MODEX 2018 Highlights the Drive Towards Industrial Automation

by Michael Clarke | 04/23/2018

MODEX is the premier tradeshow for supply chain and logistics solutions, powered by the MHI and held biannually in Atlanta, GA where industry leaders in AIDC and robotics display their latest technology. This blog will detail the latest announcements and provide commentary on the newest innovation unveiled at MODEX 2018.

Amongst a host of new technology and emerging players at MODEX, industrial automation was an area of emphasis at the tradeshow as vision and robotics technology are poised to gain increasing adoption in 2018.  Supply chain efficiency, visibility, and management were a core focus at MODEX where companies like Fetch Robotics displayed their autonomous industrial robots that can completely automate a warehouse center.  Additionally, companies like Impinj displayed their RFID traceability and inventory management platform that aims to streamline inventory tracking and optimization within the four walls.  Industry leaders such as Zebra increased their supply chain traceability and storage optimization functionality, with their Smart Pack system enhancements that can visually optimize warehouse packaging and provide valuable data analytics to improve the process.  Industry competitors like Honeywell displayed their 8680i Wearable Mini Mobile device, a smart hands free cordless device that functions dually as a scanner and mobile computer to streamline high volume tasks such as picking and sorting as well as enhancing inventory accuracy within distribution centers. Designed for rugged environments, the 8680i comes in two form factors: a two-finger ring or cut-resistant glove.  Thus, as enterprises seek to improve the operational efficiency, the inventory accuracy and visibility of their supply chains, manufacturers continue to innovate with unique solutions.

The integration of vision technology trended amongst several manufacturers at MODEX as augmentation and collaboration with robots within the four walls gains increasing adoption.  Vendors like SICK displayed a host of 3D vision and sensor solutions that help autonomous motor vehicles (AMV) operate safely, as well as, displayed a conveyor scanning function that helped sense thin packages.  SICK also highlighted the integration of 3D camera and laser functions that could identify and weigh packages on a conveyor system.  Additionally, several robotics companies displayed their vision systems that allow their robots work in a collaborative environment.  For example, RightHand Robotics displayed their vision system that helps read motion in case a human collaborator gets too close to robot arm and needs to trigger the auto kill mechanism to prevent any accidents.  TGW Revolution also displayed their unique ecommerce robotic system that is individually programmed for a warehouse’s requirement rather than on a batch system, which allows flexibility in pick and place applications for retail products.  Thus, the integration of vision features has help push the industrial automation process to new heights, reducing wasted motion, enhancing collaborative safety features, and increasing worker productivity.

MODEX also set the stage for a variety of new product announcements.  Integrated with a 7 inch multifunctional color display touchscreen and an intuitive interface, Raymond introduced its high capacity Reach Fork truck that boast a 4,500 pound lift capacity and the highest reach at 542 inches.  In addition to the extended battery life and high definition range sensor that helps with operational efficiency of the forklift, this truck has the Raymond Virtual Reality Simulator that offers educational modules to help teach new operators.  HighJump also announced its business analytics tool, Visual Insights.  Creating a singular platform that streamlines supply chain workflows by integrating their Automation Aware Warehouse Management System, HighJump Visual Insights relays information of distribution facilities, allowing managers to see what areas of operation to automate in real time.  In the robotics space, NextShift Robotics introduced a new robotics system for ecommerce.  Designed to work in a collaborative environment and for flexible applications, this system uses safety standards that can recognize humans and help cobots avoid obstructive obstacles.  This scalable solution uses real time monitoring and analytics to enhance fulfillment time and improve inventory accuracy.  In this sense, warehousing and distribution are heading towards automation and cloud based solutions that streamline high volume tasks and increase overall output of distribution centers.

Furthermore, a host of keynote speakers highlighted the pervasive trends that are driving supply chain operations to automation.  A team of keynote panelist spoke on the evolution of predictive analytics, the integration of collaborative robotics and AI, as well as the implementation of Blockchain in the supply chain to increase inventory visibility and tracking.  By the MHI figures in their annual survey, they observe that only 19% of companies are using predictive analytics, which will jump to 82% over the next five years while robotics and AI will increase to 73% and 53% respectively across the same time period.  In a contrarian opinion, Mike Rowe highlighted why dirty jobs matter in growing labor force productivity and offering students an alternative career path to the traditional four year degree.  Moreover, the trends and themes of MODEX 2018 pointed to the connected warehouse where humans and robots work collaboratively, and integrated on a cloud based platform that can provide real time data analytics for actionable insights.  The connected warehouse will certainly drive higher productivity and allow enterprises to continue to increase operational efficiency as a driver for economic expansion.

View the 2018 AutoID & Data Capture Research Outline to learn more.



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