This Month in Modern: Investment and innovation are alive and well

This month in Modern, we find a couple early indications that this positive wave will continue, and the buzz at Promat 2019 could be even louder.

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If you were walking with me during Modex last month, you would have heard me utter the words: “This may be the busiest trade show floor I’ve ever seen.” Aisles were packed, sometimes impassable, and excitement was in the air. This event was simply the embodiment, the pure validation of a few themes we’ve been discussing in the pages of Modern over the past 18 months.

First and foremost, investment and the intention to invest in equipment, software and automated solutions that we’ve seen illustrated in our reader survey numbers over the past year is, indeed, real. I lost count of how many times suppliers told me they had been engaged in more “real business conversations” than in any show in years past.

Second, the spirit of innovation is alive and well. This Modex will perhaps be best known for displaying the software, automation, sensors and robotics designed for better connecting the nodes of the supply chain—showcasing the pieces of the digital network that will speed commerce outside the four walls, and streamline work for a diminishing labor force inside.

When I caught up with Norm Saenz, managing director of St. Onge and a frequent contributor to Modern, he was equally as inspired with the vibe and just as bullish on the near future of the materials handling market as it begins to play a bigger role in the digital supply chain network that so many organizations are striving to understand and implement.

“There are a few elements at work,” Saenz told me. “As long as we have the e-commerce fulfillment challenge mixed with the lack of a skilled labor force, we’re going to continue to feel that energy to invest and innovate. The challenges are real, the innovative solutions are available, so now organizations are exploring how it all fits together.”

This month in Modern, we find a couple early indications that this positive wave will continue, and the buzz at Promat 2019 could be even louder. Editor at large Bridget McCrea puts context behind the findings of Modern’s 2018 “Usage and Implementation of Warehouse and DC Automation Solutions” that was fielded in January to assess usage and purchase intentions for automation systems.

“The bottom line is that companies certainly expect to spend more on materials handling equipment and solutions than last year,” says McCrea. “And a key driver is certainly the labor shortage. As it becomes more difficult to recruit and retain, organizations believe automation will help them manage the shortage while maintaining productivity and profitability.”

And, as executive editor Bob Trebilcock reports this month, as those challenges mount, the vendor community is saying, “bring it on.” He offers a terrific follow up to his 2017 piece on the role of innovation in materials handling technology development.

“From my reporting and experience at Modex, I discovered innovation is alive and well in our market,” says Trebilcock. “Large players and startups are dedicating resources to innovation teams to look for how to apply tomorrow’s technologies to their solutions—and it’s one of the reasons why I find this to be the most exciting time in my career.

About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]

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