Supply Chain is Boring Episode 8

“What I learned during that time and a lesson that I am partial to anyone who is interested in taking, [is that] going forward with warehouse management system, and overlaying that, or any new technology or system, on ill-defined processes will only enable employees to do things badly faster.”

-John Hill, Data & WMS Pioneer


In the part 2 interview with John Hill, he continues to stress the importance of improving processes before implementing technology. In other words, what is your why? It sounds like common sense but from my experience you improve project success when the goals and realistic expectations have been defined.

John then goes into a short course on how to select and justify warehouse technology/solutions. Given John’s background and experience this is gold.

And John agrees, the future is bright. WMS packages and companies are morphing into broader solutions to include warehouse controls, robotics, execution systems, and artificial intelligence. This is a common theme I hear on other Supply Chain is Boring guest. (check out future episodes).

Mr. Hill has truly been influential in the space over the past ½ century. He has a zest for what he does and is still preaching the MHI gospel.

Thank you John for sharing with me and the Supply Chain is Boring audience.


1:00: After the barcode days.

1:30: A barcode is little more than a curious decoration

2:30: The role of a tannery in RFID

4:20: An $80 RFID tag, is it worthwhile?

5:15: Rockwell gets into RFID

5:30: 1974 Material Handling Show, a chance meeting of a man with a vision

6:20: Joining Logisticon

6:55: A management fundamental, go see the customer

7:30: An expensive lesson learned

8:15: You need to know the difference between a warehouse and an outhouse?

9:15: Avoid overlaying technology over bad processes

10:00: JC Penney was a WMS early adopter, 1974

10:55: 1971 barcoding at Buick, before the retail adoption of UPC

11:35: Sticking with MHI

12:30: 1995 Warehouse Management Systems Group formed under MHI

13:00: Rebranded to Supply Chain Execution Systems Group

14:00: There were many more than the 29 official members. Everyone thought they could do it. 200 across the globe.

15:00: Gartner Magic Quadrant, Tom Ryan

15:50: Why are there so many providers? John says of the 600,000 warehouses in the US only 35-40% of the market uses technology. This number may be

16:45: Fraunhofer Group

17:45: What happened to Logisticon?

18:35: Serialization is even more important now

19:30: Getting back to basics. Lessons from an expert.

20:00: Apocryphal, 65-70% of functionality is rarely used. Do you agree?

21:20: Does lack of training contribute?

22:00: Engage with the workforce. They may have ideas. And it will increase overall buy in

22:30: Collect accurate operations data. Document every process.

23:30: Develop KPIs to measure success.

Georgia Tech


Karl Mandrot – DC Metrics

24:15: No one knows your warehouse better than you do

24:35: Can you improve processes first?

25:00: Define target KPIs

25:40: Building a business case for all functional areas

26:35: Putting dollar values on the improvements. Get the customers input and buy in. Ask ‘how much do you think it is worth to improve x, or reduce y?’

29:25: Consider the Dupont Model to calculate probable ROI and ROA

30:30: Example investment / benefits numbers

31:35: WMS seminars, Eric Peters

31:45: WMS selection strategies book

32:00: In the car bird seat – helping teams identify solutions with St. Onge.

32:30: Cypress Associates. Linked to golf.

33:20: Never stop learning

33:45: A potential product idea? Anyone interested in starting a company? AI and machine learning in logistics. Princeton University.

36:20: Esync, MARC, RGTI

Bob Kennedy

36:55: The Reed Apple Award, Rudy Reed (Purdue) & Jim Apple, Sr. (Georgia Tech) – Jim Apple, Jr.

38:40: The future of WMS is morphing.

39:20: Another rebrand, MHI Solutions Community

39:45: Much more than WMS, TMS, etc.

41:35: WES, don’t forget them

42:30: Career recommendations

43:00: College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) – aligning academia with business (MHI)

44:00: Get involved with your local associations (WERC, APICS, CSCMP, IIE)

44:45: Flash back to interview 1. What is plain clothes army? (Mufti). I still don’t know what it really means. Maybe there is a reason why.

Chris Barnes (00:06):


Chris Barnes (00:07):

Chris, the supply chain doctor providing you insights and tools to better understand and apply the apex body of knowledge to everyday supply chains. In this part two interview, we continued our discussion with John Hill industry veteran in the data collection and warehouse management system space to get a better understanding of the history of this important supply chain industry. It all sounds pretty boring. So let’s see if John can prove me wrong, John. Thanks again for giving us more time to speak with you about your career and learn more about the history and a little bit about the future of WMS industry. In part one, we went back to the late 1960s and discussed reflective tape and data collection. We spoke a little bit about logistics and kind of your progression up through the ranks, but let’s kind of pick it up from, you know, from maybe the mid nineties and kind of what was going on, then I’ll do that.

