60 Seconds With… Brian McNamara, retired president and CEO of Southworth

Modern's editor sat down with Brian to discuss his career and the industry.

Brian McNamara

Modern's editor sat down with Brian to discuss his career and the industry.

Brian McNamara, Industry leader

Title: Retired president and CEO, Southworth Products

Location: Hampton, N.H.

Experience: 40 years in the materials handling industry

Modern: Nice to see you again, Brian. If people have a sense of déjà vu, they’re right. You were on this page in August of 2020 on the occasion of your retirement. But this time is different.

At the MHI annual meeting in October, you were presented with the Norman L. Cahners Industry Award for lifetime achievement in the materials handling industry. Why did you dedicate so much of your time and efforts for the past four decades to this industry and MHI?

McNamara: As I entered this industry, it quickly became obvious that effective material handling was a foundational and often a defining component of any successful manufacturing, distribution or retail operation. Specifically, moving the right things to the right place at the right time by the most efficient, safe and secure means is critical across all industries.

There is a timeless simplicity to this material handling goal, but the evolution of timely advances over the decades of my involvement has been anything but simple.

Efficient movement through supply chains, concerns ever expanding goods with new demands for packaging and load configurations as well as new requirements for data and information availability at lightning speed. Being a part of all this has been fascinating and fun.

Modern: Norman Cahners would have agreed with you on all of that. Norman was the founding publisher of Modern Materials Handling in 1945. From this magazine, he built a leading B2B publishing company, but remained focused on materials handling and its industry association.

Today, that group is known as MHI, which sponsors the award. You spent many years, actually decades, leading various MHI committees on the commercial and academic side of the industry. What about MHI captured your attention and focus?

McNamara: Although Southworth, my daytime job, made solid contributions to efficient and ergonomic material handling, we, like so many other suppliers in this industry, were only a sliver of the total solution. MHI is made up of hundreds of sliver solution providers, but has developed a unique ability to educate the marketplace through its steadfast commitment to provide broad understandings of material handling theories, practices, technologies and benefits.

MHI does this through its shows, industry groups and both university and vocational institutions to remain an unmatched resource benefiting all involved. MHI made Southworth and many others bigger and better.

Modern: Can you elaborate?

McNamara: Our companies often need to be narrowly and internally focused to commercially survive. The broad ecosystem of MHI provides many opportunities for individual companies to accomplish things in this wider community that they could never do on their own—especially in the areas of education of themselves and their customers.

Modern: So, now we get personal. Are you personally satisfied with the time and effort you put in to inclusively grow the industry?

McNamara: As I have stated many times, I have always received more than I have given to MHI. I truly mean it. Being involved provided me with a guidebook of our industry. I learned about the broader industry, observed the playbooks of many successful companies, and was directly and indirectly mentored by some of the best corporate leaders around. It was like achieving a free advanced degree in how to succeed in the materials handling business.

Brian McNamara