Meet the 2022 MHEDA Board of Directors and MBOA

Question: The material handling industry is often referred to as “hidden in plain sight” and this lack of awareness exacerbates the war for talent. What first drew you to this industry and what would you say to someone who is considering a career in material handling distribution or manufacturing? How has your involvement in MHEDA impacted your career and your organization?

Tom Albero, MHEDA Chairman of the Board
Alliance Material Handling, Inc., Jessup, MD

I was drawn to this industry by a random fluke as my career prior was in the IT industry. That story is too long to tell but a good one that I will share over a few beers with anyone that wants to hear about it.

Once I was introduced to this industry I never regretted for a second leaving the IT industry for good.

There are many parts of this industry that attracted me to take my first job as CFO for Alliance Material Handling. Here are a few that I think were most important. First – The People – I have the pleasure to have a white collar job in a blue collar industry. There is nothing better than working with good natured people and I hit the jackpot coming to Alliance. Everyone is down to earth, truly cares for there fellow workers and just like to have a good time while doing great work. What could be better?

Second – the job itself – no day is ever the same. There are so many divisions within the company and being a part of all divisions presents a different challenge every day. There has not been a day since I joined Alliance 20 years ago that I did not find myself challenged and learning something new every day.

When you get to be part of a company that sells new and used equipment, parts, systems products, has technicians repairing forklifts, rentals, both long term and short term and delivers all of that product to our customers door, that leads to some very exciting work that challenges me every day.

Third – the beauty of the industry is networking and nobody networks and educates our industry better than MHEDA. I have developed trusted relationships with Dealers in most states, Mexico and Canada through our membership with MHEDA. Multiple times a year we exchange ideas, compare financial information and have a blast while doing it.

The MHEDA Association is better than any other Association that I have been a part of which led me to join the MHEDA Board so I could give something back to an industry that has treated all of us at Alliance so well.

John Gelsimino, MHEDA Chairman-Elect
All Lift Service Company, Willoughby, OH

My grandfather was a machinery mover and dabbled in material handling. When my father graduated high school he started repairing my grandfather’s equipment and ended up going out on his own as an independent technician.

Growing up I was always fascinated with the industry and knew that it was a blessing that always provided a very good lifestyle for our family. I was very fortunate to enjoy the family business and was never pressured nor discouraged by my father to actively participate in it. I was also fortunate that my father taught me this business the proper way – from the bottom up and for that I will be forever grateful.

What I would say to someone considering a career in material handling is to be careful because once you get in this business its hard to get out. COVID taught us what it means to be an essential business. When the list of qualifications came out, I eagerly started reviewing. I quickly realized that our industry easily checks 9-10 different categories of essential where other industry’s had to stretch to meet just one. I share that comment with any new prospect employee and find that people understand that message and appreciate that kind of job security now more than ever before. I would also tell this person that work is a virtue and if you don’t have a strong work ethic, this industry is not for you. This is a challenging and rewarding business but it is not for the weak. The weak seem to get sorted out rather quickly if you know what I mean. If you just smiled then you definitely know what I mean.

My involvement in MHEDA has impacted my career and organization more than I could ever explain in this article. It’s all about the “network” and the power of a strong network and reputation are two things than cannot be properly measured or matched. The mentors and friends that I have built through MHEDA have helped me become a better operator and have elevated the business in amazing ways. It is for this reason that I am on the board and so honored to be the 2022 Convention Chair. I am extremely fortunate to be in this industry and a part of the MHEDA organization. I would tell the industry prospect to jump in, buckle up and get ready to work with some of the greatest people an industry could ever ask for. Cheers!

Van Clarkson, MHEDA Treasurer
Fairchild Equipment, Menomonee Falls, WI

I actually came to the industry through a major OEM finance department. Previously, I worked for an independent finance and leasing company focused on manufacturing equipment and automated distribution systems. From finance and leasing, I moved into fleet management, dealer development, marketing and finally, sales leadership. The OEM was a manufacturer partner of MHEDA and I first met Liz and the incredible staff at a Convention in Phoenix. Eight years ago I moved to the dealer side and knew the value MHEDA brought to its membership in being forward thinking and helping to solve dealer challenges, often before they even occur. The benefits I have availed myself are countless, in particular the benefits of networking with my MHEDA Net group and my board service.

