“I feel the industry is on the way back. This recession hurt many companies but the ones that have survived will come back stronger than ever.” — distribution/warehouse manager with a food & beverage company with 26-plus years of experience, living in the Middle Atlantic region and earning $65,000

“In this marketplace and within my company it is becoming more difficult to challenge the workforce to think beyond themselves and envision a better tomorrow. I believe that the U.S. economy can have a bright future if we accept the challenge of our current global market, refrain from making past fiscal mistakes and concentrate on a conservative approach with regards to our future generations.” — operations manager with a wholesaler/distributor with 11-15 years of experience, living in the Pacific region and earning $61,000

“Regardless of the lack of political support for manufacturing and with unfair import regulations, 2012 is going to be a profitable year but a hard-earned one. Then I believe the industry will continue to grow for the next 6-8 years before we take another dip in pounds and items sold.” — plant manager with a metals producer with 26-plus years of experience, living in the North Central region and earning $95,000

“Employers are not replacing people as they leave. As I am salary the additional hours mean that I am making substantially less income for the time put in. With the added hours/work load I am making roughly $25-26k less, or more appropriately the company is making $25-26k more profit.” — operations manager with a 3PL with 16-20 years of experience, living in the North Central region and earning $67,000

Material handling and logistics managers work hard for their money, there’s no doubt about that, and based on the comments we heard from the MH&L 2012 Salary Survey, many of you are working more but earning less than before, on a “per-hour” basis. Not only are you expected to do more with less, but you’re also being asked to do more for less, as in less money.

For the second consecutive year, salaries just barely rose from the previous year. The average salary for all respondents in 2011 was $81,016, and for 2012 the average climbed a mere $761 to $81,777, which represents slightly less than a 1% (0.9%) raise from the previous year. Given that the U.S. inflation rate doubled from 2010 to 2011 (from 1.6% to 3.2%), the typical raise for material handling and logistics managers is lagging further and further behind the cost of living.

Little wonder, then, that when asked how satisfied they are with their jobs, respondents were 3% less likely to say “satisfied” or “very satisfied” than they were a year ago: 69% in 2010 vs. 66% in 2011. However, when asked how satisfied they are with material handling and logistics as a career, the numbers actually improved, from 70% in 2010 to 72% in 2011. Clearly, while the long hours and miniscule raises may be frustrating, managing the supply chain appears to have its own intrinsic rewards.

So who is the “average material handling and logistics manager”? When we crunched the numbers, we discovered that in addition to earning $81,777, this person is a white male in his 50s, living in the Midwest, with 26-plus years in the industry, and working for a transportation/warehousing company. This “average manager” saw no change in his salary over the previous year, and does not expect to get a raise in 2012. This person is in corporate/executive management, has been in that role for more than five years and does not anticipate seeking another job in 2012.

So much for the mythical “average manager.” In reality, of course, there is no such person, as everybody has their own specific challenges, their own unique roles and their own individual career goals. So let’s break down some of the findings of the MH&L 2012 Salary Survey, as we share the anonymous comments of some of your peers as to what keeps them up at night, and what sends them back to work every day.

The Grass is Always Greener

“My salary is very good for the area I live in; my job situation is poor due to poor management (my bosses).” — materials manager with an industrial machinery producer with 6-10 years of experience, living in the North Central region and earning $44,000

“I see myself as underpaid for the region and job I do.” — operations manager with a food & beverage company with 26-plus years of experience, living in the Pacific region and earning $83,000

“Salary is below national scale. Situation is stable but no advancement opportunities.” — distribution/warehouse manager with a 3PL with 26-plus years of experience, living in the South Central region and earning $63,000

No matter how happy people are with their homes and situations, there’s often the nagging feeling that things just might be better in another part of the country. This feeling typically happens during the winter months in the Rust Belt, particularly when the Salary Survey results indicate that the highest average salaries are paid to managers in the Pacific ($94,046) and the South Central ($87,697), where the climates are indeed warmer and generally milder. That hardly seems fair.

And yet, consider that of all the places in the country that a supply chain-oriented professional might want to go, by far the best place to find a job is in the North Central region, aka the Midwest, for the simple reason that one-third (33%) of all the material handling and logistics managers in the country live and work there. The region with the second-most managers – the South Atlantic (17%) – has the advantage of nicer weather, but in fact has a lower average salary ($78,309) than the North Central ($80,149).

