After a few years of mostly virtual or smaller events because of COVID-19, both exhibitors and attendees were relieved to reunite in person for MODEX 2022 in Atlanta last week.
Robotics also had a strong presence at the biennial materials handling trade show, growing from about 10% five or six years ago to nearly 60% this year, according to several industry observers. From autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and self-driving lift trucks to robot arms and automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), there were systems aplenty for supply chain applications.
The average booth size was also larger, with relatively few 10x10-ft. exhibits but plenty of demonstrations of multiple systems working in harmony for goods-to-person, pick-and-place, and palletizing tasks. They were spread out across Halls B and C in a lower level of the Georgia World Congress Center, in between providers of more conventional technologies such as conveyors.
Presentations at MODEX covered topics such as how to get started with automation, how to manage fleets of AMRs, and improved robotics capabilities enabled by machine vision and artificial intelligence. Several vendors said their software could interface with or even take over functions from warehouse management systems (WMS) and warehouse execution systems (WES), but the opportunity to see the latest hardware was the big attraction.
Many discussions around the show focused on the need to compensate for widespread labor shortages and global supply chain problems, the acceleration of e-commerce demand during the pandemic, and last but not least, the opportunity for greater visibility into operations.
Most importantly, delegations from corporations including Amazon, CVS, General Electric, Target, and more were at MODEX, scouting out the latest tools, comparing notes, and looking to make deals on the show floor or at many dinners around Atlanta. In fact, some robotics vendors told me that they have already booked orders through next year.
This was Robotics 24/7's first year at this event. After more than 50 appointments last week, here are some robotics takeaways from MODEX 2022 (see right, or below on mobile). Did I miss anything? Let me know; more coverage to come.