Materials Handling: Sayonara

by Dave Luton
Dave Luton is a consultant in the
Greater Toronto Area.

Editor’s Note:
It is with no small degree of sadness that I bid farewell to Dave Luton, who has decided to move on from writing his column with MM&D. To close off this era, we’ve prepared a short Q&A, which you can read below. Dave has been a fixture at the magazine for 30 years, and has reliably entertained and informed our readers for the entire time. Long the most popular column, Materials Handling has covered topics of importance to warehouse managers from racking, to health and safety, to planning and the rise of automation. On behalf of all of us who have worked with Dave over the years at the magazine and for everyone who has enjoyed reading his words: a heartfelt thank you and best wishes in your new endeavours. We will miss your contributions! – Emily Atkins

After over 30 years and over 300 materials handling articles written for MM&D it is time to move on.

It has been a good run and I hope the readers have learned something. My major disappointment has been the extensive secrecy agreements I am covered under, which prevent me from publicly disclosing some of the most interesting topics and experiences I’ve had.

As a consultant, I have been fortunate to work in a wide variety of industries ranging from the soup at Campbell’s, to the nuts at several hardware wholesalers, and the kitchen sink at Crane Supply. I have done time-sensitive facilities for the Olympics (Vancouver) and gone a mile underground for a major mining company.

MM&D: Why did you want to write a column for us? We know you didn’t make any money doing it, but was it rewarding?

Dave Luton: It was rewarding. Functionally it served as an advertising and business development substitute. This was particularly true because the column appeared month after month; year after year. One of my competitors said it best: “Everybody knows you!”

It also helped me get into a lot of facilities that are difficult sometimes to get into, and helped give me an education. But most importantly, it helped me get my favourite type of consulting job: Those I want to do, not those I have to do.

MM&D: How long have you worked as a materials handling consultant? How did you get into the field?

DL: I have worked as a materials handling consultant for almost 35 years. I got into the field partly by accident and partly by plan.

MM&D: What was the most eventful/interesting project you worked on in materials handling?

DL: Unfortunately I have to decline to answer that (I mean no offence.) If you analyze my writing you will see that only very rarely is a specific company mentioned. The reason is just about all my projects are covered by secrecy agreements that I disclose at my peril.

MM&D: If you could give three tips to warehouse or DC managers today, what would they be?

DL: Make sure you and your staff are properly educated.Don’t be afraid to stand your ground on costs. Things cost more than many non-logistics people realize.

MM&D: You’ve talked a lot about automation lately; do you think it will ever fully replace human warehouse workers as some believe?

DL: I first wrote about this 15 years ago. At the time I said that management was more threatened than the worker. Automation will replace specialty applications first.

MM&D: What’s your opinion about Amazon’s wild new warehouse patents— the underwater DC or the drone ‘beehive’ DC? Can they ever work?

DL: While I haven’t yet studied them in detail, I feel Amazon may have potential for a cross-dock application in the beehive. Water needs more study.

MM&D: What are your plans now that you won’t be writing for us?

DL: Don’t worry about me. A few years ago I discovered the ideal niche business for retirement. All it means is I make more money and do not have to fight Toronto traffic. Here again, I chose non-disclosure as it is a limited market!