Nate Storey, MHEDA Vice President
Storage Solutions, Inc., Westfield, IN

I was first drawn to the material handling industry because I had family who owned the business I currently work for. Even though I had an idea of what the industry was, I quickly realized how naïve I was when it came to the supply chain. As a consumer, it is easy to show up to the store, or even more simply hit the buy button on your computer or phone to access the goods you need every day. Often times we do not give a second thought to the lifecycle of that item and how it got to the shelf or your doorstep. This lack of awareness amongst most consumers is what creates the “hidden in plain sight” mentality with material handling.

When I talk with people about what we do in our industry, I often get blank stares and confused questions. Eventually I ask them if they have ever thought about where the package that shows up on their doorstep was prior to it getting to them. Most candidly admit that it never crossed their mind. That is when I can connect the dots and explain that everything that happens after you hit the buy button and before it arrives at your front door is what we do in our industry. It is not glamorous and more of a “behind the scenes” job, but as we saw through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is an essential industry so that the citizens of our world continue to have access to the goods they need every day. That understanding is how I try to best relate the importance of what we do to someone considering a career in material handling.

One of the best things I have done to positively impact my career has been my involvement with MHEDA programming. The opportunities to network with peers and share best practices, meet new suppliers who can help support our company and our customers, and learn about new business ideas has been instrumental in the growth of our company and my professional career.

Ted Springer, MHEDA Immediate Past Chairman
Springer Equipment Company, Inc., Birmingham, AL

While going to college in the evenings I needed a job during the day and saw an ad in the newspaper, it was 1976 and that was how you looked for jobs then. Once I saw what the material handling industry really was I decided I would make a career of it.

I have since told many young people that our industry is a mature industry and if they find it interesting they will never have to look for a job. Our industry touches almost everything we use in our lives as the material handling industry moves the world!

Having been a member of MHEDA and being involved in board service has had a major impact on my career and our organization. I would highly recommend that anyone in the material handling industry needs to see what MHEDA offers from education to networking and even board service. I have received much more from MHEDA than I have contributed to it over many years in this rewarding industry.

Darin Boik, MHEDA Director
Advanced Equipment Company, Charlotte, NC

“What do you do?” I answer, I work in Material Handling. The returned blank stare or “oh Okay” comes back and I know they have no idea what it is and now I must figure out how to explain it to them. You would think after over 25 years in the industry I could rattle it right off, but I still struggle to sum it all up in a neat package for them to understand. After all material handling is just a fancy term for handling goods and materials within your warehouse, facility, or storage area. Not very sexy and doesn’t scream tell me more, but it really can be a rewarding career.

Material Handling is a broad industry covering many facets of our business world. I stumbled upon it when I committed to a Co-Op program in college while I studied Electrical Engineering. I started working for an Automated Guided Vehicle company, who hired me full time upon completing my degree. Then just like that I was in the material handling industry. Designing control systems and programming driverless vehicles to perform repetitious tasks that a typical man-aboard a vehicle would perform. If I could do it all over again, would I change some things? Yes, but I would still be in material handling. I would encourage anyone to jump in. There are many opportunities and areas of the industry where you can develop your skills, move up the ladder, test your creativity and have the job security with the paycheck to support a family. In addition, our industry is fun, with fun down to earth people. If you are reading this, then you are probably one of those fun people.

MHEDA has played an important role by helping me develop my personal development skills through education with programs offered, gaining advice from mentors and other professionals by joining a MHEDA-NET group, and attending their amazing Conventions. MHEDA is such a great resource that comes at such a small cost to our company. Many of our companies building blocks were learned and built from MHEDA, which has made us one of the most respected companies as an integrator in the material handling industry. This is why Advanced Equipment is a MHEDA member and why I am now a MHEDA board member. There is still much more for me to learn, but I am also positioned to give back as well.

