Modex: Back from the new show
Last week, the Modern team was in Atlanta at Modex, the new material handling and supply chain show. Going into the show, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, a sentiment that was expressed by a number of exhibitors I spoke to prior to the start of the event.
I’m happy to report that it appeared well-attended, the energy level was great and no one I spoke to wished we were in Detroit or Cleveland in February, rather than Atlanta, where the weather was gorgeous. More importantly, most of the vendors I spoke to said that attendees had projects in mind. I left with a couple of key takeaways, based on the press conferences I attended and the booths I was able to visit.
Robotic material handling is getting interesting: Robots have been on the factory floor for decades but are just now making inroads into warehousing and distribution applications – mostly around palletizing. For instance, I saw some really exciting solutions for robotic palletizing at Kuka Systems, including a solution to pick layers of mixed products of varying sizes. Kuka was also highlighting a mobile robot to transport pallets or conveyor from station to station in a facility. Meanwhile, Intelligrated was showing a solution for depalletizing. That moves robots from the end of the manufacturing or order fulfillment line into other operations in the warehouse or DC.
It’s all about software: Not so long ago, the conversations with equipment providers focused on their machines while conversations with the WMS companies focused on software. Today, it’s software that is making possible some of the most innovative handling solutions, like the shuttle solutions for goods-to-person picking touted by Dematic, Knapp, TGW and SSI Schaefer.
Don’t ignore the low-hanging fruit: Like most people, I’m a sucker for the Gee Whiz factor – the new equipment that I’ve never seen before. At the Interroll booth, I learned about a major cosmetics manufacturer that was generating tremendous savings by converting a decades old conveyor system to motor driven rollers. It was a reminder that there’s a lot to be said for picking the low-hanging fruit first.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list. There were so many booths I didn’t have time to visit. But it was a reminder that innovation is alive and well in our industry.