Chris Barnes (00:59):

But if I may digress and stop me at any time, there was a couple of interesting things that happened after the barcode days. I mentioned during our last session, that the decade plus that I spent in the barcode into industry taught me a number of lessons, chief, among which aside from Joe Klein camper and the importance of workforce engagement in building corporate ownership of new technology was the indisputable fact that a barcode is little more than a curious decoration, unless it has been accurately printed and applied to an item. And until it is read and validated by a high performance scanner and decoder before the data that it contains is subsequently fed to programmable logic controller or computer for action or storage. I bring this up Chris, because I’d find at least in the last five years or so, barcode is taken for granted by the marketplace.

Chris Barnes (02:09):

And there’s some basics and fundamentals that I won’t dwell on here, but the new users. So those that technology need to pay attention to as they go forward. It is not a slam dunk. Now let me fast forward and talk about my foray into RFID. I live South of Santa Cruz, California, and I was brought here in 1981 by a legendary entrepreneur who also happened to be the CEO of one of the nation’s oldest tanneries. I said tanneries like catalyze and cheap pies or whatever you working with scientists from Los Alamos. Norman was looking to find a way to track cattle hides from ranches to his plant, to his panning plan. Clearly a barcode would more, but he had developed with help from law shell malls to create or developed subdermal, RFID tags and the solution he and his team came up with work and it played a key role in assuring rancher and animal processing, plant compliance with the tanneries traceability mandate and quality standards.

Chris Barnes (03:34):

He hired me, Norman Lisen did to find other applications for the technology. It wasn’t an easy task at the time, but the exercise reinforced something that I learned at 3m in my early career. That being that the cost of an item must be somewhere in the neighborhood of that item value in the eyes of prospective buyer. And that that value has to be clearly articulated by the seller. And finally that the product itself has to substantiate. The claims are first RFID tag at Norman’s company sold for $80, a far cry from Walmart stream of a 2 cent label, but they were reusable. And on average could take a hundred trips down on an automobile assembly line, triggering the delivery of the right components to the line at the right location and time and maintaining vehicle specific audit trails along the way. Now, if you do the math, that’s 80 cents a trip, a small price to pay for a bundle of value that value of being a properly assembled automobile.

Chris Barnes (04:54):

On the other hand, 80 fence tag wouldn’t work on a box of corn plate and there in lay the rope a year later, a chance meeting on a return flight to the West coast led to an investment from and subsequent acquisition of Norman’s company by a division of Rockwell. At that point in my life with a wife and two daughters who had become confirmed Californians, I could not even suggest to move to the upper Midwest when serendipity struck again, and we’re getting to WMS here shortly in 1974 at the national material handling show in Chicago. I had an opportunity to chat with Vince occupancy, the founder and CEO of the first WMS company. Logistica Vince is the father of WMS. He painted a wonderful picture of radio controlled warehouses, where operators were directed and lift trucks guided by wireless technology and software that would take the guesswork out of receiving, put away picking and shipping.

Chris Barnes (06:11):

And at that time, 1974, he offered me a job. I politely declined. 10 years later in 1984, Vince is CEO twice removed, offered me a position on logistics comes board of directors, which I accepted. And a year later the board invited me to take the CEO slot with few other options at the time on the West coast I accepted. And then the fun began after settling in about two weeks at logistic on getting to know the home office team and familiarizing myself with the product. I went to the field to meet the customers sometimes with the sales people, responsible for the accounts. And oftentimes on my own, I learned more in the next three or four weeks than I ever would have learned on the phone or sitting behind my desk on the customer side most were quite pleased with the performance of their WMS, our technical team who supported installation and our 24 by seven support group, except for the Rustbelt company whose it chief had taken it upon himself to modify our WMS source code beyond recognition and not document what he had done before he left the company.

Chris Barnes (07:40):

At the end of that visit, I apologized to the CEO and CFO and the rust belt company and wrote them a check for $25,000, which they had paid for the first year of our support. I had never done that before, and fortunately I’ve never done it since it was a no win situation and the sales person should have spotted the issue long before he closed the deal. Speaking of sales, let me characterize the logistic gun sales team as white gloved well-dressed and articulate, but I’m familiar with the difference between a warehouse and an outhouse. In my experience, seasoned warehouse, practitioners can spot a charlatan at the reception desk, if not in the parking lot. I provided job search report for each of the four salespeople at logistic con and within six weeks was fortunate enough to replace them with grizzly veterans, with engineering degrees who knew warehousing and understood the WMS value proposition with a new team on the front end few competitors, a partnership with Hewlett packer and a modest infusion of venture capital.

