IMHX22 was back in the agenda, with logistic and supply chain solutions the centerpiece of the gathering. The event showcased some of the latest developments in automation solutions in the warehouse, especially the interface between Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics, with plenty of use cases and scenarios on display, which should bode well for vendors looking for such solutions.
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Another Face-to-Face Meeting Back on with IMHX22
The IMHX22 meeting, which took place in person, at last, at the massive National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, United Kingdom, on September 6 to 8, boasted close to 300 stands to visit and gathered more than 200 exhibitors, providing a comprehensive view of the sector. Organized by Informa, in collaboration with the Automated Material Handling Systems Association (AMHSA), the UK Materials Handling Association (UKMHA), and the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA), the meeting showcased myriad robotic solutions for advancing e-commerce, from picking systems and packaging technology to parcel sortation solutions. Packed with various tradeshows, demonstration zones, seminars, and product launches, there was a particularly strong presence from Zebra Technologies, Element Logic, Whittan Group, and Geek+, though plenty of other vendors had ample space on the floor. There was a lot of interaction between robotics and Machine Learning (ML) at the meeting, especially regarding use cases and scenarios, which ABI Research sees as a useful way to highlight the actual value of employing ML in the warehouse.
Some Trends Seen at IMHX22 in Automating Supply Chains and Logistics
IMHX22 was filled with exciting new developments, different approaches to the same sorts of problems, and plenty of announcements. Zebra Technologies, in the form of Fetch Robotics, showcased some of its e-commerce solutions, especially in manufacturing, fulfillment, and distribution solutions. Centered on its goods-to-person Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), the FlexShelf line of AMRs were on display at IMHX22, providing a demonstration of how on-demand warehouse automation works. Similarly, Geek+ showcased its full warehouse automation solution, designed around AMRs and easily replicable, with other examples of similar approaches also on display, such as those from Hai Robotics, Swisslog, and Exotec in their respective sectors. Caja Robotics provided a different take on warehousing automation, instead arguing for an approach that sets up AMR to adapt to a given warehouse. Both Geek+ and Caja Robotics augment their AMRs with ML processes, and this is also the case for picking robots, and nowhere was this more evident at the event than in the booths of Covariant, which focuses on providing ML-based piece-picking solutions to robotic vendors, and KNAPP, the latter offering a fully automated picking system. The interaction between ML processes and robotics was evident throughout IMHX22, and ABI Research was pleased to see that the collaboration between Wise Robotics and Hikrobot, the latter providing ML-run machine vision to robots, is growing strongly. Finally, the role of data and software solutions in warehousing automation was the focus of many vendors, many of which do not manufacture robots themselves, but can augment their operations in various ways; BotsAndUs, in particular, set up a run of demonstrations showing how robots can scan and apply different kinds of information in the warehouse with their system.
This is but a sample of what was on offer at the three-day conference, as there were hundreds of exhibitors and thus myriad, concrete examples of warehousing systems, data-centric approaches, software solutions, and much more. And on top of everything, IMHX22 organized an impressive 3 days full of lectures, seminars, discussions, and even hands-on demonstration zones. The possibility of seeing these solutions and robots in action is crucial for vendors and potential users to obtain a proper understanding of how these systems work in practice, and what can be achieved.
The Importance of Clear Logistics and Automation Use Cases and Scenarios
ABI Research was pleased to see the focus on specific use cases and scenarios at IMHX22. There is often a gulf between investing in a technology and seeing a return on that investment, which can be especially true in the case of AI, dominated as it is in the private sector, at least, by ML. Interested parties do not always have a clear business case for the application of ML, or indeed often a clear idea that ML is needed at all. Events like IMHX22 are particularly important because they can showcase, clearly and unambiguously, the uses of technologies like ML, in this case, in the warehouse, along with how they can augment robotic solutions. ABI Research has written often about the interaction between ML and robotics, and events like IMHX22 constitute the appropriate template for explaining, describing, and not the least witnessing what the market can do and offer.