Short Takes: Bargain Aisle

Low-cost, low-tech, and conservative are still the watchwords in most distribution centers when it comes to investing in material handling equipment. In a recent survey of material handling executives, 48% of the respondents say they have a budget of less than $100,000 a year to buy or upgrade material handling systems. Racks (59%) and conveyors (46%) are the most common additions planned, with systems such as pick-to-light and AS/RS falling far behind.

The study, conducted by Hidalgo & De Vries, Inc., for DPI Material Handling Systems and published in June 2001, drew 231 responses from a sample of 4,418 material handling executives. Participants were primarily involved in product distribution, catalog or mail order retailing, e-commerce, trucking, or warehousing. Eighty percent were operations or warehouse/distribution managers. The median revenue of all the firms responding to the survey was $266.5 million.

Over half of the respondents rank cost as an “extremely important” consideration in choosing a material handling system supplier. “Improving efficiency” gets first place (34%) among the targets that respondents want MHS suppliers to meet. “Maximizing ROI,” follows closely with 33% of the vote, and “cost justification” accounts for 20%. Service and training are near the top of the agenda. Thirty-nine percent of the respondents describe post-installation support as extremely important, and 34% assign the same label to systems training.

Distribution/warehouse and operations executives most often influence decisions about MHS installations. Most of the respondents — 86% — use consultants to help them implement material handling systems. However, only 31% believe that consulting firms are the best-qualified resources to handle MHS design. More than a third would prefer in-house engineers to do the job, and 23% rank manufacturers of material handling systems as the most highly qualified to design them.

For more information, contact DPI at 2845 44th Street SW, Grandville, MI 49418; phone: (800) 294-3190; e-mail:; Web site: