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The bright future of material handling lies in STEM studies

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

T-shirts. Laptops. Coffee cups. Tennis shoes. Apart from objects used on a daily basis, here’s what these items have in common: Each is strategically manufactured, housed and distributed using logistics.

A hybrid of the disciplines of material handling and supply chain management, logistics is the study of how science and technology can improve the transportation, storage and delivery of goods and services to consumers. From planning and implementation to coordinating the flow of information, logistics helps companies reach consumers or businesses more efficiently and effectively because the strategies are data-driven. Let’s look at an example:

Perfecting Pizza Deliveries
Say you’ve ordered a pizza for delivery. After you place and pay for your order, the company representative confidently notifies you your pizza will be delivered in 25 minutes or less. How so? The pizza company can accurately determine how long it will take to prepare, cook, package and deliver your hot and ready pizza by using data. And, because they were able to deliver your pizza on time, you’re more likely to order from them again.

More and more companies are applying material-handling practices into their business structures to optimize production. As a result, the demand for trained logistics specialists is greater than ever. Future employees who obtain a logistics degree or another degree focused in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are highly valued in this industry. Because STEM courses extensively teach students principles such as fleet management, transportation economics and forecasting, these students are more prepared to enter this field and make improvements. Using the knowledge gained from collegiate internship opportunities, industry-specific curriculums and technology-focused courses, students can apply their hands-on experience to real-life situations. In return, these students grow and develop more sustainable material handling processes and systems. Here’s how.

Hands-On Learning Approach
STEM universities are research and data hubs. Not only do they attract some of the top science- and technology-savvy professors, but they also partner with key industry leaders in material handling. Students attending STEM schools have the ability to work closely with faculty members and industry partners who devote more individualized time to students, provide valuable feedback and create ways for students to actively contribute and learn within the industry’s setting. By allowing students to daily interact with real industry problems, students are better prepared to find new and effective solutions to these problems.

Industry-Specific Curriculums
STEM university degree programs are designed to resemble their real-world fields to allow students to become familiar with industry standards and protocols. Courses challenge students to study industry trends, work collaboratively and acquire advanced skills such as supply chain management and Six Sigma. Students also learn important systems, procedures and operational components identical to those found in their field. They also have a heightened understanding of the industry’s structuring, encouraging them to think more critically when it comes to realistic problems.

Tech Trek Continues
STEM universities give students access to the most current, career-specific machinery, which is vital to understanding the logistics and material handling fields. Students work closely with technologies such as supercomputers and 3D-printing systems, which replicate models and parts used in these fields. The idea behind exposing students to these systems early on is to acclimate them to these fields and move them ahead of the learning curve.

Because companies are developing more logistics-focused business structures, material handling jobs – including those in forecasting, resource allocation and even customer delivery –are available in almost every industry. Employers are searching for professionals with strong analytical backgrounds who challenge the status quo. STEM education best prepares individuals to enter these fields because it challenges students to think tactically provides the necessary resources to improve material handling.

Lauren Willison
As the Director of Admissions at Florida Polytechnic University, Lauren Willison is responsible for supporting the Vice Provost of Enrollment in managing recruitment efforts. She develops and coordinates on- and off-campus events, as well as manages the campus visit experience.

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