BLOG ARCHIVE | Industry Professionals Team Up For Change at MHEDA Conference

Written by Karina Kedaitis

The supply chain industry is growing and changing almost faster than any of us can keep up with.  Both professional and personal orders are expected to arrive faster and for less money; but behind this mad rush are real human employees who are often expected to do super-human things to keep up in a world of 2-day shipping expectations.  With these demands have finally come a backlash, and supply chain employees are starting to demand more of their employers to keep the staff morale high under this constant stress.

Worldwide's marketing team ready
for a busy conference.

Life in the material handling world has no exception to these changes, aside from feeling this pressure perhaps a little later than other areas of the supply chain industry. Although the material handling industry is a powerful field with infinite success opportunities, it is also an industry that is - for the most part - extremely set in its ways. For some companies, implementing change is an ongoing battle. Other companies, however, are leaning into the skid and embracing this strange time of booming growth, greater demands, and let’s not forget everyone’s favorite topic… the generational age gap.   Regardless of the involvement level, we can probably all agree that we are amongst some interesting times. Sometimes it’s hard to look away in anticipation of what will happen next. 

Aiding to this discussion is the annual Emerging Leaders Conference by MHEDA & MHI, where professionals of any age can spend an entire day focusing on what leadership means in a changing work force.  The marketing team from Worldwide Material Handling, along with many other representatives from companies in the industry, are on high alert-- ready absorb as many discussions as possible during this unique demand for an industry-wide culture shift. 

Based on the turn out, the companies placing great importance on this shift were clearly the ones sending their employees to this Emerging Leaders Conference. The conference features multiple motivational and informational speakers to get your innovative juices flowing… But don’t assume that means the discussions here are all rainbows and cupcakes about being the best version of yourself.  Conversation got honest and real during the “round table discussions,” where everyone in attendance was faced with brain-picking questions about leadership and change.  These group discussions were led by veterans of the industry who are not only relevant in our line of work, but who are eager to hear from a younger crowd and brainstorm with them. No barriers, no prejudice against your experience level, no desire to “color inside the lines.” Instead, they pushed for more unfiltered input on what being a leader requires now vs. what it may have looked like 20 years ago.  There was almost a sense of some blessing being handed from the vets to the younger crowd, to take this new unknown and totally run with it.

While all of that is well and good, I can’t pretend that a long day of thinking was all we showed up for. We had plenty of fun at the Emerging Leaders conference as well! Our day was topped off with puppy play time (courtesy of the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society) and a pretty intense game of giant Jenga.  Drinks on the rooftop with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop was certainly not a bummer either. And although many people worked for competing companies, there was absolutely no sense of competition. Ideas and laughs were as free as the delicious hors d’oeuvres and no one spoke in fear of someone else taking a grand idea back to another company and implementing it first. In retrospect, that’s exactly what leadership is. Working towards a greater goal regardless of what others have to offer you out of the deal.

Enjoying the rooftop bar after a productive day.

I walked into this conference expecting to learn tools about success – the typical, “work hard and you’ll climb the ladder in due time” type of encouragement. However, I found myself walking away from the conference with a great deal of confidence and validation that being “fresh meat” in this industry may not be a detriment to me. In fact, it may even be an asset in an industry that seems so ready to catch up with change. I found it fascinating that so many other people, regardless of age or experience, are just as eager to push forward; to create a better work-life balance no matter what title you hold, and to use this unknown territory as an enormous opportunity to set our companies apart.  Everyone had the same concerns, the same desires, and the same drive to break these barriers placed upon the world of material handling in the past.  Pairing these conversations with the visual of a huge group of people all sharing the same thoughts was powerful.  It was a visual representation to how hard and fast these new ideals are about to hit our industry – in the best way possible.

If you’re in the material handling world, you may want to buckle up. The workplace as we know it is about to explode.  

 CLICK HERE for a video clip from the conference - made my MHEDA. 


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