Black Leaders Who Changed the Supply Chain Industry

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What better way to observe Black History Month than to recognize some notable Black inventors who contributed to the supply chain and logistics industry.

What better way to observe Black History Month than to recognize some notable Black inventors who contributed to the supply chain and logistics industry. I had a great time doing this research and learning about these important contributions. Let me know if there are others we should highlight as well!

Frederick McKinley Jones: inventor of the first automatic refrigeration system for trucks.

Picture it, a nice hot summer day, and you’re in the mood for ice cream or froyo. As you look over the flavor choices available, it may never dawn on you that the product had to sit on a truck for hours (but stay frozen!) while being transported. In transit, that product was likely kept cold through an invention that changed the the way we ship goods and foods that require refrigeration.

Frederick McKinley Jones is the African American inventor who created the automatic refrigeration system for long haul trucks and railroad cars, and founded the company, Thermo King.

Fun Fact: Frederick McKinley Jones was inducted in the 2010 Minnesota Science & Technology Hall of Fame.

Frederick McKinley Jones

Garrett Morgan: inventor of the three-position traffic signal

Sitting at the stop light on your way to grab a coffee, maybe make a quick run to Target, or just cruising around to get out of the house (the new normal of remote work).

The red, yellow, green stop light you see is more than just a traffic signal. It’s part of American history, part of Black history, and is one of Garrett Morgan's many inventions.

His invention was a T-Shaped pole that had three positions for stop, go, and all-direction stop. Morgan’s invention received a patent in 1923, and we now see many variations of the model he created.

When we think of supply chain and logistics, a traffic light may not be our initial thought, but is definitely part of the process as trucks leave warehouses and deliver shipments to stores and packages to our homes and encounter traffic lights.

Fun Fact: There’s a Morgan Boulevard in Landover, Maryland, and Garrett Morgan School of Engineering & Innovation in Cleveland, OH.

garrett morgan

Elijah McCoy: inventor of groundbreaking innovations in industrial lubrication

Once upon a time trains ran slow and had to make frequent stops to have lubrication applied as part of maintenance for performance. With the fast paced movements trains are able to make today, it took a unique invention to enable an auto-lubrication process.

Elijah McCoy is an Black inventor from Canada that invented one of the many automatic lubricators for trains, and patented it in 1872 as “Improvement in Lubricators for Steam-Engines”.

It wasn’t until 1920 that he formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company to produce his oil lubricators with McCoy company name.

Fun Fact: There are 5 U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices, and the Midwest region UPTO in Detroit, MI is named The Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office (MWRO) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Elijah McCoy

Granville T Woods: inventor of the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph

"Your order is ready for pick up!"

It’s the notification we anxiously await for our item(s) to arrive. So, you head over to your local package pick up, and you realize traffic is backed up due to a train that’s stuck on the tracks. Welp, now as you figure an alternate route, you wonder how long the train will remain stuck on the tracks. Imagine in the 1800s when there were no technology advances for cell phones or the internet.

Meet Granville T Woods, the African American inventor of the “Inductor Telegraph”. This multiplex telegraph was invented in 1887, and allowed communication by voice over telegraph wires, which aided in speeding up messages to reduce errors and train accidents.

Fun Fact: Granville T Woods was inducted in 2006 to the National Inventors Hall of Fame

granville t wood

Thanks for learning about important contributions to the supply chain and logistics industry made by Black inventors. Let me know if there are others we should learn about and feature!

By Ronald Marsh
written on February 17, 2022

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