Chris Barnes (09:08):

We grew revenues to above six and a half million within about four years. What I learned during that time and a lesson that I am part to anyone who is interested in taking, going forward with warehouse management system, is that overlaying any new technology or system on ill defined processes will only enable employees to do things badly faster, what I’d like to do. Now, if, if, if I may, Chris is answer some of your questions. I have a list of things that I deemed to be fairly important in putting together a WMS requirements list, but I’d like to get your input as well.

John Hill (09:54):

I’m just throwing darts out there because whatever you say is going to be certainly infinitely more interesting than what I say.

Chris Barnes (10:00):

Well, we’ll see. We can measure that after we’re done. Okay.

John Hill (10:05):

I heard on a webinar that you had mentioned, JC Penney’s was a first user of WMS. Is that accurate or, yeah,

Chris Barnes (10:12):

It was actually Vince OCHA, penny, the guy from 1974 material handling show who put that system in and he had come out of the Raymond corporation subsidiary of Raymond called mobility systems. It was 74, it was JC penny. And they had radio terminals and lift trucks and the wires and the floor to guide the trucks to their various destinations in Penny’s facility.

John Hill (10:42):

So that’s a check Mark. I got that one, right?

Chris Barnes (10:45):

You did. You know what, one point we talked last time about the, the Buick installation of barcoding. Yes, sir. The sidebar that was in October of 1971, a good two or three years before the Marsh supermarket deployment of a UPC scanning system at their checkout counters. So we on the industrial side of the equation do indeed predate UBC. I just wish I had a penny for each of the barcode labels that have been scanned since that time and are still being scanned. Exactly.

John Hill (11:31):

It kind of drives the world these days. You formed associations. I know we in the prior call, we spoke about aim, but you were involved with others as well.

Chris Barnes (11:40):

Right? I stuck with MHI, which was the godfather event of aim. And I stayed with the organization because you can just find such an amazing number of opportunities through the networking that that particular organization provides a joined MHI. As I said last time in 1971, but I’ve stayed with them since I still participate in their meetings. As we all in the mid nineties with a number of companies offering warehouse management systems in the marketplace, we also collectively needed a broader platform to outline our message and the potential value that could be obtained from the deployment. In 1995, I believe may have been late 94. We founded [inaudible] warehouse management systems, group dev WMS organization under the MHI umbrella. We have a few marketing people who attended the meetings may thought that warehouse management systems was a bit passe and we needed a, a more interesting name for the group.

Chris Barnes (13:02):

So from 94 five to the early two thousands, we transitioned to a group called the supply chain execution systems, group, or association underneath again, the MHI umbrella and anyone looking at WMS, either from a historical point of view or alternatively, uh, as a purse pass before they move ahead with procurement and deployment of one of them MHI is still a great resource. We did a lot of work on developing standards and specifications copies of which I still see in the marketplace today. How big was the, how many members did you get eventually? Well, we started with four or five and within a year we had 29 and that was tip of the iceberg because behind those 29 were another hundred or 150 companies offering WMS. And the originally the rub, it was about that time. We were approaching the year 2000 challenges that the computer industry had to grapple with as we changed centuries. And, uh, a number of people in the software development arena went out, looking for work, and they found warehouse management as a possible place, imagining that, uh, now how complicated can a warehouse be? Stuff comes in, it’s put somewhere it’s picked up, it’s brought to a shipping dock and it shipped somewhere well, as most of us know, who’ve been around for any length of time. And so a bit more than that, but we had nearly 200 WMS companies across the globe. The majority of them here in the U S by the early two thousands.

John Hill (15:04):

And you remember, uh, the gardener, the magic quadrant, the Gartner magic quadrant grid that was always popular.

Chris Barnes (15:11):

It was and remains. So,

John Hill (15:14):

And that was Tommy Ryan, you know, Tom, Ryan, perhaps

Chris Barnes (15:19):

Talk to Tom Ryan last week.

John Hill (15:22):

Yeah, yeah, he was, I don’t think it was the creator, but back when I was coming of age, that was, he was kind of the holder of the key for getting into the grid and getting rated and those types of things. And that’s where I had mentioned to you. I learned about companies like catalyst and Manhattan associates and McHugh Freeman. There were a lot of companies back then and, and John, I’m still surprised today. There are still probably that many companies out there and ones that are starting up. Why do you think that is?

