For the past five years it seems most of the energy and focus at supply chain and logistics conferences has revolved around coping with the economic downturn. I’ve just come back from the Material Handling & Logistics Conference in Park City, Utah where the overriding theme was about recovery, growth and investment. This is refreshing, as there is only so much one can absorb on digging in, slashing expense and riding out the bad times. Starting with conference sponsor, Dematic, who posted 25% growth last year, and reinforced by many speakers, we have clearly turned the corner to better times.
One excellent example of strategic growth can be seen with Peapod. I had the opportunity to present with Dalen Mathys-Cook from Peapod about the fulfillment center design we’ve been working on together. The Progress Group has been working with Peapod and Dematic to design a new fulfillment center to support grocery e-Commerce in the northeast. The building is currently under construction in Jersey City, NJ and equipment installation will begin in just a few weeks. Launch is scheduled for June next year. Dan Gilmore, President and Editor in Chief of Supply Chain Digest also attended the conference and published a nice recap of our presentation.
In one of the excellent key note presentations, economist Marci Rossell provided a bullish outlook for the US economy. She also provided an interesting point of view on why the economy is heating up, but unemployment remains stubbornly high at over 7%. This recovery, she explains, is export driven and those exports are more capital intensive than labor intensive. Companies are making capital investments to support growth, but that does not directly trigger as much job growth. Job growth is more tied to the services sectors. As she explained, when things get bad, the first expenses that consumers cut will directly hit the services sector: Eat in more, less work for waiters and waitresses; cut the lawn care and house cleaning and do those jobs yourself. This accounts for the slower recovery of jobs even while capital investment is growing rapidly.
The conference is an annual event sponsored by Dematic and is held every year in Park City. This is a well attended event and very well run. While you might expect an overwhelming focus on material handling technology by a company like Dematic, the agenda is really much more diverse with speaker tracks including leadership, talent and solutions. The breadth of attendees guarantees a wide range of networking opportunities and potential to meet others with similar interests or experience in an area of question.
I highly recommend this conference for anyone involved in distribution operations or any related management and support functions. I suggest you go a day early and take advantage of the adventure activities. Hopefully I can go back next year with an update on the Peapod project and another crack at the mountain bike trails.