Quality of life plays a big part in where people choose to live, but as the recession made so vividly clear, and which can still be heard in the comments of the Salary Survey respondents, having a secure job in one’s chosen profession goes a long way to contributing to the quality of life.

All in a Day’s Work

“The company doesn’t care about having enough people or equipment to do the job right or paying you what your true worth is for the years you have in the field. I would just as soon get my CDL and get a job locally and be home every night.” – logistics manager with a transportation/warehousing company with 16-20 years of experience, living in the North Central region and earning $52,000

“I feel the company I work for understands the importance of logistics to their overall health and success, but still places it secondary to the merchandising and sales.” — operations manager with a retailer with 26-plus years of experience, living in the Middle Atlantic region and earning $113,500

“The biggest challenge that I face at this time is the attempt to change the company focus from a small family-owned company to part of a multi-billion dollar, multinational corporation.” — maintenance manager with a food & beverage company with 11-15 years of experience, living in the North Central region and earning $44,000

“As a consultant some of the biggest challenges I face are the difficult travel schedules that can arise depending on where the customer is located, and the uncertainty of when the next project will be signed.” — consultant with a consulting firm with 11-15 years of experience, living in the North Central region and earning $115,000

“There are always challenges for safety and production to work hand in hand. It helps keep the job interesting.” — safety manager with a transportation/warehousing company with 11-15 years of experience, living in the North Central region and earning $40,000

There is no single dominant industry that the majority of material handling and logistics managers work in. Separated by less than a percentage point, the top three sectors are transportation and warehousing, material handling equipment producers and metals/metal products manufacturers, all of which account for roughly 9% of the total, with wholesalers/distributors placing a close fourth at 8%. They also work in high-tech, consumer goods, automotive, retail, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, third-party logistics, and a couple handfuls of other industry verticals.

So on the average, which industry pays its supply chain talent the best? Electrical equipment took the top spot, with an average salary of $106,945, though the sample is pretty small, at just 2% of the total. With twice as big a sample (4%), both retail ($100,627) and chemicals ($97,531) were well ahead of the overall average salary. Pulling up the rear in terms of salaries were industrial machinery ($59,111) and paper/printing/publishing ($56,600).

Material handling and logistics is a predominantly male profession, at least at the management level, with 88% of the total. The disparity between male and female salaries remains large, and shocking, with males averaging $30,333 more than their female counterparts.

Since MH&L’s circulation by design is composed of senior management titles, it’s no surprise that corporate/executive managers lead the way with the highest average salary ($135,414). Also not surprisingly, senior/executive VPs had the second highest salary ($123,092), followed by engineering managers ($102,061).

Also as you would expect, those with the most experience (26-plus years) within the material handling and logistics profession had the highest salaries, averaging $99,120. Significantly, this is also the largest group, with 36% of all respondents having spent more than a quarter-century in the industry. In fact, 62% of all managers are over the age of 50.

Back to the Future

“Need to have trade schools that can teach the basics of material handling to the workers or those who want to work in this industry. We spend way too much time training folks with little or no experience to have them picked from us both internally and externally.” — inventory/materials manager with an energy company with 26-plus years of experience, living in the South Central region and earning $92,000

“I am personally ready for economic change. I would like to see operational budgets reappear, skilled employees applying for open positions and the latest technologies realistically priced.” – operations manager with a food & beverage producer with 21-25 years of experience, living in the Mountain region and earning $53,000

“The economic situation in this country has caused many companies to do more with less, which is causing employees to be burnt out and not at their best. I hope there is a change in the near future.” — corporate/executive manager with a transportation/warehousing company with 11-15 years of experience, living in the North Central and earning $75,000

While material handling and logistics managers tend to have long memories, by virtue of the extensive experience most of them have had in the industry, they are also passionate about training the next generation to follow them, and concerned that too few young men and women are seeking careers within the supply chain arena. When respondents were asked to name the biggest challenge facing the industry today, we heard answers such as: lack of new personnel; attracting quality people; an aging workforce; finding good employees; getting younger people interested in the industry; and older workers hanging on too long.

