Talking Shop with… George W. Prest

The CEO of Material Handling Industry of America previews the upcoming ProMat 2013 show, taking place Jan. 21 to 24 in Chicago.

Grocery Headquarters: What can grocers look forward to at ProMat 2013 show?
George W. Prest: Grocers will find more than 800 of the leading solution providers and 100 educational sessions at ProMat to help them create efficiencies in their distribution and supply chain operations. These solutions include third-party logistics, automatic identification, robotics and automation, supply chain visibility and security solutions, storage and safe handling solutions, reverse logistics, cold chain solutions and more. ProMat will also offer a variety of networking opportunities including keynote sessions and social hours after the show.

One of the keynote addresses this year covers advances in robotics and the impact on economic growth. How will this technology influence the retail supply chain?
Robotic warehouses and distribution centers are creating new efficiencies and savings in food distribution. ProMat’s Monday keynote will feature Henrik Christensen, KUKA chair of robotics and director of robotics at Georgia Tech, discussing this new wave of robotics and how it is revolutionizing manufacturing and distribution operations. Dr. Christensen will provide examples of how this technology is transforming the way products are distributed.

How are mobile solutions impacting the supply chain?
Enterprise mobile computing solutions are impacting some of the largest global supply chain operations. These solutions provide real-time information and immediate communication on inventory and supply chain processes that boost productivity and effectiveness. These mobile solutions empower retailers by providing instant access to shipment and inventory information in the field or anywhere on the floor. ProMat will feature an educational track session on Jan. 22. In addition, several exhibitors will be displaying innovations in mobile computing.

How will automatic identification play a role in the future of the supply chain?
Combining automatic identification with emerging technologies will drive improvements in efficiency, quality and traceability, which all lead to improved return of investment. ProMat is also featuring an educational track session on this topic that will provide examples of combined technologies that can improve efficiencies.

Building a sustainable supply chain remains a priority. What are some trends in this area?
Sustainability remains a top priority for supply chain professionals. A systematic approach that includes a variety of approaches to sustainability is what we are seeing. This can include more local sourcing and streamlined distribution center and transportation operations that reduce the carbon footprint. Alternate energy sourcing continues to be a big trend as well as rail versus truck transportation. However, things such as better unit load design that reduces damage, overall packaging and operational costs is also a trend. In addition, we are seeing more reusable transport packaging materials—such as pallets and crates—that can save costs, reduce product damage and lower the environmental footprint.

One big trend we are seeing is leading companies partnering with sustainable companies and holding them accountable. This is something that impacts not only attendees at ProMat, but our exhibiting companies.

One trend that is specific to food distribution is the consumer increasingly wanting to know where their food comes from. This is something that will have a lasting impact on the global food supply chain and the grocery industry.

How can attendees benefit from the industry-specific solution centers?
ProMat organizes its 300,000-square-foot show floor to help attendees find the specific products and services they need whether it be in manufacturing, distribution, logistics or information technology.

To help buyers find the specific products and services they need, ProMat organizes exhibits into industry-specific Solution Centers:
*Manufacturing & Assembly Solutions Center
*Fulfillment & Delivery Solutions Center
*Information Technology Solutions Center
*The Knowledge Center, including Educational Conference Show Floor Seminars

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