The material handling industry most likely won’t have a movie made about it. I don’t expect to see Leonardo DiCaprio playing an over-the-top dealer principal or manufacturing exec in our industry. That doesn’t mean that our industry is any less exciting or rewarding than any other. The material handling industry offers a number of different challenges and rewards. It also is still very much a people-oriented business and in the sales process it’s very hands on. With recruitment as such a high priority in the industry, let’s take some time to examine some of the unique qualities of the industry.
Problem Solving Some may argue that problem solving is a part of every industry. While that is true in the material handling industry, there are a number of different problems and solutions that can be dealt with to get the customer exactly what they want or need. In the dealer and distribution end of the business there is no reason to walk into an account and not look at everything. We’ve gone past just asking about the forklifts. Now our dealers are asking about the racking, lighting, dock and door issues, and parts and service. There is always something that you can talk to a customer about and help solve a problem. On the manufacturing side you’re always looking at ways to make your product or distribution better. Adding in new technologies or techniques to make your process even better is fundamental in order to grow your business. There’s a constant back and forth and because the challenges change and learning curves continue to challenge all of us in the industry. This job is ever evolving. Just think of the amount of technology that has gone into our equipment over the last 10 years and what is projected in the next 5 to 10. The problem solving aspect of this industry will continue to be common place and newer and ever changing technology will be a part of not only how we take care of our customers, but it will be demanded by those customers.
Exposure In the material handling industry we get to see and experience many different things. Look around the room you’re in. Everything in that room has had to go through some form of material handling process. While the material handling industry by itself may sound singular, the industries that it consults or sells to are endless. Foodservice, Beverage, Grocery, Aerospace, and many others all look for material handling solutions. This provides a huge supply of potential customers while also providing a huge potential to learn and experience how other businesses operate. Taking the time to learn from other industries not only helps the business you’re in but it helps expand your ability to help others and provide more efficient solutions. While career paths in accounting or law give you exposure, many times these professions aren’t completely involved in making the operation successful or find it useful to take in the entire operation. The material handling industry wants to take in the whole picture and provide solutions for the entire operation. This means we don’t have to or want to look at one piece of the puzzle; we want to look at the whole picture.
I’m going to take this last part to talk about what this industry has meant to me. Over the last 13 years I’ve been able to see and experience a number of different things. I’ve been able to travel all over the United States. I’ve been able to see some of the most interesting processes in the beverage and food service industry as well as other industries. I’ve been constantly challenged to come up with new ideas and new products that help solve problems for my customers. I truly believe that this industry values hard work and wants to grow people that are willing to step up and make our industry better and stronger. I have an even deeper connection. I’m 3rd Generation in this industry and I’ve been able to watch the hard work pay off for many members of my family. My father has been able to travel places he would have otherwise never had the opportunity to, thanks to this industry. Above all of this, for me and my family this industry has provided a great living and rewarded all of us for the work and effort that we put in. I’ll be the first to admit our industry doesn’t sound the most glamorous or have the shine that others may have. Given my proximity to Hollywood, California, I constantly get sideways looks when asked what I do for a living and it’s followed by, “There’s an industry for that?” Or, “You can make money doing that?” While we look to recruit the next generation, I think it’s important to focus on how rewarding this industry is, not just in a monetary sense but also in an intellectual sense. The latest generation entering the workforce wants a challenge. They don’t want to feel bored or tied down. Focus on the fact that in this industry there is always something to challenge them and a new level comes up every day!
Curtis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org