Chris Barnes (15:50):

Well, I would like think first that the people doing the work in the WMS sphere are perhaps more sophisticated, more talented, more seasoned than the crowd we ran into in the nineties. But the flip side is they’re put in this country, aside from pantries and storage bins in your backyard, they’re a good 600,000 warehouses in the United States. And my guess is even if we do a cutoff at say, 50,000 square feet for a warehouse, the likelihood is that we’ve only tapped 35 or 40% of the available market for WMS. It just doesn’t stop. And that’s exciting. There is a group in Europe, similar to gardener, different, but similar called the fron offer group who keeps tabs on what’s going on in Europe and Asia very, very effectively. And I sourced them from time to time for information on companies over there who may not be terribly active in the United States, but indeed are active in the rest of the world.

John Hill (17:13):

Fraunhofer how do you spell that, John?

Chris Barnes (17:15):

Now you’re testing F R a U M H O F E R. I used to speak German, but that’s a long time I go on. There’s a good wine around that would enable me to do a better job of pronouncing that language.

John Hill (17:35):

What happened at Logistica. They they’re not around anymore. I don’t think

Chris Barnes (17:39):

Well, logistics, imploded, and, um, I chose that word carefully. It got almost too big for its own. And two things happen to bring it to finality in the late eighties, early nineties. One of them was that, uh, the pharmaceutical marketplace was a hot one for WLS, but the FDA, uh, introduced requirements for documentation, there were beyond the resources available to the majority of the WMS providers we spent, for example, in 1988 or so over a million dollars on documenting our software at Logistica to meet the FDA requirements. And that almost broke the bank today. That’s very popular, still with serialization and even more so and more important. We didn’t, we didn’t have the net. We didn’t have the level of, for example, counterfeiting that are present throughout the supply chain, or that is present throughout the supply chain back then we may have had it, but we didn’t know it, uh, than we do today.

Chris Barnes (19:04):

And the availability of traceability tools, not unlike WMS, transportation management systems and the like the industry is doing a very, very good job. You know, Chris, if I, if I may, a couple of things is as I was collecting my various thoughts in preparation for our two discussions, I think I’d like to put a title on it and I’ll call it getting back to basics. I said it earlier with respect to barcoding, the fundamentals still apply. And on the WMS side, I mentioned doing things badly faster with new technology when a company, and now, now this is for the prospective users and perhaps for those who want to go in and get more out of their WMS than they currently are. I’ve read a couple of times. It’s probably apocryphal that on average 65 to 70% of the functionality delivered with WMS is rarely used.

Chris Barnes (20:13):

It’s it’s hearsay, but it’s hearsay from people in the marketplace. I think it’s worth, worth noting. Why do you think that happens, John? I it’s a function of the quality of the WMS is that a given prospective user is looking for, and the fact that there are a lot of very nifty Peters offered to differentiate the, the products that they’re selling from the other ones on the market. And sometimes you can say, Oh, well, you know, boy, that looks good. I bet we could use that. It’s my question to them is what can you use today? What will really get you where you want to be in terms of incremental levels of improvement over the next six months, 12 months, 18 months, and take baby steps to the door or on your way forward.

John Hill (21:18):

Just from my short tenure in the space, often lack of training, full, full training, and then, or the people that were trained leave, and then it’s not carried on. And then you’d mentioned something earlier, John,

Chris Barnes (21:33):

Good Lord. Yes. Critical. If you miss it in our last broadcast early in my career, I was a smoker courtesy of uncle Sam and the U S army. And I learned more in a 10 minutes break in the yard, outside the warehouse door from the people who actually did the work. And I would in a one hour, two hour conference room session with senior management. And that’s too true. We don’t spend enough time getting the workforce engaged early on in the process of assessing what new technology might be able to do for throughput and productivity and a warehouse or distribution center that said there are a couple of other points that are worth, I believe, worth mentioning first, the importance of gathering, accurate data, to the extent that accompany can do it on current operations, what comes in how much what’s it look like? What goes out, how much Wim, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, documenting every step of the warehousing process and receiving storage, picking value, added processing, consolidation, and packaging, and ultimately staging for shipment.

Chris Barnes (23:07):

These are the primary areas that a good or solid WMS should be able to handle and handle well how it does. So depends upon how well you characterize current operations. So at any rate, that’s one of them. Another one is developing key performance indicators. Now, most people are familiar with the acronym. KPI, Georgia tech for years, did a good job of developing KPIs for warehousing. The warehouse education research does an excellent job, uh, led by a team. In fact, you may know him, Chris, Carl man up. Yes, sir. That is an invaluable tool. If people take the time to obtain it for more work and use it to measure how they’re doing with respect to others. Now that said, nobody knows a warehouse, your warehouse better than you do. And if that can’t be said that you’d better go do your own work, but you need to identify what’s meaningful.

