Over 100 representatives of the European materials handling industry met on 13-14 September in Antwerp to bring forward exciting trends that are changing the industry and find solutions for the challenges ahead. The Congress was hosted by Agoria, the member of FEM representing technology industries in Belgium.

After two days of product-specific meetings, all the delegates joined on Friday for the General Assembly of the association. Jos de Vuyst, CEO at Stow and the Averys Group was elected President of FEM. Already President of the FEM Racking & Shelving Product Group, Jos had also been Vice-President of FEM in the past two years. "During my mandate as President of FEM, I want quick and positive evolutions rather than big revolutions", he said. He announced, among his priorities a Vision Paper to present to newly elected European decision-makers next year and the development of closer ties with strategic business partners such as logistic service providers and rental companies.

"Innovating today to deliver tomorrow" was the theme of the conference that Marc Lambotte, CEO of Agoria, kicked off with a reality check: who is the new generation, what characterises them and how can we better connect with them?

Christophe Lautray, FEM Former President, then presented the FEM Smart Logistics Challenge, a student competition that FEM launched with the aim of connecting with university students by giving them the chance to put forward their ideas on the future of the materials handling industry. 571 applications later, the 6 winners were designated. They had already secured a 6-month paid internship in one of the 6 companies partners to the project: Balyo, Linde Material Handling, SSI Schaefer, STOW, Toyota Material Handling and Vanderlande. They were also invited to pitch their concept to industry leaders and experts in the 3 themes of the competition: Enablers of e-commerce, Co-botics in logistics 4.0 and Logistics in a Sharing Economy.

Three of them went home with additional awards: the TrendSpotter Award (highest number of online votes), the FEM Congress Award (best pitch) and the Grand Jury Prize (best concept overall).

In his closing remarks, Malte Lohan, Director General of Orgalime, put the debates into the broader context of the future of the European manufacturing industries. He stressed that younger generations are driven by technologies with a purpose, not just for businesses but also for people and planet.

The 2018 FEM Congress marked an important evolution for the biennial landmark event of the European materials handling industry: enlarging the discussion on exciting industrial and societal trends to young talents that are the industry of tomorrow.

A detailed report of the event, including videos of all the pitches and presentations is available on FEM website.