

Operation Desert Storm

Oram Material Handling's James Johnson honed his mechanical skills fixing tanks during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.

When it comes to the future, Johnson advises service technicians to continue being all that they can be. “Without the proper diagnostic tools and training, it is difficult to keep up with the advances manufacturers are introducing in order to comply with various government EPA and safety regulations. We need more technical knowledge in order to survive in the future.”

Johnson believes that it is important that the service department remains open to change. He says, “We are going to have to adapt and keep an open mind. Computer knowledge is a must. Laptop diagnostic tools must be learned.”

Tomorrow’s industry leaders are tapping into a variety of resources in order to stay abreast of what they must learn. They take advantage of factory schools and new equipment training when it is offered. As a member of the MHEDA Edge Advisory Board, Johnson looks forward to providing the next generation of leaders with more valuable information and tools that they can use to further their material handling careers. He was the author of the association’s first blog, or Web log, on www.mhedaedge.org. The blog is a place for young professionals to talk about important topics relating to the material handling industry. Johnson addressed “What’s Hot About MY Industry” in his first post.

Johnson also attended the 2005 Annual Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, with his boss, Fred Oram, president of Oram Material Hand-ling Systems. “That was very interesting,” he says. “Meeting different vendors and other people within the industry opened up the chance to learn how others are dealing with change in their facilities.”

Johnson also is looking forward to participating in MHEDA-NET, an online networking group targeting the needs of service technicians and branch service personnel from all over the country. He says, “We need to gain more knowledge, because the industry is changing rapidly, and we must have a true working knowledge of the newest systems in order to advance our careers and to be successful. We need to take advantage of every opportunity available to us.”

Johnson also points to the importance of finding a good company and staying with that company. “Many in our industry have a tendency to jump around from dealership to dealership. The grass is not always greener on the other side.”

When it comes to future leaders, James Johnson is someone you should know. As a material handling industry superhero, he looks forward to communicating with others in the service industry. Read his post at www.mhedaedge.org and tell him what you think is hot about the material handling industry.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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