Chris Barnes (24:22):

What will add value and what will reduce costs in each of the areas that are primary in your facility. Another item that I had on my list, you need to document and do process flowing or diagramming on your current processes. And then use those as a foundation for identifying ways of tightening up flows, improving the throughput shortcutting or eliminating unnecessary steps in the process and building a set of target performance indicators. If I’m doing so many cartons per hour or, or week, how many could I do if I had the tools in place from a software point of view, and if I fine tune the physical processes to streamline the process diagramming. Now let’s say that we’ve gathered, we’ve identified our KPIs. They provide an invaluable tool for building the bid, the business case and the actual value proposition envision. If you will, a series of tables, a one pool receiving another for storage and put away another for value added processing, another for packing, shipping, and so on, and then create another table that illustrates what a better physical layout and process flow would do to those KPIs and focus your attention on getting those things fixed.

Chris Barnes (26:15):

First, then finally begin to take a look at what would happen to those flows and to your productivity. With the addition of automatic identification, a warehouse management system, a labor management system, and compare the results and the final step and have your people involved, make sure you have your people involved and filling out those charts for and with you. Then the next step, how do you put a dollar value on these things? You can’t do it in a vacuum. You need to get insights from, from your workforce. How much faster could you do this? How much damage do you think could be reduced if we did that, et cetera, et cetera, then sit down with representatives of the various departments in the organization. For example, marketing and sales, finance, the operations chief or senior vice president, and say, here’s what the team came up with in terms of establishing where we are today and where we might be able to go with the addition of technology and our warehouse management system, for example, and how much you think that is worth mr.

Chris Barnes (27:38):

Head of sales or ms. Marketing, vice president, and spread it around the room. It’s in a conference room, you’re talking to your senior staff or senior management group, ask them to put a value on the performance improvements that you see and don’t let up be persistent. Well, it’s about such and such says the head of sales. Well, now you need to drill down and get hard and fast answers from them on a one to 10% improvement in throughput might do to lift sales. For example, then you turn to finance. What’s that likely to be worth if we were able to achieve it, you can put together. In fact, I think I’m thinking of a Canadian company with whom we did work years ago, who put these charts together, established a comparison between today’s performance and possible performance with the installation or implementation of some barcode reading and a warehouse management system, put them in to charge for presentation to the, Oh, there were about a $400 million Canadian company for their board of directors.

Chris Barnes (28:58):

The presentation took, it was given by the head of operations and the senior vice president of distribution. It took about a half an hour. It was a lot of work to put it together, but it only took six weeks, put it together and substantial detail and they approved it as presented. Now, one other thing that I commend to your readership is something called the DuPont model. It’s a financial tool and a Georgia tech. Um, they spend a half a semester teaching it. So I’m not going to even attempt it except to say, look it up and take a look at what you’ve put together in those charts. Compare current operations versus could be operations. And see if you can’t plug some of the numbers into the DuPont model in order to calculate probable return on investment return on assets and a number of other financial measures.

Chris Barnes (30:04):

This Canadian company I mentioned did just that. And it was a slam dunk. I use that phrase twice in this last hour, but it was a fairly trade forward presentation and easy sell on the part of the people who were actually going to buy and use the system final comment on them, or remember it, the likely cost of the improvements that the Canadians have proposed, they were to put in. It was about 1,000,006, and the return they expected to achieve was somewhere in the neighborhood. And they were a little optimistic in my view, a 1.8 million, as it turns out, they invested $2 million and their first year’s return on that investment was 1.6. That’s not small potatoes, that’s pretty darn good profile. And one likely to get the attention, the senior management.

John Hill (31:13):

It’s interesting. You mentioned the, well, you said work you through work in there. And I didn’t realize we would get a mini crash course on WMS selections and best practice implementations. And that, and then you talked about the DuPont model. John, I used to do WMS seminars with, with work meant back in the mid nineties with Eric Peters. I don’t know if you, if you know Peter. Yeah. He taught me about the DuPont model. That was part of what we spoke about. I went on to write a book for work called WMS selection strategy. So a lot of that I learned from Eric, who I imagined learned it from you.

Chris Barnes (31:49):

Yeah. Eric and I did work together.

John Hill (31:52):

Speaking of the work, it sounds like you’ve done implementations and consulting recently. Is that what you’re doing now?

