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Logistics facing talent shortage, Georgia summit attendees told

May 16, 2017

The logistics industry faces a serious labor shortage, according to opening session speakers at the Georgia Logistics Summit

The concerns were expressed today before more than 2,000 attendees at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

Dr. Christina Scherrer, a professor of systems and industrial engineering at Kennesaw State University, noted that a recent survey showed that 90 percent of 1,600 Georgia business and industrial engineering students polled were familiar with logistics but only 20 percent expressed intent to enter the field.

“That’s a serious image problem,” said Scherrer, who holds her doctorate in industrial and systems engineering.

Troels Adrian, economic development director for supply chain and ecosystem expansion at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, concurred that logistics is saddled with a career perception issue that must be overcome.

Adrian said logistics not only encompasses “the bluest of blue-collar labor” but also increasingly is requiring the highest level of technology talent.

David Mihuta, sales representative for the Freightliner of Savannah truck dealership, commented, “We’re not quite sure where we’re going to get the next generation of talent.”

Mihuta is engaged with the Maritime Logistics Education Taskforce, begun in Savannah in 2012 to give high school students exposure to the logistics industry via dozens of company partners, aiming to make a supply chain job “as attractive as being a pro ballplayer.”

Laura Sidney, director of client strategy for labor analytics for commercial real estate leader CBRE, said consumer demand for swifter product delivery is translating to burgeoning requirements for the full spectrum of supply chain workers.

“We used to think three- to five-day delivery was fast; we now expect three to five hours if that,” Sidney said, adding that the latter scenario requires 10 times more people to get products to consumers.

Indeed, an audience survey showed 72 percent of respondents saying they currently are experiencing labor shortages.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal addresses the Georgia Logistics Summit in Atlanta. (Photo by Paul Scott Abbott, AJOT)
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal addresses the Georgia Logistics Summit in Atlanta. (Photo by Paul Scott Abbott, AJOT)

Following the panel presentation, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal underscored the importance of logistics in Georgia, stating that, since July 2016, the Peach State has attracted $4 billion in new investment by companies requiring leading-edge logistics, generating 18,000 jobs. Among transportation infrastructure undertakings cited by Deal included the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, which he said is now about 50 percent complete. Deepening of the

Port of Savannah’s outer harbor to 49 feet and its inner channel to 47 feet, slated for completion by 2021 at a $973 million cost, has been identified by federal officials as having a 7-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio, Deal said, as it facilitates the port’s efficient handling of a growing number of increasingly large containerships.

A few days earlier, crews at the Port of Savannah worked the COSCO Development, which, with a capacity of more than 13,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units, is the largest containership ever to call on the U.S. East Coast.

Comprehensive coverage of the ninth annual Georgia Logistics Summit is slated to appear in the June 12 edition of the American Journal of Transportation.

Author Photo

For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist.

A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists.

Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.

A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.

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