Greg Brown, MHEDA Director
W.W. Cannon, LLC, Dallas, TX

I came to the Material Handling industry through my acquisition of W.W. Cannon back in 1996. I had 10 years experience selling industrial equipment (which I really enjoyed) and a degree in Industrial Distribution from TAMU. When I found W.W. Cannon, the material handling industry looked like a good fit and is where I have anchored myself for the last 25 years. For those considering a career in the material handling distribution or manufacturing industry, I would say this is an industry that will always be around with lots of opportunity for growth and career fulfillment. We at W.W. Cannon are always looking for people that are “humble, hungry and smart” and the industry rewards those who are.

The networking opportunities and education programs that MHEDA offers have been instrumental in my career growth and the growth of all associates at W.W. Cannon. Every employee is impacted by MHEDA’s offerings. My involvement with the board has provided even greater opportunities for my career growth through the networking and interaction with great distributor leaders and MBOA members.

Tom Duck, MHEDA Director
Florida Forklift, Tampa, FL

I was actually drawn to the industry by a head hunter. Since coming to the industry, I have found the material handling family of dealers is like no other. It is a true esprit de corps atmosphere. The pride and fellowship is unparalleled by any other industry I have been associated with and the MHEDA members in particular share a common drive and loyalty that is unmatched.

My involvement in MHEDA has had the greatest impact in my transition from the previous industry to this industry. MHEDA’s networking groups are without a doubt the best way for a person coming into material handling to connect with, not just their peers, but also to connect with vendors and manufacturers that can benefit ones business. MHEDA conventions bring those groups together to share ideas, opportunities, and information. The presenters and breakout sessions are truly great road maps to success in any business and the training offered, either virtual or in person, helps to train the management and new hires to make an immediate impact in their new roles.

MHEDA definitely makes a difference for the dealer and manufacturer community and is an asset to whoever takes advantage of all MHEDA has to offer.

Darien Gandall, MHEDA Director
Cisco-Eagle, Inc., Dallas, TX

The material handling industry suffers at times – like a lot of industries – from lack of awareness. People know what lawyers are, what engineers are, what other high-profile professions are, but don’t really grow up thinking “I’d love to help make distribution systems more efficient!” That has actually improved to some degree with Amazon and broader public awareness of their operations. You see large scale conveyor systems on their commercials and in television ads due to that.

I was always aware of material handling because I was born to it. I was drawn to the family business at first because it was my Dad’s company. After spending time after college in other industries, I was attracted back because my eyes were opened to how interesting it actually is – all the ways customers are executing the design, storage and handling in this business. We underestimate how diverse the kinds of customers and the kinds of work you get to do in material handling. It’s much more interesting than most people think it is!

Here’s what I tell young people we are trying to recruit to this business: You’ll get to work in a huge variety of places, and it’s different every time. You’ll get to see how things are made and how they reach your doorstep or store shelf. You’ll get to understand the systems that let you click something online and have it in a few days. You’ll get to see how cars are made and how cherries are picked and how books land in classrooms – so many things people don’t even think about.

Every customer has a different process and a way of doing things that you’d have never foreseen. You won’t get bored in this business.

The other side is this: you’re going to earn a great living in a thriving and growing field.

If you read what ITR Economics and others have to say, the growth in warehousing is far from over. Manufacturing is going to thrive. The country is having labor shortages that will require companies to become more efficient – which is our mission as a company at Cisco-Eagle and the mission of this industry in general. We are in demand today, and will be for the foreseeable future because everyone needs to find ways to become more efficient and less dependent on manual labor to make and distribute things. There is and will be demand for material handling professionals over the next decade and beyond.

A young person who wants an interesting, diverse career with growth potential couldn’t ask for a better industry at a better time than material handling.

MHEDA has been incredibly positive for me personally and our company. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from MHEDA programs, but just as importantly, how much the ability for us to focus on the broader industry has helped Cisco-Eagle. We do so much based on the various MHEDA programs that it would be hard to list all of it, but we also treasure the networking and informal discussions with other members. I’ve grown in my various roles because of these connections and the amount of helpful education the association provides.