Chris Barnes (31:58):

Well, let’s say I’m, I’m in the catbird seat now by that, I mean, I’m sitting, sitting on a branch up above the fray, providing input and insights to the team that actually is doing the serious work assisting in identification of alternative solutions and selection of the best ones for the company’s individual clients.

John Hill (32:25):

Are we allowed to say st. Onge?

Chris Barnes (32:27):

Yeah, I’ll say it correctly. And I appreciate it.

John Hill (32:30):

They’ve been around for a while. Were you part of Cyprus, Cyprus associates after,

Chris Barnes (32:35):

Right. Well, we founded a of us founded a company called Cypress associates. And if the truth be known, where did I get Cyprus? I don’t know if you’re a golfer, but I was invited to a play Cypress point of the Sunday before we put the company together. And it seems a natural name for, for the organization that we’re about to build. And our approach was that Canadian Canadian company that I mentioned, it was a pure consulting play. My wife said I was old enough to be a consultant, perhaps. Yeah, it was strangely enough. The hair hasn’t changed, but I, I haven’t stopped learning and I continue to learn every day as is. I hope everybody does you and I may talk about later on at Cypress associates, just imagine Chris and an audience. If you have a tool that they, I would, I would call it a child of artificial intelligence that would enable you to put all the profiling data that I quickly scanned over into it to help you fairly quickly reconfigure from a physical point of view, the way that flows off to be in a given operation.

Chris Barnes (34:00):

And once you’ve done that and figured out how much those changes were going to cost you, then overlay on top of that, the functionality that you’ve defined for a warehouse management system, and then run it as a simulation and determine where the pinch points are, fine, tune the model. And I’ll, we’ll pop the cost for your physical improvements in the system that you’ve defined to run them or to make them play. And so you do that. You buy the system, you buy the physical equipment, implement and get it running. And a year or two down the road, you decide that you’re going to expand or you’re going to contract. How about something that enables you to go back into the model, tweak it and change it to reflect what you now have to do and go through the process all over again. That’s what we were doing at Cypress associates and my friend who I mentioned in the last session, Dave Scott, and a number of other very solid people put that together and actually developed them and ran it. The funding fell out at the time in the early nineties. Well, by the mid nineties and the company who had sponsored the development decided to get out of the warehouse management and logistics business that said somebody is going to do it. And the people who are working on AI and machine learning, uh, for the logistics industry or community are going to do that someday. I hope I’m here to see it.

John Hill (35:43):

Yeah. I thought you were describing a future state product and you were, then you said that’s something you did many years ago. Interesting.

Chris Barnes (35:50):

Well, it’s, it, it, he, it took some pretty solid people to take those ideas and turn them into working, uh, systems. But nonetheless, it’s, it’s doable. And I just saw an AI company that’s recently been launched by Princeton university, which kind of looks like it may have the secret sauce to do this again.

John Hill (36:16):

And on the theme of consulting companies, you are also part of async.

Chris Barnes (36:21):

Yeah. He saying was founded by people who came out of the WMS industry. One company in particular. That’s no longer with us called Mark. If you remember them and our GTI,

John Hill (36:39):

You know, Bob Kennedy, does that name ring a bell?

Chris Barnes (36:41):

I know Bob Kennedy very well. Thank you. Well, if you live long enough, no, I’ve been blessed with the networks that have admitted me to their full.

John Hill (36:55):

I saw you have what? In 2004, the Reed Apple award. What, what was it?

Chris Barnes (37:00):

Oh, it is means I show him it awarded, be points for showing up at MHI meetings. No, it’s quite that. But Rudy Reed was professor from Purdue and Jim Apple senior was a professor at Georgia tech. And from the academic perspective, these were the two gentlemen who really gave the world you and I, and those listening live in a shot in the arm. And so the, the read Apple award recognizes people who have contributed throughout their careers, uh, to the advancement of the material handling and logistics industry.

John Hill (37:50):

Yeah. I’m familiar with Jim Apple.

Chris Barnes (37:52):

Well, you know, the gym, Apple, the younger probably probably yes, sir. Yeah. He’s 60 now. So he’s a kid. And if he, if by any chance he ATMs to be listening, I say that in jest or the Apple didn’t fall, Oh God, what a horrible pun. But it didn’t fall very far from the tree and Jim and his dad, Jim, not junior, but Jim, the younger and his dad made enormous contributions to, to our industry.

