Delivering the goods

Posted on Mar 12, 2021 :: Editors Note
Jessica Thiel
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

I appreciate the convenience of online shopping as much as anyone and turn to it at least once a week, if not more often. Rarely, though, have I given much thought to what it takes to get an item to my doorstep. Researching and writing this month’s cover story on the logistics industry and the increased demand for moving goods was eye-opening and gave me a new appreciation for the work taking place behind the scenes.

Northeast Wisconsin, a well-known and respected logistics hub, is home to many cutting-edge logistics and transportation companies. The businesses I spoke with for this story are some of many that are embracing new technology that’s leading to safer and more efficient and environmentally friendly trucks, as well as developing innovative ways to find and keep talent. One point that stuck with me as I was speaking to industry leaders for this story was the way the general public sometimes views drivers. Early in the pandemic, there was a sentiment that drivers were heroes who were working to get us goods while many of the rest of us stayed safe at home, says Ben Schill, vice president of Paper Transport Inc. Unfortunately, some of that has faded. “I’m sad that it didn’t stick because they still are out there every day delivering America,” Schill says. Let’s remember to thank and celebrate those drivers who do vital work that keeps us going.

On the note of celebrating, our Plant News section may be at the back of the magazine, but it’s full of lots of huge news. Oshkosh Defense scored a U.S. Postal Service contract to produce its next-generation delivery vehicle, calling for the delivery of between 50,000 and 165,000 over the next 10 years. In addition, startup accelerator gener8tor and Georgia-Pacific have collaborated to launch 1915 Studios, a pre-accelerator for early-stage companies innovating within hygiene, Internet of Things and sensing. And The Boldt Co. is building VaxMod, a solution to help health care organizations and others deliver COVID-19 vaccines more safely and effectively.

On the technology front, as manufacturers embrace Industry 4.0 solutions and smart, connected factories, they’re amassing massive amounts of data. To make sense of all that information, they will need legions of data analysts. The region is preparing for that on multiple fronts, including the NEW Manufacturing Alliance offering training thanks to a Microsoft grant as well as many new degree and certificate programs through colleges and universities. Read more about the efforts in Nikki Kallio’s story on page 18.

By the time this comes out, it will be nearly a year to the day since the pandemic began upending our lives. The outlook, on many fronts, is improving, but as someone who got sick with COVID-19 and the spouse of a health care worker, I hope you will continue your efforts to keep us moving in the right direction toward normalcy. So much of this comes down to individual efforts and it takes all of us. Stay safe and well!