"The cost of doing business continues to increase year after year, but internal resources continue to diminish. Makes it very difficult to run a successful operation." – senior executive/VP for a retailer with 26-30 years of experience, living in the Middle Atlantic region and earning $121,000

"Last year our company recovered very well from the recession. This year we have started off very slow. We've cut work hours by 20% temporarily, waiting/hoping business will pick up soon." - Transportation manager for an industrial machinery manufacturer with 26-30 years of experience, living in the Pacific region and earning $55,000

"Salaries need to match the importance of these functions. People in this field are occasionally taken for granted and not properly compensated." – senior executive/VP with a chemicals manufacturer with 11-15 years of experience, living in the South Central region and earning $184,000

"I'm quite happy with all aspects of my job. I've tried other career paths, but have always come back to this arena." – senior executive/VP for a toy manufacturer with 30+ years of experience, living in the Pacific region and earning $150,000

A refreshing and welcome change has taken place in the material handling and logistics industry over the past year: Raises are actually back in vogue. The average salary for all respondents to the MH&L 2013 Salary Survey rose by 3% over the previous year, to $84,337. Given that the U.S. inflation rate in 2012 was 2.1% (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), this also represents the first time in several years that salaries for material handling and logistics professionals outpaced the rate of inflation.

See Also: MH&L 2013 Salary Survey Slideshow

For the second year in a row, more than half (53%) of all respondents said they received a raise last year. What's more, 58% expect a raise in 2013. And yet, maybe the recession and the agonizingly slow recovery have left many of these managers feeling that the bump in their salaries in 2012 was a case of too little, too late. When asked how satisfied they are with their current jobs, 65% said they were satisfied or very satisfied; that number was 66% a year ago, and 69% in 2011. The number saying they're satisfied or very satisfied with material handling and logistics as a career path was also down, from 72% in 2012 to 70% this year. So these downward trends are a bit disconcerting, to say the least.

At any rate, based on our research, we can paint a portrait of what the "typical" material handling and logistics executive looks like. If such a person actually existed, he would be a white male in his 50s, living in the Midwest, with more than 30 years of experience in the industry, and working for a manufacturer of industrial machinery. This typical person is in a corporate/executive management role, has a four-year degree, has been with his current company for 6-10 years, and did not earn an annual bonus last year.

Knowing what's "typical," however, only tells a very small part of the story. Throughout this article, the accompanying charts and the anonymous comments of your peers will bring to life exactly what different types of challenges material handling and logistics professionals face today, as they confront the daily realities of managing the supply chains that make this country work.