MODEX 2024 Key Takeaways: A Shifting Industry Focus to Implementation

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By Ryan Wiggin | 1Q 2024 | IN-7281

MODEX 2024 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 these technologies are implemented. The opportunities for partnerships and leveraging complementary technologies continue to grow.

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Changing Industry Focus


Compared to ProMat 2023, 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. MODEX 2024 held a different sentiment, with vendors focusing primarily on implementing their solutions, rather than showcasing anything new. 

Overall, MODEX 2024 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 these technologies are implemented, what pain points in what industry they can best resolve, and how to establish the best channels to bring the technology to market at scale.

Dominant Trends


  • A Change in How Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) Were Showcased: Other than Locus Robotics, which had a significant presence at the event, there were a lot fewer dedicated AMR vendors around this year with companies like MiR and inVia Robotics not exhibiting. New AMR introductions came more on the Goods-to-Person (G2P) side, with companies like Onward Robotics and, differentiating themselves through adjustable racking and a focus on specific payload weights. Companies like LG Electronics have expanded their offerings with the introduction of their own AMRs, such as the LG CLOi CarryBot empowered by the company’s private network and digital twin offering.
  • Autonomous Forklifts Continue to Grow: Automating pallet handling is an area that has seen strong progress over the last year, with a number of traditional forklift sellers like Yale and The Raymond Corporation, as well as dedicated vendors like Fox Robotics, continuing to develop their offerings. This trend is driven largely by the desire for trailer unloading solutions, as well as both worker scarcity and safety concerns.
  • Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems (ASRS) Are Expanding to New Form Factors and Becoming Easier to Deploy: ASRS are becoming much more modular and scalable, with a lot more Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) now deploying the technology. AutoStore maintains its dominance in the industry, but other vendors like Ocado, Exotec, and Hai Robotics are gaining traction with their alternative ASRS forms.
  • No Big Updates from the Major Software Vendors: There was nothing new or innovative from any of the software giants like Blue Yonder, Manhattan, and Softeon. More interesting conversations were with companies like LogistiVIEW, which is offering a system that sits on top of a Warehouse Management System (WMS) to improve and add additional functionalities, indicating the issues that companies are experiencing with their legacy WMS solutions in customization and expansion.
  • Growing Role of Systems Integrators and Number of Partnerships: As many of the companies across the material handling automation space come down from the hype cycle and find a place for their technology in the market, many are realizing the need for partnerships with complementary solutions and partnerships with systems integrators to both expand a solution’s reach across regions, and package the solution in a way that works for each end user’s specific needs.
  • Need for Enhanced Connectivity through Private Networks (4G/5G): In particular for enabling mobile automation and enabling digital twins, better private networks from companies like Nokia and Ericsson and a migration away from traditional Wi-Fi networks were cited a lot by technology implementers. ABI Research expects consistent private network investment over the next 5 years as companies either realize the need after deploying automation, or partner with private network vendors during deployment.

Opportunities for Telematics, a Healthy RaaS/CAPEX Balance, and a Note of Caution for LiDAR


Given the increasing number of autonomous forklifts, trailer unloading and loading looks to be the most sought-after application, given its uniformity and simplicity. Fox Robotics has dedicated its full efforts to this application, citing significant demand from customers looking to automate their pallet handling at the dock. As discussed previously in ABI Insight “Accessing the Value of Industrial Telematics Data,” telematics solutions at the material handling level will see growing interest as automation expands. This is a key opportunity for established fleet telematics vendors to build partnerships with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in this area.

While AMRs have dropped somewhat from their hype cycle seen through 2023, the emergence of new vendors indicates the market has not entered the consolidation phase that many in the industry predicted. As discussed previously in ABI Insight “The Mobile Robot Acquisition Trend Continues as Rockwell Automation Acquires Clearpath Robotics,” the broad array of use cases along the supply chain and in manufacturing continues to open opportunities, and the scalable nature of the technology allows startups to continue to pop up, finding success in small, customized deployments. From a purchasing model perspective, a healthy mix of end users are still looking for Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) models and purchasing the AMRs outright, so no model is currently winning over the other.

Mobile automation and robotic picking solutions are increasingly using machine vision. Since discussing the developments in machine vision last year in ABI Insight “Developments in AI-Powered Image Processing Look Set to Propel Industrial Machine Vision Applications to New Heights,” more and more companies have leveraged the technology to enable more use cases and enhance perception, even replacing Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) entirely in newer models. While this does not indicate the end of LiDAR applications, LiDAR providers must continue to monitor how mobile robot solutions balance the two technologies and diversify accordingly if the balance starts to tip the other way.


Companies Mentioned