Considering the early reports, there’s a pretty good chance you’re reading this column while taking a break from the show floor at ProMat 2023 in Chicago. If you are, then welcome back—and enjoy these few precious moments to give your feet a rest.
The 2023 edition of ProMat—produced by show sponsor MHI—features more than 1,000 exhibitors spread across 560,000 square feet of exhibit space. And yes, that’s 35% bigger than the 2019 edition, which was the last time this event was held in-person.
If you’re just arriving at the show, starting on page 16 we offer a collection of about 150 products being highlighted on the floor by some of the market’s leading equipment, software, automation and robotics vendors. This collection should help you plan out of few visits on the floor.
And to keep you up on all the happenings, Modern is once again producing the official ProMat Show Daily, with print editions being distributed Monday through Wednesday at the entrance to the show as well as online editions blasting the entire week to your inbox—so we’ll keep you informed if you’re stuck home.
We have a force of eight editorial staff on the ground this year to produce the Daily, covering all the press conferences and dozens of booth visits—delivering, by far, the most comprehensive show coverage available in the market.
So, what sort of vibe are we expecting at the show this year? We just wrapped up our “2023 Warehouse and Distribution Center (DC) Equipment Survey,” an annual project we do through Peerless Research Group (PRG) in conjunction with supply chain engineering and logistics consulting firm St. Onge Company to take the temperature of materials handling automation, equipment, and related software spending.
This year, the message is still optimistic, just not as zealous as we found in early 2022. “If the spigot on materials handling system investments was wide open last year,” says senior editor Roberto Michel, “now we see a slightly more conservative approach revealed, as if there’s some fiddling of that spigot to find just the right flow of spending on automation to arrive at productivity gains that will help contain costs over the longer term.”
In terms biggest concerns, “cost containment” grew the most as the top issue that needs to be addressed over the next two years, while “labor availability” continues to be the biggest concern today, even amidst the layoff news we’ve been inundated with recently.
Cutting to the chase on the outlook on budgets, this year 23% tell us they are “holding off” on investing, that’s up 7% from last year’s 15%. Only 12% say that the economy is having “little or no impact” on their spending plans, versus 15% last year.
This year’s results also found that 32% of respondents are proceeding with investments, down 4% from last year’s strong findings, while the “wait-and-see” response grew slightly, from 33% last year to 34% this year.
Of those who say they’re “proceeding” with investment, the strongest interest is in automation technology, up from 59% last year, to 72% this year—an impressive leap that bodes well for the energy in Chicago.