New Research on Who Should Design, Implement Your Next Material Handling System

When it comes to the design and implementation of a material handling system, the warehouse and distribution center (DC) operators have four primary choices:

  • In-house engineering
  • System original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
  • Consulting firm
  • Third-party systems integrator

This past spring, Modern Materials Handling partnered with viastore systems to delve deeper into how organizations evaluate and select material handling system providers and solutions. Among other areas of investigation, the final report—“Material Handling System Choices: Priorities, Approaches and Selection Processes of Decision-Makers” —takes an extensive look at the system design and implementation decisions made by respondents’ organizations.

System Design Findings

Of the 306 survey respondents—who work for companies with annual corporate revenues ranging from less than $50 million (42%) to $50 – $500 million (26%) to $500 million or more (32%)—more than half (55%) prefer to design their system internally. Another 37% outsource the design task to the system OEM, while 23% use a consultant and 19% employ a systems integrator.

However, respondents weren’t convinced that the team they actually use to design their systems is necessarily the best qualified to do so, as demonstrated in a pie chart on page 2 of the report.


More than half may use in-house engineering for design, but only 37% express confidence in that decision. Systems integrators get the second highest vote for design qualification (29%), followed by system OEMs (21%) and consulting firms (13%).

System Implementation Findings

Regardless of who creates the final design (and the level of confidence in that source’s abilities), once the project is approved, companies must next decide whom to hire to handle the system installation and commissioning. Survey participants were asked which of four options (system OEM, integrator, third-party consultant or engineering firm) would be their top choice for their next system implementation.

While 85% of respondents might bring in a consultant (always, sometimes or rarely) as a resource for fresh ideas and tours of other operations running similar systems during the design phase of the system, they overwhelmingly prefer the system OEM for installation and commissioning. Nearly half (45%) would use a material handling OEM for implementation of future projects, as shown in a bar chart on the bottom of page 3.


Why? The survey’s participants gave a number of reasons:

  • The system manufacturer is the most knowledgeable and experienced with their equipment.
  • The system manufacturer knows best how to use the product and how it should be implemented for maximum effectiveness.
  • Eliminating the middleman (a third-party consultant, systems integrator or engineering firm) eliminates “finger-pointing” should problems arise in installation or operation.

The trend toward a direct partnership between customer and OEM for material handling system design and implementation is one that has steMH-System-Choices-WPadily grown in recent years. Watch for another blog post on that subject soon.

In addition to the benefits listed above, operations appreciate vendors taking the time to develop a greater understanding of their business and marketplace environment. With that investment in a partner relationship comes the expectation that the OEM will provide a solution better tailored to the needs of the organization’s business, and ultimately a faster return on investment. As one survey respondent commented: “Our material handling equipment manufacturer should have the most knowledge of their solutions and how to best make them work for our needs.”

To read the complete report, click on the image.

About John Clark

John is responsible for Marketing and Business Development at the North American headquarters of viastore systems in Grand Rapids, MI.

He has over 20 years of broad hands-on experience in all aspects of marketing and communication, including writing, content marketing, advertising, design, trade show and event planning, public/media relations, website, lead generation and management.

Prior to viastore, he has held marketing management positions at TGW Systems and Dematic, both global material handling automation companies.

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