In 1995, I was launching a B2B magazine covering the home medical equipment market. Then, post-surgery equipment and technology found in hospitals was becoming so advanced it could be made portable, allowing a patient to head home and receive similar treatment.
Many were skeptical that pushing this level of “care” home might have a negative effect. However, the home medical equipment dealers felt that improved communication and a more efficient way to fill equipment orders would help ease concern. It was around this time when I met the team at Medline, a distributor and manufacturer of home medical equipment.
The Internet was in its infancy, and e-mail had yet to extend outside of the four walls of most companies. However, a Medline executive explained how they were working on a system to turn the telephone into a way to order home care equipment and accessories and also drill down into any specific information by pressing a few buttons—super advanced telephony.
The concept was before Web as we know it, putting capabilities into a phone that would be done online five or six years later. I was so impressed I remember the lunch 27 years later.
Now, we find the same innovative company on the cover of Modern for the second time in seven years, once again highlighting how they build on their culture of innovation to meet modern-day challenges. Starting on page 18, executive editor Bob Trebilcock takes us inside Medline’s 1.4-million-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in Grayslake, Ill., that leverages their experience with goods-to-person robotics.
“In 2013, Medline worked with Swisslog to become the first company in the U.S. to implement a robotic goods-to-person solution from AutoStore,” says Trebilcock. “That first implementation sported 43 bots in a relatively small area plus four goods-to-person workstations. It was a bold move at the time, but not surprising considering they were already using high levels of automation across their network.”
As Trebilcock shares, the 43 bots expanded to 1,463 bots across 18 sites, including 135 bots in the “flagship” facility in Grayslake—with more on the way. “They refer to it internally as the ‘fourth-generation design’ and incorporates the lessons learned over nine years.”
We hope Medline’s spirit of continuous innovation rubs off on readers, especially on the heels of our “2022 Warehouse/DC Operations Survey.” On page 60, senior editor Roberto Michel puts context around this annual survey that gives a snapshot of warehouse/DC trends.
As Michel reports, the last few years saw fairly robust budget planning for warehouse and DC automation. So, taking the current global and economic climate into consideration, we probably shouldn’t be too surprised that our research team found respondents being a little more conservative—perhaps a little more contemplative.
“Keep in mind we did find sizable automation budgets and continued strong interest in warehouse technology,” says Michel. “But the survey shows that operations are being tugged in every direction, with the global supply disruptions of the last couple of years having a lot to do with that. I think it’s a year for ‘recalibration’ using different levers, like trying to increase inventory turns or rethinking DC networks.”