MHIA provides outlook on industry, offerings at ProMat

By Plant Engineering Staff January 12, 2007

It was a steadying message coming from the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) during its press conference, held Tuesday as part of the ProMat 2007 trade show being held at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Following MHIA’s CEO John Nofsinger’s opening remarks, Brian McNamara, executive chairman, Material Handling Industry and president of Southworth International Group, detailed where the material handling industry has been over the past year and where it’s headed in the years ahead.

“Like any other industry, like any other market segment, we have cycles. We have our ups, we have our downs,” said McNamara, as he cited growth the industry has seen over the past three years. Through October 2006, new orders grew at an annual rate of 8.6% to close at $26.4 billion, and shipments grew 14.7%, closing at $25.8 billion. Imports grew at an annual rate or 10.6% to $5.3 billion, while exports grew 20.8% to $3.9 billion. Net trade value contracted at an annual rate of 10.9% to $1.4 billion, he said.

Moving into 2007, McNamara is anticipating slow but steady growth.

“We’re in a decline. We’re still on the upside but we’re declining a little bit,” he said. The forecasted growth of shipments is 61/2 to 8%, indicating a bit of a lag and a start to 2008 that could be, as McNamara called it, “iffy.” But, he also pointed out, the Global Insight Forecast, which runs about a year ahead of the MHIA, indicates an upturn towards the end of 2007.

“I think we’ll see a decline as we go into 2008, but it looks fairly soft in terms of where it will come out,” McNamara concluded.

Following McNamara’s presentation on the numbers, George Prest, vice chairman, Material Handling Industry and the MHIA membership division and president of Prest Rack, Inc., briefed the assembled press on recent and future programs and events. He went on to discuss MHIA’s commitment to other online technologies. Through portals like and, both visitors and nonvisitors can access event, show and conference materials in a virtual environment, as business needs arise or change, he said. And, in addition to the printed On-the-MHove newsletter published quarterly by MHIA, e-MHove is an electronic compliment that is published monthly.

Nofsinger then wrapped the conference with an overview of some of the affiliated organizations that share relations with MHIA. Of note are the College-Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) and the Material Handling Education Foundation, Inc. (MHEFI), which have worked over the years to support both students in their academia in preparation for careers in material handling and logistics, and to support workers currently in the industry. Nofsinger went on to discuss how the effects of consolidations, globalization and technologies have “changed the landscape.” As recently as 1988, the 17 groups that make up MHIA were populated by companies producing their products or services in the U.S. for the U.S. market. Since then, the groups have expanded their membership with the addition of members who may produce their solutions in other parts of the world, and this has lead to overall MHIA membership growing from 300 to more than 700 companies since 1988.