ProMat 2015: Industry on a roll

To come back from ProMat 2015 and simply say the mood was “upbeat” would be an understatement of substantial proportions.

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To come back from ProMat 2015 and simply say the mood was “upbeat” would be an understatement of substantial proportions.

When the event hit full stride on Tuesday afternoon, March 24, I found myself stopped cold in my tracks—there was no place to move. The aisle in front of me and behind me was full of attendees, some talking in bunches with exhibitors, others just trying to get to their next booth visit or catch up with an old colleague.

There was a palpable buzz in the air that I hadn’t heard or felt in many years at an industry trade show, and it was hard not to crack a smile while I patiently waited to break out of the crowd. “I haven’t been to a ProMat in 10 years,” said a voice in the pack. “Can you believe this?”

And as I broke away and continued my exhibitor discussions, the vast majority revolved around the idea that not only was this the most “upbeat” ProMat they’ve been to, but the most productive event they could ever remember in terms of small- to mid-market attendees coming to the table with smart projects being funded by real money.

The spending data trickling in over the past month certainly supports why there were so many smiles in Chicago. MHI’s recent economic sentiment survey found that 2014 “finished strong” in terms of sales of equipment, systems and software, and about 45% of their member companies say they expect new orders to grow by 10% to 20% in 2015. Even better news, those members are certain that staffing will grow to keep pace with those sales—especially in aftermarket sales support.

To further add to the buzz, our Top 20 Systems Suppliers by revenue list shows that the top players gained even more strength in 2014 and are on track for continued improvement this year. “Collective growth across the list saw a gain of nearly 3% over 2013, but the combined value of the list is on a meteoric climb,” says associate editor Josh Bond, who put this year’s list together.

And as a result of so many projects and commitments being put in place over the last two years, the Top 20 growth numbers will only continue to climb, especially as more small- to mid-market organizations take the plunge and embrace automation to stay ahead of today’s fulfillment complexities.

“This month’s System Report on AcuSport’s Bellefontaine, Ohio, facility is a perfect example of where we’re seeing goods-to-person automation filtering down to the mid-market and supporting that Top 20 growth,” says executive editor Bob Trebilcock. “In this case, AcuSport went from a fairly conventional process to new levels of automation that used to be out of their reach. Now, we’re seeing more companies their size embracing these technologies and changing the internal culture to support the change.”

But I believe some of the most encouraging recent data supporting the buzz comes out of Modern’s 2015 Warehouse/DC Equipment Survey that Bond neatly summarizes on page 28. “In terms of investment, we found that Modern readers are done with the stop-gap fixes as well as the desperate ‘Hail Mary’ attempts to make the most of resources when they can get them. Instead, they’ve chosen the middle ground of steadily investing in targeted solutions that position them for efficiency, productivity and growth.”

It sounds like we’ve come out of the recession a little stronger and a lot wiser.

About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of American Truck Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [ protected]

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