MODEX 2022: Key Highlights and Lessons Learned

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By Adhish Luitel | 2Q 2022 | IN-6517

MODEX makes a glaring comeback and hints at key changes in the warehouse automation solutions market.

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MODEX Back in Full Swing

NEWS


After a two-year layoff, MODEX 2022 kicked off in Atlanta in full swing last week. Judging by the busy floors and extensive booth displays, there was clearly high demand for the innovations demonstrated and insights being delivered. One of the key takeaways was that the supply chain solutions industry continues to strengthen, with lots of large-scale investments and mergers/acquisitions. Another prominent takeaway was that robots, especially mobile and picking robots, seem to be the highlight solutions, followed by warehouse-based conveyance systems.

Broad Range of Solutions on Display

IMPACT


Following were the key highlights:

  • Zebra Technologies: Supply chain solutions giants Zebra Technologies featured recently acquired Fetch Robotics’ Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) solutions. Demonstrations included fulfillment and auto recycling removal use cases using Fetch FlexShelf, CartConnect100, and CartConnect500 AMRs, integrated with Zebra’s mobile computing and scanners portfolio. Zebra also launched the WS50 wearable Android computer. This all-in-one wearable solution can be worn on the fingers or on the back of the hand and features a two-inch touch display, Wi-Fi, and runs Android 11. Despite its size, it comes with robust data capture capabilities. Due to the ease of integration, the WS50 offers more capabilities than scanners. It can be connected to a Warehouse Management System (WMS) or other warehouse software to enable task management, allowing employees to access their workflows from anywhere.

Zebra also unveiled its RFD90 sled, a compact scanner capable of reading up to 1,300 Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags every second over long distances. Users can equip other devices through the sled’s adaptor, which allows it to accommodate mobile computers and smartphones. FS40, FS20, and VS70 machine vision cameras and fixed industrial scanners were also the highlights in Zebra’s booth. These smart scanners allow users to integrate with the AMR fleet, allowing them to increase efficiencies and reduce costs in warehouse applications.

  • Berkshire Grey: Robotic solutions specialists Berkshire Grey demonstrated three solutions in its booth. Autonomous picking to an auto bagger, the Robotic Shuttle Put Wall, and Mobile Robotic Sortation. The Mobile Robotic Solution was the most prominent solution on display. With highly scalable mobile robots, it allows users to easily turn a standard warehouse floor into a flexible unit sorter. The individual bots can carry loads of up to 65lbs including non-conveyable items.  
  • Blue Yonder: Software solutions specialists Blue Yonder unveiled a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-native application for Yard Management. The solution plans to leverage its parent company, Panasonic’s, intelligent cameras onto the platforms to provide enhanced capabilities. The plan for Blue Yonder is to provide end-to-end visibility from unloading to warehousing operations using the Yard Management platform. Blue Yonder also plans to release SaaS-native applications for micro fulfillment centers and warehouse tasking later this year.
  • Manhattan Associates: Another software solution specialist, Manhattan Associates, showcased its Manhattan Active Supply Chain platform. This platform is a unified end-to-end supply chain solution that consolidates Manhattan Active Warehouse Management, Manhattan Active Labor Management, and Manhattan Active Transportation Management in a single cloud-native application.

Advancement from Homogenous to Differentiated Solutions

RECOMMENDATIONS


With the broad variety of solutions on display, it was clear that vendors were moving from siloed and specific solutions to integrated solutions, usually involving multiple robots. Heterogenous warehouse robotics solutions might be the future, which is a stark contrast compared to the early days of Kiva, which saw homogenous solutions that were very good at a particular task, but inflexible. Vendors mostly focused on various differentiated types of robotic solutions (as was the case for OTTO, Geek+, and Mujin) or on how different robots and automation solutions could work in synchronization and yield better results (per RightHand Robotics, Hai Robotics, and Swisslog).

As the warehouse automation market moves more toward a differentiated structure with varied solutions, the job of end-users to pick the correct solutions to enhance their operations gets more complicated. For robotic solutions providers, especially ones without a large portfolio, partnerships with other solutions providers will be key. The industry-wide migration from point-based solutions to wall-to-wall solutions also highlights the role of systems integrators. Entities specializing in implementing, planning, coordinating, scheduling, testing, improving, and providing consulting services with regards to deploying these solutions and bringing a degree of uniformity between disparate vendors looks to be more critical than ever. The role of systems integrators will become more prominent in the coming years.

 

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