Dematic Material Handling & Logistics Conference is underway

The 34th annual Material Handling & Logistics Conference is focused on the predictive revolution

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If it’s September, it must be Park City. I wondered this morning how many times I’ve written that sentence while sitting in a room at the Canyons Resort outside of Park City, where Dematic holds its annual Material Handling & Logistics Conference. It remains one of my favorite events and that’s not because I also serve on the planning committee with a really great group of industry professionals. I’ve been coming here off and on for about 15 years, and when it comes to education, career development and networking for anyone involved in moving goods and information about the movement of goods in distribution, manufacturing and order fulfillment, it’s just a great two days in a gorgeous setting in the Rockies.

Dematic’s 34th conference began today with overviews by Hasan Dandashly, Dematic’s president and CEO, and Bernard Biolchini, who was appointed EVP and CEO of the Americas just three months ago after having spent five years in senior leadership in Dematic’s operations in southern Europe. By the way, 2019 is also Dematic’s 200th anniversary.

Dandashly gave voice to what those of us working in this industry intuitively understand. “Technology is moving from nice to do to must to,” he said. “It’s no longer a choice to wait, and it’s no longer just about saving labor.” Instead, technology is becoming an automation imperative, and the key to optimizing operations to meet customer expectations and transforming the business model. “Industry needs have changed,” he said.

Dandashly concluded his remarks by highlighting Dematic’s priorities when it looks internally. The organization, he said, is focused on customer execution, which he described as operational excellence when it comes to designing and delivering solutions that work for its customers; innovation in its solutions; and after-market services to keep systems operational.

The automation imperative was repeated in two conversations I had with experienced operators at some brand name companies. At last night’s welcome reception, an executive from a department store chain described an project his team is undertaking in its primary e-comm fulfillment center. But, he added that it’s really a stop gap measure. “I know I’m going to have to build a new DC to handle our e-comm growth, and I’m just hoping that this will carry me for about five years,” he said. Another retail executive noted that labor savings was no longer the justification for automation: You just had to do it to keep up with the growth of the business, higher customer service levels and performing during peak holiday seasons. No one wants to be the grinch that steals Christmas.

In addition to discussions about automation, I was struck today by the number of attendees who said they were interested in learning about micro-fulfillment – the emerging trend of bringing scaled down versions of e-commerce fulfillment solutions into retail back rooms and dark stores. Dematic is unveiling its shuttle-based micro-fulfillment solution at this conference, and the topic is the subject of my cover story in the October issue of Modern Materials Handling. I think it has the potential to be the next frontier for our industry.

I ended this morning with an interview with Bernard Biolchini, which I’ll write about in my next blog.


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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