Another frequently heard response to that question was a variation on the theme “doing more with less,” which again ties in to the talent drain challenge. Nearly half (49%) of all respondents said they took on more responsibilities as a result of the recession, and based on the lack of movement in their salaries as well as frustration with the slowdown in hiring, many managers obviously are feeling stretched at both ends.

When we asked, “What matters most to you about your job?” though, the number one answer was not salary, but in fact, job stability (27% of the responses). Salary was the next most frequent answer, but it came in a distant second, with 17% of the responses. In a tie for third, with 12% of the responses, were “recognition of your importance to your company” and career advancement opportunities.

So what can we conclude about material handling and logistics managers? Many of them feel overworked and underpaid, certainly. They have yet to be convinced that the economy has rebounded, and they fear that rather than helping their industries bounce back, the government is preoccupied with pushing even more regulatory burdens on them. They are discouraged by the difficulty in finding good talent, but are firmly devoted to helping develop and train a new generation, if for no other reason than to continue their legacy.

Above all, they are committed to keeping the flow of goods moving, knowing that by ensuring the stability of the supply chain, they are also ensuring the economic security of their country. And when you think about it, that’s the kind of legacy that deserves to be continued.


Average Salary by Industry
Industry sector (% of response) Salary
Aerospace & Defense (3%) $95,700
Automotive/Transportation
Vehicles & Equipment (5%) $80,987
Chemicals (4%) $97,531
Computer & Electronic Products (2%) $75,441
Construction/Building Equipment (5%) $91,752
Consulting/Education (3%) $84,786
Consumer Goods/Durables (5%) $78,480
Electrical Equipment (2%) $106,945
Energy/Utilities (3%) $61,600
Food, Beverage & Tobacco (6%) $87,768
Furniture & Fixtures (2%) $93,143
Industrial Machinery (6%) $59,111
Material Handling Equipment (9%) $94,960
Metals/Metal Products (9%) $64,737
Paper/Printing/Publishing (2%) $56,600
Pharmaceuticals/Healthcare (2%) $99,180
Plastics & Rubber Products (2%) $73,318
Retail Trade (4%) $100,627
Third-Party Logistics Provider (4%) $81,345
Transportation/Warehousing (9%) $71,749
Wholesaler/Distributor (8%) $82,791
Other (e.g., Textiles, Public Sector) (5%) $92,213

Average Salary by Education Level
Highest level attained (% of response) Salary
High School (13%) $63,996
Some College (24%) $71,437
2-yr Degree (10%) $66,142
4-yr Bachelors Degree (28%) $94,958
Some Graduate Study (8%) $101,582
Master’s Degree or higher (16%) $96,667

Average Salary by Race
Ethnic background Salary
Asian or Pacific Islander (2%) $56,210
Black/African-American (4%) $56,267
Hispanic/Latino (5%) $76,515
White/Caucasian (86%) $83,515
Other (1%) $65,138
Prefer not to say (2%) $87,571

Average Salary by Gender
Gender (% of response) Salary
Male (88%) $88,260
Female (12%) $57,927

Average Salary by Company Size
Annual corporate revenues (% of response) Salary
Less than $25 million (33%) $76,188
$25-50 million (13%) $74,879
$51-100 million (10%) $66,782
$101-500 million (14%) $78,360
$501 million-$1 billion (8%) $83,530
$1 billion-$20 billion (14%) $95,474
More than $20 billion (8%) $105,321

Average Salary by Age
Age (% of response) Salary
21-29 (3%) $47,033
30-39 (10%) $66,790
40-49 (25%) $76,948
50-59 (42%) $81,477
60+ (20%) $93,761

Average Salary by Experience
Years in material handling and
logistics industry (% of response) Salary
0-2 (6%) $56,786
3-5 (6%) $54,435
6-10 (9%) $63,640
11-15 (13%) $80,136
16-20 (16%) $75,357
21-25 (14%) $78,594
26+ (36%) $99,120

Average Salary by Seniority
Years with current company (% of response) Salary
0-2 (10%) $71,647
3-5 (16%) $70,906
6-10 (20%) $71,509
11-15 (14%) $96,589
16-20 (12%) $83,057
21-25 (10%) $77,448
26+ (18%) $99,010

Average Salary by Staff Size
Number of employees
you manage (% of response) Salary
0-10 (65%) $75,166
11-25 (19%) $86,484
26-50 (7%) $105,355
51-100 (4%) $89,833
More than 100 (5%) $109,130

How has your company’s staffing changed over the past year?
Reduced staff 31%
Added staff 39%
No change 30%

Average Salary by Job Responsibility
Position (% of response) Salary
Consultant (4%) $77,722
Corporate/Executive Management (CEO,
COO, CFO, President, GM, etc.) (13%) $135,414
Distribution/Warehouse/Logistics
Manager (17%) $69,539
Engineering Manager (4%) $102,061
Inventory/Materials Manager (6%) $59,606
Maintenance Manager (2%) $53,000
Operations Manager (10%) $79,997
Plant/Manufacturing Manager (7%) $73,527
Purchasing/Sourcing Manager (5%) $70,715
Quality Manager (1%) $63,500
Safety Manager (4%) $63,111
Sales/Business Development Manager (7%) $69,477
Senior/Executive VP (4%) $123,092
Supply Chain Manager (4%) $92,176
Transportation/Fleet/Traffic Manager (5%) $59,404
Other (Customer Service, HR, etc.) (6%) $63,356

How satisfied are you with
your current job?
(% of response) 2012 2011
Very satisfied 26% 25%
Satisfied 40% 44%
Neither satisfied nor unsatisfied 22% 20%
Unsatisfied 9% 9%
Very unsatisfied 3% 2%

Will you be looking for a new job in 2012?
No 45%
Maybe, if the right opportunity comes along 39%
Yes, seeking a new job at another company 13%
Yes, seeking a new job within same company 2%

How satisfied are you with material handling and logistics as a career path?
(% of response) 2012 2011
Very satisfied 28% 28%
Satisfied 44% 42%
Neither satisfied nor unsatisfied 25% 26%
Unsatisfied 1% 3%
Very unsatisfied 1% 1%

Average Salary by Geographic Region
Region (% of response) Salary
■ New England (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT) (6%) $70,795
■ Middle Atlantic (NJ, NY, PA) (12%) $81,290
■ South Atlantic (DC, DE, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, VA, WV) (17%) $78,309
■ North Central (IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD, WI) (33%) $80,149
■ South Central (AL, AR, KY, LA, MS, OK, TN, TX) (14%) $87,697
■ Mountain (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, UT, WY) (6%) $77,770
■ Pacific (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA) (11%) $94,046
Other North America (Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico) (1%) $76,883

What matters most to you about your job?
(% of response)
Job Stability 27%
Base Salary 17%
Recognition of Your Importance to Company 12%
Career Advancement Opportunities 12%
Benefits 10%
Flexible Schedule 7%
Company’s Recognition of the Importance
of Material Handling and Logistics 7%
Relationships with Co-Workers 2%
Continuing Education/Training 2%
Vacation Time 1%
Other (e.g., sustainability, integrity, mentoring) 3%

Do you anticipate getting a raise to your base salary in 2012?
(% of response)
Yes, between 1-3% 36%
Yes, between 3-5% 15%
Yes, more than 5% 5%
No 44%

What is your annual bonus?
(% of response) 2012 2011
Less than $1,000 12% 10%
$1,000-$5,000 21% 18%
$5,001-$10,000 12% 12%
$10,001-$25,000 12% 11%
More than $25,000 10% 10%
None 33% 39%

When was your most
recent promotion?
Within the past 12 months 11%
Within the past 1-2 years 13%
Within the past 3-5 years 24%
More than 5 years ago 52%

Do you have professional certification?
(% of response) Salary
Yes 30% $125,788
No 70% $82,007

Do you feel certification enhances job security and your market value?
Yes 53%
No 47%

Change in Base Salary Over Previous Year
(% of response) 2012 2011 2010
Increased more than 5% 9% 6% 5%
Increased 3-5% 17% 13% 9%
Increased 1-3% 27% 23% 12%
No change 40% 45% 56%
Decreased 1-3% 2% 3% 3%
Decreased 3-5% 2% 3% 4%
Decreased more than 5% 4% 7% 11%

What was the biggest impact of the recession on you and your job?
Took on more responsibilities 49%
Found ways to be more productive 21%
No impact 16%
Productivity dropped 8%
Like your job less 4%
Not equipped to do job adequately 2%