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Empowering Innovation: Insights and Integration from ISS Material Handling

This is John Fontaine. I’m working with Tom Compton, President of Industrial Shelving Systems (ISS) and the ISS Sales team, to build upon the excellent reputation established by his family’s company over the past 60 years and establish ISS Material Handling as a trusted Integration Partner for high-quality Material Handling Automation solutions. I am excited to publish a series of informative blog posts that are actually written by a real person, me! 


These blog posts are aimed at decision-makers ranging from Warehouse Supervisors to the Vice President-level. My hope is that the posts provide:


  • An improved level of knowledge
  • Heightened awareness
  • Informed and diverse perspective
  • With all of the above in mind, a useful reference when evaluating prospective solutions.
  • (the obvious one) Encouragement to reach out to schedule a conversation with one of our engineers


Are you ready to Automate?


The Material Handling function of many large supply chains will always be dominated by large companies that balance reliability while having the capital to ensure the latest proven automation technology is in place. What I have seen having walked the floor of many small to mid-sized manufacturers and distributors, however, is that many material handling processes especially in specialized or heavy duty manufacturing are still performed manually and are employee-involved, while cost-effective technology to automate the particular task has existed for several years. Typical to the adoption of new technology in any industry, we have found some customers hesitant to embark on automation-related upgrades to their operations for the following reasons:


  • Cost
  • Fear of failure
  • “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality
  • Don’t know where to begin
  • Employee pushback
  • General uncertainty


A competent integrator should be able to look a prospective partner in the eye and address these (very valid!) reasons one by one. The topics I choose for these posts will vary widely, but answering these concerns remains one of their principal purposes. 


Change Management


Even if one or two team members are bought-in to embracing new technology, the entire team must clearly understand and support a project in order to maximize the success of a new solution. Our outside sales team has been trained to ensure time is taken with the customer to address any change management measures recommended either by observations or by customer request, to ensure buy-in for the solution is in place prior to go-live.


Our Process


Automation solutions, ranging from individual components to complex integrated systems, inherently demand a higher degree of project management quality, testing, and support. ISS Material Handling will always adhere to a strict process, especially taking care to prevent compressing test schedules regardless of go-live date pressures, in order to ensure an effective solution is delivered consistently. Our process, broken down into many granular steps using the Smartsheet program, is outlined below. 

I’ll write a separate blog post to delve further into this process. Like any process, there must be an understanding of the “why” that helps the team manage when to adhere to and modify any step. Before each sale, the team should meet to ensure all steps make sense and if any should be modified. After completion the team should meet to discuss and incorporate lessons learned.


Why ISS Material Handling?


The automation integrator space is growing more crowded by the day. As we guide ISS Material Handling (ISSMH) along a responsible growth path, we hope our reputation and track record will always be the number one driver for new customers to choose to reach out and do business with us. I thought I would take a moment to describe my outlook for the ISS Material Handling brand definition.


The same brand and industry position that has been established during the history of ISS should be the foundation of ISSMH. It’s my strong opinion that a company can only grow and evolve effectively while adhering to unchanging principles. In the case of ISS and ISSMH, the following will always remain in place as guiding principles:

  • Help the Customer
    • Listen First Always and Provide Advice to the Customer
  • Employ Excellent People - Operate with Integrity above all else
  • Provide High Quality Solutions that Drive Wins for the Customer, in other words, ensure we partner with the best possible material handling manufacturers
  • Provide Excellent Customer Service Pre- and Post-Sale
  • Prioritize Long-Term Relationships over Short Term Revenue

Of course if you already have a project in mind, we encourage you to reach out via our Contact form to schedule a conversation. Additionally, if you’re a manufacturer in the State of Missouri, we strongly recommend attending next month’s Missouri Association of Manufacturers Trade Show in Branson, MO. We’ll have a booth there and are very excited to meet more of our industry peers. Looking forward to the next blog post! 

About the Author

John Fontaine

Automation Sales Lead

After a 9 year career as an officer in the US Navy Submarine Force, John developed vital experience in the advanced manufacturing and unmanned systems with business development roles at two major defense contractors. In directing the growth of ISS Material Shelving, a division of Industrial Shelving Systems, John’s mission is clear: to remain thoroughly customer-focused, ensuring that businesses who partner with ISS Material Handling seize the right opportunities for automation adoption, fueling responsible growth amidst challenging economic circumstances. When not in the office, John enjoys all things music, cooking, and fitness.

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