Jim Hammond, MHEDA Director
Valley Industrial Trucks, Youngstown, OH

The Material Handling business is an extremely interesting and satisfying industry. Everything we consume is touched in some way by the material handling industry. You get to see a wide range of businesses and what they do like manufacturing, warehousing, or distribution businesses and what each one does. Companies are large and small and interestingly unique. Each day you are challenged to find solutions for many different environments. No two days are ever the same. To me this is what makes the material handling business like no other and why I love working in it.

Tim Hoj, MHEDA Director
HOJ Innovations, Salt Lake City, UT

The “hidden in plain sight” is fortunately I believe a diminishing condition. Supply chain strategy is now a C suite agenda for all companies. Innovation efficiency and building fulfilment as a core competency is becoming a significant differentiator for business as they prepare their strategy to deliver goods to market.

This development of the visibility to supply chain raises awareness as our market expands. The expanding market will provide better jobs for our staff as we raise the bar to support this growing industry. This allows our messaging to be more enticing for new graduates and attracting them to our industry. In reality our industry provides an exciting landscape that supports a career of learning path due to the expansive tools and equipment we apply to assist each customer site. This advantage supports application engineering, sales and technicians that service the equipment.

Jim MacGregor, MHEDA Director
Toyota Material Handling Systems, Suwanee, GA

Until recently, our industry was clearly “hidden in plain sight”. When I was contacted by a recruiter in 1984 to interview at a lift truck dealership, I did not know this was even an industry. I accepted the position after learning more about the industry and its scope at that time as it seemed to provide a challenge and opportunity. However, during that period, it was an absolute conversation stopper when you were asked “what you did for a living” as no one knew that Material Handling Equipment literally touches everything they purchase and/or consume.

Today there is a heightened awareness of our industry. This was first demonstrated by the behavioral ways that people purchase goods. The e-commerce industry began to bring awareness to our industry. Those first pioneers embracing e-commerce were also the group most likely to “google” how the product gets to their doorstep one day after placing an order on there phone. MHEDA created a wonderful, animated video for members to affix to their websites illustrating not only how e-commerce orders arrive, but also all the respective careers that contribute to the process of distributing orders.

Today, everyone is aware of the words “Supply Chain” and “Logistics”, but now everyone has a more comprehensive understanding of how it all works. Sadly, this is due to the crisis that currently exists from COVID-19 and the shortages it has created in people and materials necessary to complete manufactured goods, load and unload ships, transport goods to and from distribution centers and material handling personnel within the distribution centers to receive, store, retrieve and ship products. All these positions described are potential careers in the supply chain, and there are also career opportunities in sales, technicians, parts professionals, technical trainers, IT personnel, mechanical engineers, project managers and many more. Our economy will only continue to grow and the methods in which we distribute goods will evolve as well to integrate more automation, conveyance, high density storage and more.

What an exciting time to learn more about this very progressive, essential industry. And what better way to learn more about this industry and its career opportunities than to belong to this fine association, MHEDA.

Gerardo Padilla, MHEDA Director
SEIL Rentals, Saltillo Coahuila, Mexico

Many people are not aware of the huge and great material handling industry (MHI). I was not conscious of this when I started 20 years ago. But when you take time to think about this “unknown industry” almost every company needs to move material, goods in their production plant, warehouse or business.

The MHI is constantly evolving in order to save money, maximize space, decrease production damage, reduce accidents and many other goals. The most interesting thing about this industry is the people that work in it. People are so focused on customer and employee satisfaction. Sales people not only sell equipment or systems to move material but also offer solutions to reduce operational cost, get a better space utilization in a safer environment. People in this industry are always looking for new technologies and innovation to support the industry needs.

MHEDA is a tool box for MHI professionals looking to understand and better their business to satisfy the growing demand of the customers. For me MHEDA is a one stop shop to better train and connect peers in the industry in order to get higher returns.

Lori Palmer, MHEDA Director
REB Storage Systems International, Darien, IL

The material handling industry is often referred to as “hidden in plain sight”, since our day-to-day lives depend on it. Food, clothes, shoes, toys, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, electronics, automobiles – everything we rely on is impacted by material handling and the supply chain.

