Artwork for podcast Supply Chain is Boring
Data Collection is Boring Part 2: More with Data and WMS Pioneer John Hill
Episode 87th August 2020 • Supply Chain is Boring • Supply Chain Now
00:00:00 00:47:37

Share Episode


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.


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.

Upcoming Events & Resources :

Connect with John on LinkedIn:

Connect with Chris on Linkedin:

Subscribe to Supply Chain Now:

Supply Chain Now Ranked #1 Supply Chain Podcast via FeedSpot:

Supply Chain Now Ranked #3 Supply Chain YouTube Channel:

UPCOMING WEBINAR: Post COVID-19 Supply Chains: What is Needed to Adapt" -

Supply Chain Now is a Media Partner for SourceConnecte's Virtual Small Business Expo

August 4th-5th:

Listen and Subscribe to Supply Chain is Boring on Supply Chain Now:

Listen and Subscribe to TECHquila Sunrise with Greg White on Supply Chain Now:

Listen and Subscribe to This Week in Business History on Supply Chain Now:

Listen and Subscribe to Veteran Voices on Supply Chain Now:

AIAG Virtual 2020 Supply Chain Conference:

Check Out News From Our Sponsors:

U.S. Bank:


Vector Global Logistics:


This episode was hosted by Chris Barnes. For additional information, please visit our dedicated show page at: