MODEX 2024 Recap: First Impressions, Show Standouts, and Missed Opportunities

MODEX 2024 brought together the entire supply chain ecosystem to showcase end-to-end solutions, including traditional equipment, sustainability, workforce, automation, robotics, and emerging technologies. We were on the show floor—here are the key takeaways from Senior Analyst Adhish Luitel and Industry Analyst Ryan Wiggin.

First Impressions


This was my second time at MODEX after 2022. In MODEX 2022, there was a wide variety of differentiated solutions on display. During this MODEX, there was very visible movement of vendors moving from siloed and specific solutions to integrated solutions supporting platform and device-agnostic ecosystems. An automation ecosystem with multiple solutions at the forefront of warehousing digitalization was still a major focus; Zebra did this very well by combining wearables and handheld devices with machine vision solutions and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). Bringing different elements of automation into the existing environment was the key theme this year.

Compared to ProMat last year, we saw a lot of differences in AMR form factors. ProMat focused a lot on heavier AMRs that could carry large loads. Compared to that, the focus was more on Collaborative Robots (cobots) that can work alongside humans or on modular solutions like Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems (AS/RS). We could see a wide variety of cobots from a wide range of vendors. This seems to be the clear opportunity for a lot of robotics vendors in terms of “retrofitting” existing warehousing operations with automation, and cobots seem to be the most ideal low-hanging fruit.

Figure 1: 6 River Systems’ Chuck AMR

6 River Systems’ Chuck AMR


Compared to ProMat last year, there was a definite change in focus on the supply chain industry. ProMat was all about new functionalities for automation and software, with both established and emerging vendors showcasing a wide variety of solutions expanding to new form factors. This year’s Modex had a different sentiment, with most vendors focusing primarily on implementing their solutions, rather than showcasing anything new.

ProMat was all about AMRs, while Modex had a more balanced showing. AS/RS solutions are steadily maturing, autonomous forklifts are gaining popularity, robotic picking arm vendors are finding their niche, and most vendors have established or begun to explore partnerships with complementary technologies to build packaged solutions for end users.

Overall, Modex gave the impression that much of the hype around robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in material handling is giving way to the necessary focus on how to implement these technologies, what pain points in what industry they can best resolve, and how to establish the best channels to bring the technology to market.

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Show Standouts


The variety of AS/RS solutions on display was a lot bigger compared to previous years and they seem to be getting a lot better. Ocado Intelligent Automation (OIA) had a very impressive AS/RS offering. As Ocado has been trying to venture outside of the food grocery industry, it was able to bring the nimbleness and flexibility of its renowned AS/RS solution to other industries, focusing on fulfillment automation. Other notable AS/RS vendors at the show included AutoStore, Kardex, and HWArobotics.

Figure 2: LG Electronics’ Private 5G Solutions and Digital Twin

LG Electronics’ Private 5G solutions and Digital Twin

Robots with obscure form factors, such as dogs or humanoids, were more on the gimmicky side. While they are undoubtedly very cool to look at, there are doubts about whether this is the best form factor for moving goods within the warehouse. Agility Robotics did showcase how humanoid robots are merely a piece of the warehouse robotics puzzle and do not give the whole picture, but with deployment costs to consider, this might prove to be a very expensive (and inefficient) piece of the puzzle. It will be interesting to see how this sub-market will take shape in the coming years.

Innovations in inbound/outbound material handling surpassed my expectations; particularly what I saw at Mujin and Slip Robotics' booths. Both companies showed very unique added value in the relatively untapped inbound/outbound material handling space. Their solutions looked much more refined compared to what was exhibited during ProMat last year.

Mujin displayed its latest advancements in a container/truck unloading system called the TruckBot. It is tailor-made to handle larger and heavier boxes with improved efficiency. Mujin showed how this solution can be complemented with its palletizing robots to ensure efficiency in sorting and stacking goods, enhancing the logistics workflow.

Meanwhile, Slip Robotics demonstrated its automated trailer load/unload system. Its multidirectional robots are designed to carry multiple full pallets and a total of over 5 tons. It is capable of autonomously driving into a truck trailer from the load/unload gate outside the warehouse. Having the forklift operators not enter the trailer and instead just load and unload pallets from and to docks could be quite a lucrative value proposition for end users. Doing so can also drastically reduce driver waiting time from over an hour to just a few minutes. 

Figure 3: Slip Robotics' Auto-Loading Robots

Slip Robotics' auto loading robot being displayed at MODEX 2024 show floor


I was impressed to see that robotic picking arms have found more traction over the last year, finding applications at both the heavy and light ends of picking operations. Mujin, for example, showcased both its QuickBot depalletizer and TruckBot, demonstrating how robotic picking arms can be leveraged both at the dock and in the warehouse for heavy case picking tasks. At the item picking end, RightHand Robotics exhibited its improved solution that leverages machine vision for item recognition. RightHand is gaining traction across industries, including retail and manufacturing, and is expanding its partnerships with system integrators to broaden the technology’s reach.

Although still gimmicky, humanoid robots remain of interest, but have not found their home in the industry just yet. Both Agility and Reflex Robotics brought their humanoids to the event, showing how they can be used for human-centric picking and sortation tasks. There is still a particular interest in the technology, mostly because it is interesting to see in action, but it is hard to see how the humanoids will compete in the warehouse space as companies reshape their infrastructure to accommodate AS/RS and AMR systems that are considerably faster at picking than humanoids.

The role of system integrators has expanded and continues to be at the forefront of successful solution implementation. Many of the vendors we spoke with that are establishing their first big clients and their technology in the industry are now doing so through multiple partnerships with leading system integrators, including companies like Bastian Solutions and Vanderlande. A key reason behind this is the desire from end users for customized solutions that are typically a mixture of technologies, making the Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) model challenging for vendors, particularly when landing larger clients with broader needs. ABI Research expects this trend to continue and will be reporting on the leading system integrators over the coming months.

Figure 4: Rocrich’s Jungheinrich AGV

Rocrich’s Jungheinrich AGV

Missed Opportunities 


While there were large Warehouse Management Systems (WMSs) players like Blue Yonder, Manhattan Associates, Infor, and Tecsys, no specific innovations were seen from these large and established players, which was disappointing. The WMS or Warehouse Execution System (WES) space seems to be stagnant now, without any breakthroughs. With many end users still either opting for on-premises solutions or at times demanding so much customization that solution vendors are unable to provide Year-over-Year (YoY) support, it makes sense why we are not seeing new innovations in this space.

Instead, a smaller software solution provider, Datex, rolled out its new Footprint WMS that seems to be garnering a lot of hype. This platform seems to be a top choice as a WMS for specialized sectors such as cold storage solutions within food and pharma or among Third-Party Logistics (3PL) players who handle Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). As this platform is built on a low-code application platform, it can swiftly provide users with tailored experiences. Temperature control, for example, is a great use case for the food industry and this can be a major differentiator for food supply chain stakeholders, as well as food processors and suppliers rushing to be Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Section 204 compliant. It has also been touted as capable of handling complex billing and invoicing processes.


AMRs had a much more muted showing in comparison to previous years, with AS/RS and autonomous forklift vendors taking up a lot more floorspace. It was surprising not to see companies like MiR exhibiting at the event. Goods-to-Person (G2P) AMR solutions were the focus, with companies like Onward Robotics and RobustAI differentiating themselves through adjustable racking and focusing on specific payload weights. In comparison with other forms of automation, AMRs still seem to be a “nice to have” technology, rather than a necessity, with many companies still testing the waters.

This analysis of MODEX 2024 is part of ABI Research’s Supply Chain Management & Logistics Research Service, which provides in-depth and unrivaled quantitative and qualitative analysis of the holistic, integrated supply chain.

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