John Paxton Joins MHI as COO / CEO Designate


Emerging technologies will shape the future of material handling, noted John Paxton, as a stalwart of the industry stepped into his new role as Chief Operating Officer / Chief Executive Officer Designate at MHI this month (September).

Paxton brings over three decades of relevant experience to the position, including over 20 years as an executive leader at crane and hoist manufacturer Demag Cranes & Components, a member company. He is also recognized for volunteer leadership, including tenure as President of the association’s overhead lifting product groups, namely the Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA), Hoist Manufacturers Institute (HMI), and Monorail Manufacturers Association (MMA), in addition to serving as Chairman of the Board at MHI.

Current CEO George Prest will remain at the helm through December 2020, when Paxton will transition to the lead role. Indeed, Prest referenced “the road to 2020” frequently in his early days as the association’s leader. Gazing further forward, the latest version of the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics 2.0, an effort led by MHI, reported: “No place is the rate of change faster than among the technologies that drive supply chain, logistics, and material handling, and that will be the case through 2030.”

It’s a climate that will shape Paxton’s long-term role and more immediate focus as he assumes management of MHI’s varied Industry Groups and the Solutions Community. He said: “One key area that we’re working on at the Industry Group level is engagement of emerging technologies. The industry is changing very quickly as we address robotics, automation, blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and big data, etc. We need to support MHI member companies as they equip themselves for growth and these technologies continue to advance and are rapidly adopted.”

Paxton’s wealth of experience in material handling, specifically in overhead lifting, is a strong foundation to build on as MHI tackles this challenge. In addition, Demag’s warehouse and distribution centers utilized a myriad of material handling systems including automated storage and retrieval systems, fork lifts, conveyors, racks, and loading docks inside their supply chain operations, which also provides the perspective of the user. These types of products and systems are currently addressed within fifteen MHI Industry Groups.

“It was only when the pieces started to come together that I began to consider my suitability for the position [at MHI],” Paxton explained. “I was in a transition period and the timing was right given that the MHI board was starting to implement the CEO succession plan. I’d recently rolled off my term as Chairman, which affords me yet another perspective that I can draw upon. I acknowledge that I still have to learn as much as possible about the MHI operations, the product solutions, the member companies, and their customers so that I will be well versed when the transition is complete.”

Paxton’s experience

Paxton has a wealth of knowledge about the overhead lifting industry—and will serve the three aforementioned Industry Groups as managing executive. In this role, he will oversee activity and provide support during and between meetings, which typically take place at the association’s spring meetings and larger, annual conference in the fall.

He said: “What I can bring to the groups is process, best practices, and a focus on execution, as the high performing MHI staff drives to fulfill our mission to ‘Deliver Member Value Every Day’. With a commitment to high levels of organization we can define and execute best practices to ensure all groups are running to deliver the highest level of value to our members. If we identify groups that are gaining more traction than others, we will look to their methods and see if certain processes can be implemented by their peers.”

MHI’s Overhead Alliance, a marketing group that explores the collective interests of CMAA, HMI, and MMA has already been referred to by MHI as, “an early and successful example of member companies forming strong ties to the user community,” and Paxton encouraged such collaborations across groups beyond marketing and promotional endeavors. He explained: “It’s the sentiment of members that we retain product groups as they focus on specific technologies, engineering and solutions, but we also bring larger membership groups together to explore collective themes and challenges.”

For instance, the MHI Solutions Community connects users and suppliers in the warehouse and distribution sectors and the EASE industry group brings together products that focus on ergonomics and safety solutions in material handling.

“Providing members with homes to focus on specific material handling technologies as well as collective groups for user outreach provides a structure for both technology focus and customer outreach,” said Paxton. “The Overhead Alliance, Solutions Community, and EASE are great examples of how that process works.”

In conclusion, Paxton added: “All organizations are looking to grow but it’s important to remember that MHI growth in membership and expansion of our shows [ProMat and MODEX] will only be achieved by providing member value—that’s our focus. MHI’s core member values are: Collaboration, Market Access, Market Intelligence, Networking, Professional Development, Thought Leadership, and Workforce Development. We have an excellent team at MHI and I look forward to serving them with my leadership experience and a dynamic forward-thinking approach as we embrace the challenges ahead.”

MHI’s Prest said: “John’s experience as the leader of a major material handling manufacturing enterprise and his volunteer leadership at MHI brings a unique perspective on the needs of both our members and users, which will serve him well in his new role.”

Paxton holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the Ohio State University and an MBA in International Business from Kent State University.

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