ProMat 2011: Was that a show or what?

Optimism and innovation were on display in Chicago

By ·

I don’t know about you, but I had a ball at ProMat 2011. I heard optimistic outlooks from companies as diverse as Big Ass Fans, which was introducing a new portable fan for industrial spaces, and Murata, which unveiled a new mini-load storage and retrieval solution. I’ve already written about the hybrid lift truck/AGVs introduced by Egemin and Dematic.

I left with a couple of takeaways and a few things I want to learn more about.

Goods-to-person appears to be taking hold: Dematic, TGW, Murata and Kiva were just four of the automation suppliers demonstrating their take on goods-to-person picking. If you’re not familiar with the concept, instead of sending an order selector from one picking location to the next to pick cartons or pieces, in a goods-to-person solution, automation delivers totes to the order selector. It seems to be an idea whose time has come, especially in facilities with enough volume to justify automation.

Voice is exciting these days: There was lots of talk among the automatic data capture vendors about what the Intermec/Vocollect deal might mean for those two companies. At the same time, I listened to strong presentations on voice at LXE, Motorola, Lucas Systems, Voxware, Aldata and Datria. There’s a lot of interest in eyes free/hands free and multi-modal data collection. 

Innovation isn’t limited to just the industry giants: The big guns of the industry I mentioned above displayed some really interesting new products. But one of my favorite visits was with Dan Hanrahan, president of The Numina Group, as he showed off a new system to automatically print and apply a packing slip underneath a removable carrier shipping label. I was also impressed with the portable A-frame exhibited by SI Handling.

I want to learn more about ….  The robotic piece picking solution that was on display at SSI Schaefer. The system picked relatively small consumer packaged items, like tubes of toothpaste from a conveyor or tote and placed them in shipping containers. One of Schaefer’s representatives told me an example of the system is up and running in Brazil.

I also want to learn more about …. How our European counterparts are rethinking their relationship with warehouse and distribution center associates. During a presentation about CeMAT, the upcoming European materials handling show, Wolfgang Pech, executive vice president of the show sponsor Deutsche Messe, described the theme for the upcoming show as Sustainability In Intralogistics, an approach that brings together environmental, economic and social justice concerns for the industry. I’m not sure what that means or how it translates to a U.S. audience, but I want to learn more.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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