Talking Shop with… John Nofsinger

The CEO of the Material Handling Industry of America says the need for speed, efficiency and visibility is driving innovation

Grocery Headquarters:  What can grocers look forward to at the upcoming ProMat 2011 show?
John Nofsinger:
ProMat 2011 will feature over 700 exhibits showcasing the latest innovations for manufacturing, distribution and the supply chain. The grocery industry can expect to see the latest solutions to streamline operations, improve visibility, maximize efficiency and flexibility and speed time to market.

The ProMat Conference will feature keynote addresses on supply chain security and the next generation of robotic innovation. The conference will also include two half-day educational tracks on supply chain career development and sustainability.

Eighty educational seminars will also be offered that outline leading trends, best practices and state-of-the-art equipment and technology solutions for the food and beverage supply chain to work more productively and profitably.
What new equipment and technologies can they look for to meet their sustainability needs?
Interest is high for sustainable supply chain solutions, as major companies are considering requiring the carbon footprint of goods to be included on package labeling. Products produced efficiently and with environmentally friendly and sensitive content will be at a long-term advantage.

Our industry has responded with a variety of solutions that will be on display on the ProMat show floor. These solutions help grocers reduce their carbon footprint by utilizing equipment and systems that reduce facility emissions and lower energy usage. Alternate energy systems, lighting and ventilation solutions as well as reusable containers, pallets and other sustainable facility solutions will also be featured.

In addition, the ProMat Conference will feature a half-day educational track on sustainability in the supply chain. In this session, speakers will detail what it takes to get started, what is working today and what a sustainable supply chain might look like in the future. This track will cover the top trends in industrial sustainability, how LEED certification cuts costs and improves efficiencies, Walmart’s plan for sustainable distribution and the sustainable supply chain of 2030.

What can retailers learn about supply chain security at the show?
Increased pressure is being placed on supply chains to assure that goods entering the U.S. do not pose a threat or risk. The efficient and effective supply chain of the future will implement processes that provide transparency that the span of control and security status are known in order for goods to be “fast-tracked” through ports of entry. Those achieving this level of control will find important competitive advantages.

During ProMat, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge will lead a keynote titled “Fortune Favors the Brave: The Net Gain of Supply Chain Security in a Risk-Based World.”

Secretary Ridge will describe how terrorism, natural disasters, vendor issues, and geopolitical influences put supply chain security at the forefront of every proactive business agenda. He will share his views of today’s risk-centric environment and detail how to minimize those risks.

Supply chain visibility is also crucial. How is the industry responding?
Today, success requires effective and efficient collaboration between trading partners and suppliers. This requires that goods and complete documentation move together concurrently. This increases the importance of sharing details and status at all levels of production and flow.

Our industry is responding to the need for greater supply chain visibility with state-of-the-art solutions utilizing automated systems, software, automatic identification solutions, RFID, GPS and others.

ProMat exhibitors will display real-time visibility solutions from pre-production to last-mile delivery. These solutions play a key role in ensuring the quality and safety of consumer products by controlling the environment and maintaining a reliable data trail to document quality and ensure safety. One of the educational seminars will address food and beverage traceability.

How can retailers and their suppliers attract the next generation of supply chain experts?
Shortages of workers as well as certain skills will continue to add challenges over the next decade. Overcoming this shortage will require that products be produced, packaged and shipped with a view to eliminating or at least minimizing the need for manual intervention. It will also require that workplaces be automated to replace or assist manual activities. Effective training will also be essential.

The talent crisis will be addressed in several ways during ProMat. The ProMat Conference will feature a half-day educational track titled “The people side of the supply chain.” The session will detail how to capitalize on diversity and prepare people for the workforce, and how to recruit and retain top talent as the economy recovers.

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