Despite this, the industry has traditionally had difficulty attracting new talent. About ten (10) years ago, we were having a meeting at REB discussing how hard it was to find young talent that was interested in the “rack” world. It seemed to be an industry that was becoming a dinosaur. An industry that younger people would never want to be part of. Afterall, the world was filled with electronics and technology. Was anyone going to school to learn about material handling?

People in this industry understood how important it is, and over the years have innovated solutions and processes within material handling. Material handling and automation have a new vibe, an intriguing new vibe. Creativity, design, software, and the ability to listen to your client and design, engineer, supply and install a system for them that will take them into the future is an exciting thing to be part of. Building a system that will help create efficiency and have an impact on everyday life, this is something to be proud of.

And yes, we now have schools with courses in material handling, automation, logistics and the supply chain. What we thought was becoming a boring old dinosaur was actually a really cool, innovative robot dinosaur in the making.

When I entered this industry forty (40) years ago, I wanted to become an interior decorator. What I really found I enjoyed was space planning, but I never thought I would end up space planning in the warehousing industry.

This industry drew me right in because of all the different people and different types of businesses I was able to deal with. The opportunities were endless. Working in marketing and sales in this industry was the beginning to an exciting career for 40 years and still running. Now, as an owner and the president, I am so excited to see where we will go next in this industry and how we can continue to help our world in everyday life.

The education and networking MHEDA provides has benefited our team and company in many ways. Being involved has helped our company navigate changes and challenges in the industry. This has been especially important during all of the changes in the industry over the last few years.

Many ideas we implement come from networking and/or educational functions we attended. We have a strong team because we encourage them to continue to learn and network. We aren’t afraid of losing our team to competitors because we feel we are doing our best to continuously develop them and therefore they want to stay on board. The resources MHEDA provides has been a big part of this.

Additionally, MHEDA’s Women In Industry group has provided special support for our team of women who work in what used to be a “man’s world” for so many years. MHEDA is also a strong education and networking source for me as a veteran in this industry, because in this industry, you never stop learning. I feel so fortunate to be able to network with my peers so we can develop and grow this industry together.

Pete Womack, MHEDA Director
Riekes Equipment Company, Kansas City, MO

I really can’t give a great answer as to what drew me to this industry because I started as a teenager in 1982 for a company by the name of Nott Company. They were the Hyster dealer in Omaha, Nebraska and I was their Shipping and Receiving Clerk. At that time, I did not think that this was my career path – just a place that I could make some money. I have now been doing this for 34 years and I love the challenge of solving someone’s problems and finding them the perfect solutions to hit their goals. Even after all this time, there are very few things I would change in my life as I love the material handling industry.

If someone is considering this industry, my advice today would be simple. It’s all about the people and the variety of different industries you get to call on. And most importantly, the challenge of solving a customer’s issue. But, as my old boss once said, ‘although you might not get rich in this industry, you can make a very good living’.

When I look back at my career there are several places MHEDA has made an impact.

First is networking. I have met so many individuals since 2010 and many of those contacts are now friends. When I need advice there are several people that I reach out too and they help me without hesitation.

Secondly, the strategic planning process that MHEDA presented to all of us in the mid 2000’s. Every year we set our sights on what we want to accomplish in the upcoming year and this process helps us get it done. We are one company that is not guilty of the old saying “No one plans to fail; they fail to plan”.

And finally, MHEDA is a very professional organization with exemplary integrity and standards and Riekes always wants to be associated with partners with those values as they align with our own.

Michael Vaughan, MHEDA Advisory Board
Thompson & Johnson Equipment Co., Inc., East Syracuse, NY

I first became aware of the industry when I audited a material handling dealership. That relationship eventually blossomed into an offer for employment which I enthusiastically accepted. I love the industry for a couple reasons. I love that while we sell equipment, performance relies on an incredible amount of teamwork. This offers a tremendous opportunity to develop both professional and personal relationships with your teammates. Secondly, I love the multi-dimensional aspect of the sales, rental, parts and service. All of which requires precision and coordination. MHEDA has been an accelerant to both gaining a better understanding of the industry and developing relationships. I have often relied upon those relationships to address and tackle business challenges.

