Revolutionizing Warehousing and Yard Management through Inbound and Outbound Automation: Insights from MODEX

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By Adhish Luitel | 1Q 2024 | IN-7288

During MODEX, it was evident that inbound and outbound logistics automation is the biggest greenfield for warehouse operators. However, crucial deployment considerations need to be made for successful implementation in this uncharted territory.

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MODEX Returns to Atlanta


Earlier this month, the biennial supply chain event, MODEX, was held in Atlanta. Solution providers were moving from siloed and specific solutions to integrated solutions that not only facilitate a wide range of use cases, but also support platforms and a device-agnostic ecosystem. Compared to ProMat last year, perhaps the biggest difference was the various types of form factors when it came to robotics. ProMat focused a lot on heavier Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) that could carry large loads. The focus at MODEX 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.

Innovations in Inbound and Outbound Automation


There were a couple of standouts at the show who tapped into an inefficient area within warehousing and yard operations that seems to be lacking in automation—inbound and outbound logistics. Two vendors, in particular, showcased impressive solutions here.

Mujin, one of the leading robotics and automation technology providers showcased its unique robotics solutions for automating case flows for warehouses. Highlighted solutions included its truck unloader, TruckBot, which connects to two robotic palletizing cells that sort and palletize the inbound freight. This solution enables warehouses to handle larger and heavier boxes, and increases performance with its multi-picking functionality. Mujin also demonstrated its mixed-Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) depalletizing solution, which gathered a lot of attention. This solution especially marks a significant advancement in forward fulfillment automation. The solution uses advanced Three-Dimensional (3D) vision and real-time motion planning. Due to this, the solution is uniquely capable of managing a wide variety of pallet loads with no prior inputs.

The other vendor that showed impressive advancement in this inbound/outbound management whitespace was Slip Robotics. It did so by showcasing its automated trailer load/unload solution. 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 in terms of efficiency gains. Doing this can also drastically reduce drivers’ waiting times from over an hour to just a few minutes.

Robust Implementation Strategy Will Be Key


Automating inbound and outbound logistics presents warehouse operations with compelling opportunities to streamline their operations. Warehouse operators should closely evaluate these technologies and consider what metrics matter when it comes to deploying a solution and improving operational efficiency. Prominent metrics to consider might be throughput increase, and the reduction of manual labor. Enhancements in throughput, as well as cost reduction, and safety enhancements definitely project an attractive value proposition.

However, integrating such advanced solutions into existing operations comes with its set of challenges. One important consideration is change management. Adoption of new technologies demands a cultural shift within the organization and requires a certain degree of buy-in from all levels of staff. Employees need to be trained not only to operate new systems, but also to adapt to new operational workflows that comes with this added level of automation. Another significant factor is the cost associated with implementing such solutions. Beyond the initial Capital Expenditure (CAPEX), additional expenses might include training employees, potential modifications to existing infrastructure to make it more “robotics friendly,” and recurring maintenance costs. A clear understanding of the Return on Investment (ROI) will be crucial. Warehouse operators need to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis to ensure that the long-term gains outweigh the initial and recurring costs. So, despite all the hype around robotics, a strategic approach that focuses on a clear ROI that considers all stakeholders is essential to a successful implementation roadmap.


Companies Mentioned