John Hill (38:27):

Well, John, I want to get maybe your predictions on the future of the WMS industry is there before we do, is there else from the historical perspective or, you know, getting up to where we are today,

Chris Barnes (38:39):

Don’t wind me up. No, I future it’s morphing to use that term millennial term, I guess, but nonetheless, the industry is changing for example, and I say this, hopefully within purity, those 29 companies that formed MHI WMS and subsequently supply chain executions systems and technology groups has morphed into something called MHI solutions community, which effectively recognize the fact that you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. It recognized the pervasiveness of the systems that have been developed to help people do a better job of moving products through the supply chain, from source to consumption and in an effective, efficient manner. It’s not just WMS, it’s not just transportation management systems or labor management. It’s the entire group of them working together in an efficient, effective, significant way, such that the sum of the components exceeds the value of the total package and MHI solutions.

Chris Barnes (40:10):

Community provides a venue for both suppliers of technology, developers of systems and users of the two can communicate, collaborate and move the package forward. I miss the WMS group, but they’re part of the solutions community. Now I miss them a number of things that were enjoyable parts of my career, but I can’t wait to see what the new breed brings and WMS won’t go away at least. Well, I could say this safely, at least not in my lifetime, but the concepts will survive me. And those who are currently playing the game with things that we barely imagined at this point in time, somebody is going to develop that system that I mentioned Cyprus put together back in the early nineties and it’s going to blow people’s socks off.

John Hill (41:16):

Yeah. I have noticed a migration seldom, is it just a standalone WMS anymore? It’s it’s WMS and warehouse control systems and robotics. So, you know, just from the recent mode X earlier this year, there was a lot of, a lot of consolidation, absolutely

Chris Barnes (41:34):

Warehouse execution system. So forget them. It’s, it’s not alphabet soup, but in order to understand the differentiators between those alternative packages, people really need to dig down and determine what they need and then go out and take a look at what’s available to do it correctly the first time

John Hill (41:58):

Again, I appreciate your time. Anything else before I ask you my final question?

Chris Barnes (42:05):

Well, I can’t wait for your final question. No final today. Okay.

John Hill (42:10):

One thing I always like to wrap up on is getting people’s perspective on careers in supply chain management. So if you were able to tell someone coming out of going into college or coming out of college, or even making a transition into supply chain management, what recommendations would you give somebody?

Chris Barnes (42:31):

Well, then I would go back to my college boy days and say, I wish to God, I had had access to what’s available to do today academically, as well as for my summer jobs. I did do a few things in the summertime that were useful and then looking back added value to my career portfolio. But there is a group maybe you’re familiar with it. Chris called kick me CIC, M H E or the college industry console on material handling education is a group of some 18 academics from various well-known institutions throughout North America. And a couple from overseas who bands together to ensure that what they and their peers in academia are teaching to ensure that it matches what we, um, of supply side are doing in actuality. And, uh, kick me as a tremendous resource. It operates under again, the umbrella of MHI and it’s certainly where I would point someone considering after, after having teased him through the, or her through the door where I’d point them or next step. And I can’t discount CSC, MP or work or apex, or I, I, I E as other resources that they buy tap, it’s been a fun run for me. And I certainly look forward to seeing people continue to enter our industry, both on management teams, supervisory teams, as well as people doing the work.

John Hill (44:29):

Well, this has been great, John. I, I appreciate you investing

Speaker 4 (44:32):

Time with me and sharing your perspectives. You know, I wish we had more time. I guess we could have another session if you’re ever up.

Chris Barnes (44:38):

Don’t tempt me, Chris. Sure. Okay.

Speaker 4 (44:41):

Well, I have, I have a final, final question back to the part one recording.

Chris Barnes (44:45):

You mentioned the

Speaker 4 (44:47):

Plain closed army. I don’t know what that means.

Chris Barnes (44:51):

I didn’t wear a uniform

Speaker 4 (44:56):

Type of person, or you were a spy or,

Chris Barnes (44:58):

Well, I, I, I don’t want to tease you with this, but it was a job, uh, where I was able to, uh, dress in Mufti. I love that word, civilian clothes and get things done in an efficient fashion with a very solid team of people, not behind an enemy lines in between two Wars, that being world war II and Vietnam or Korea and Vietnam, I don’t mean to beat mysterious, but that’s enough. I was in the army. It taught me my single bad habit. And I managed to get rid of that four and a half years ago. Well, it’s good for us. And again, thanks for your service. My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.