Mike Wall, MHEDA Advisory Board
CSI Materials Handling, Westmont, IL

In my case it was a fairly direct path. My father started our company, so I knew a guy. Kidding aside, my dad encouraged me to make my own way when I graduated college. He didn’t want my first “real” job to be working for him. I went to work for Motorola for a few years and then entered my material handling career with CSI. Many MHEDA distributors are smaller companies, like ours, and being a part of a small business really allows you to see how much your effort helps the company…very different than working for a Fortune 500 company.

Being a small business, MHEDA has been instrumental in providing us with educational and networking opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to a company our size. Be careful about the material handling industry though, once you’re in, you can never get out!

Troy Carter, MHEDA MBOA Member
Daifuku/Wynright, Oak Lawn, IL

Looking back over 21 years to my introduction into this industry, it’s clear that I simply didn’t know what I was getting into. A very good friend of mine and his father worked in the industry, introduced me to their employer, and set me down the material handling path. At the time I didn’t know much about the industry or it’s invisibility to average Joe of the world. Fast forward to today and it’s clear both the material handling industry and the awareness of our industry is growing rapidly. Several things are contributing to this including organizations like MHEDA who represent us all within our industry, to educational establishments, and other organizations that can help us with our visibility. More often than in the past people looking for a career path know something about our industry due to these efforts and when asked I find it great to inform people about the versatility, stability, and growth that a career in material handling will bring them. Bring on the next generation of material handling, WE NEED THEM!

Pete Drake, MHEDA MBOA Member
Cascade Corporation, Portland, OR

I was drawn to the Material handling industry simply because the company hired me right out of college, and it was located close to my family. I honestly did not necessarily plan to stay, and that was 30 years ago. I would share that: I have and continue to enjoy working in the material handling industry because we have the opportunity to work with so many different industries and people. There are constantly new challenges and technologies that continue to provide for growth in our careers. MHEDA has provided me with the opportunity for our employees to meet and maintain relationships with many people in the industry, and also to develop professionally.

Brian Neuwrith, MHEDA MBOA Member
UNEX Mfg., Lakewood, NJ

Being a part of the third generation at UNEX, I have been around the material handling industry for as long as I can remember. Working in material handling is very rewarding. I like that each day is different and each project brings a unique set of challenges. I’ve been fortunate to be able to see the behind the scenes of the supply chain and get to be a part of the solutions that help keep the products on the shelf or help an online order make it to the front door of your family and friends. MHEDA has been a great resource for me to stay up to date with the changes in industry trends and economic conditions. I have been able to build a great network of peers and am able to help me grow within the industry.

Chad Uplinger, MHEDA MBOA Member
EnerSys, Reading, PA

After 24 years in the energy side of material handling working at EnerSys, I still find myself explaining to people what is material handling. Although this industry affects every person, it is certainly not a common, recognized market.

In looking back 24 years, my start in this industry began by responding to a newspaper advertisement for a marketing manager position – certainly different than the job searches we use today. Over the decades I have really enjoyed our industry, the people and friendships I have developed. I tell those who join our organization from outside the industry that this market is a great place for a long-term career. There are cyclical periods in any market, but the need for material handling equipment has seen a fairly consistent growth rate decade after decade. At times certainly other markets, like the technology sector, see tremendous growth, the material handling industry enjoys relatively stable conditions even in slower economic periods.

Over the last 10 years I have become more active in MHEDA and the last 2 years participating as an MBOA member. This experience has certainly re-enforced what I have learned – this market is a great career-building environment. Whether you work for a manufacturer, distributor, or other supplier within material handling, you will find most people working in this marketplace stay throughout their careers. When you attend a MHEDA Convention, a regional workshop, or the annual trade events of ProMat or MODEX, these events become a meeting point for reconnecting relationships developed over time. I even had buyers from end user companies who purchase our equipment comment on how close-knit the industry is and how the people involved are great to work with. During our careers we all spend a large portion of time away from our families, so a good work environment is a key ingredient to a successful and fulfilling career.