May 1st, this was my first and I am sure not my last WERC (warehouse education and research council) conference. I was not quite sure what to expect being new to the industry and new to networking. I wondered whether this would be a welcoming crowd, what I’d learn. Would I pick up a thing or two or would it be too much and would I be uncovered as the rookie that I am?

On day one I learned that WERC is geared towards the warehousing professionals at all levels, you have procurement managers to business owners and everything in between. Regardless of their job description each person has one thing in common, all are looking for a way to better their business. The one thing that resonated with me in the quest to fulfill that was “THE AMAZON EFFECT”, a topic mainstay for the entirety of the conference.

Since Amazon started in 1994 they have changed the warehousing industry completely. The explosion of e-commerce dominating the retail and skyrocketing the 3PL market catapulted technology into distribution centers and depots. Myself working for a company that specializes in warehousing and order fulfillment solutions was utterly intrigued. These people were my sales targets! How could I gain their business?

The first session I attended was a Peer to Peer group on The Hottest Retail and Distribution Trends. Perfect. I sat down as the new guy in the room, and was intent on soaking up as much information as I possibly could. These people were my target market, I could surely gain a few contacts out of this meeting.

The room was at max capacity, so we divided into two smaller more intimate groups. Everyone went around and introduced themselves, the majority of the group being upper management for their respective companies, you had everyone from Walmart to Ryder present. Then there was me, the Pick to Light solutions provider who had been on the job for six months and was as green as the grass outside.

The conversations started, what was everyone’s pains? The topic ranged from hitting goals set in KPI’s to the quality of order picking in general, and then it happened. “Hey, Dan could you provide a little insight on this” the back of my head burned like someone was sitting behind me with a blow torch; this was your time to shine! “Ugh sure!” as everyone looked on for my explanation. “Well picking by light is the way to go” I exclaimed, like a new born fawn stumbling out of the gate, but as I gained momentum I could feel my confidence growing, and the room listening more intently. I covered everything from ROI to the basic pitfalls of just hiring your order pickers, to say the least I had felt like I had earned a place in that room by the end of that session.

As the topic moved on and others spoke their piece I realized something incredibly invaluable. The ability to relate to your peers and just hear their differing operational situations, as well as their views, is something you will never be able to read out of a book. It is something that you must experience. You can meet everyone from a head engineer at a robotics firm to a warehouse manager, it is all relevant because at one point or another these are people you will have to network with, relate to, and deal with in our professional lives. Having a place like WERC to put that on the mainstage is something that you really can not substitute.

So, in conclusion, as my first WERC conference concluded later that week, I felt a sense of community. A sense of this is a place I need to come back too, a place where I can grow as a professional, and as a part of the warehousing community.

Here is to the first of many, until next year, cheers.

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