Speaker 4 (45:50):

If you’re interested in CSEP or other Epic certifications, there is a YouTube video where you can learn more about bootcamp style workshops at Georgia tech search on apex bootcamp courses, informational webinar. If you’re in the North Georgia, North Alabama Chattanooga area, check out the traditional class formats offered by the university of Tennessee Chattanooga center for professional development. Optionally, the apex coach can bring supply chain certification workshops to your company. Send a note to Supply chain is boring as part of the supply chain. Now network, we try to highlight historical events, companies and people in supply chain management and create a picture of where the industry is headed. Interested in learning more about supply chain, technology, startups, mergers, acquisitions, and how companies evolve. Take a listen to tequila, sunrise crafted by Greg white, or check out this week in business history with supply chain knows on Scott Luton to learn more about everyday things you may take for granted and pick up short stories you can use as general conversation starters, the logistics with a purpose series puts a spotlight on neat and interesting organizations who are working toward a greater cause. And finally, if you’re interested in logistics, freight and transportation, take a listen to the new series. Jaman logistics and transportation experience with the adapt and thrive mindset, Sherpa Jaman of address. If you’re interested in sponsoring the show or others on supply chain. Now send a note to Chris at supply chain. Now and remember supply chain is boring.

John Hill is a pioneering officer of automatic data collection, material handling and supply chain systems firms with over 100 successful AIDC (bar code, radio frequency identification), material handling equipment and warehouse, labor and transportation management information systems deployments. Hill’s experience includes supply chain benchmarking and strategy development, logistics network and operations performance optimization, process and systems design, and the selection and installation of technology and systems. He has led consulting engagements for Alliance/ Freightliner, Armstrong World Industries, Avnet, Brighton-Best, Burkhart Dental, Burron Medical, Canberra, the Chilean Ministry of Transport, Coca-Cola, Commonwealth Aluminum, CSX Corporation, Driscoll’s, Emery Worldwide, Ford Motor Company, Frazier, Fresh Express / Chiquita, Freeman’s (UK), Fresh & Easy (Tesco), General Electric, General Motors, General Trading, the Gillette Company, Hewlett-Packard, Inland Steel, J. M. Schneider Inc. (Maple Leaf Foods), the Keebler Company, Land O’Lakes Purina Feed, Litton Industries, Lockheed, MasterTag, Menlo Logistics, Monfort, Inc. (ConAgra), Nevamar, Nielsen-Bainbridge, Owens & Minor, Pepsi Bottling Group, Rhodia, RJ Reynolds Packaging, Schurman Fine Papers, the US Postal Service, Thomas & Betts (ABB), UCSF, UTi Integrated Logistics, WAI, WinCo Foods and many others.

Co-founder, former chair and emeritus member of AIM, the global Automatic Identification & Data Capture Trade Association. Charter member of AIDC 100, a non-profit association of technology professionals who have contributed to the growth of the industry. Former president of the Material Handling Institute,(MHI), member of its Board of Governors and an emeritus member of MHI’s Advisory Roundtable. Co-founder of MHI’s Integrated Systems & Controls, Supply Chain Execution Systems & Technologies and Information Systems Solutions groups. Former president and a current Lifetime Director of the Material Handling Education Foundation, Inc., he is also a member of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and the Warehouse Education & Research Council (WERC). With global engineering firm St. Onge ( since 2012, Hill began his career with 3M Company in Europe and has served on the boards of Computer Identics, DataMax, ESYNC, Identronix (IDX), Logisticon, MEK, Source Technologies and TrueDemand.

Recipient of MHI’s 1997 Norman L. Cahners and 2004 Reed-Apple awards as well as AIM’s 2014 Allan Gilligan and 2018 Dilling awards for contributions to the U.S. material handling and AIDC marketplaces. He was also inducted into Modern Material Handling magazine’s 20th Century Hall of Fame, DC Velocity magazine’s 2003 charter roster of Logistics Rainmakers and World Trade magazine’s annual Fabulous 50. Widely published in the U. S. and overseas, he currently serves on the editorial advisory boards of Material Handling & Logistics and Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazines. He has given over 350 seminars and presentations for academia, corporate clients, professional and trade associations in North and Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia and served for many years as a faculty member at Georgia Tech’s Supply Chain & Logistics Institute.

Chris Barnes is a supply chain guru, the APICS Coach, and Supply Chain Now Contributor. He holds a B.S., Industrial Engineering and Economics Minor, from Bradley University, an MBA in Industrial Psychology with Honors from the University of West Florida.  He holds CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS, one of the few in the world. Barnes is a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education certificate courses. Barnes is a supply chain advocate, visionary, and frequent podcaster and blogger at Barnes has over 27 years of experience developing and managing multiple client, engineering consulting, strategic planning and operational improvement projects in supply chain management. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn and reach out to him via email at:

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