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Top Takeaways from MODEX 2024

Resonant Link
March 15, 2024

Whew…another MODEX is in the books! We had an amazing time connecting with customers, meeting old friends and new, and hearing from warehouse operators looking to solve a variety of challenges, from needing to support 4x order volume during peak season while minimizing waste the rest of the year to needing to reduce safety incidents to needing to keep production lines running 24/7. Former football coach Nick Saban seemed to draw the biggest crowd during his keynote, but the crowds were steady for three days including during our Power Talks interview series, which was streamed live everyday from our booth. We're going to take more time to process everything we learned, saw, and experienced, and we just couldn't wait to share our top takeaways from MODEX 2024.

So Much to See, So Much to Do

Because MHI organized the show a little differently this year, Hall A was open for the first time, so attendees could choose from three halls to browse along with hundreds of educational seminars to attend. We were in Hall A and it did not disappoint, with people flooding in every morning at 9 AM and lots of excitement from both the show floor and theaters like the Sustainability Theater and Last Mile Theater. Overall, the show floor had sections for Manufacturing and Assembly, Information Technology, Fulfillment and Delivery, Transportation and Logistics, and Emerging Technologies. 

Robots, Robots Everywhere

It wouldn’t be a material handling trade show without robots and besides the usuals (hi, Spot!), there seemed to be more robots than ever. There were several AS/RS and automated picking solutions on display. Autonomous forklifts were driving around and hometown favorite Slip Robotics’ massive SlipBots stole the show, winning an Innovation Award for their auto-load and unload capabilities and making us very jealous during booth teardown (you won’t believe how much you can fit on one Bot!).

Warehouses Want Worry-Free Charging

Attendees loved seeing our automated wireless charging in action, marveling at how simple the experience is. You simply drive up to a base station, or program your AGV to drive up, and charging starts right away without the operator (remote or not) needing to do anything. The fact that our all-solid-state chargers require no ongoing maintenance was also a huge plus, unlike wired chargers and contact-based auto-chargers that regularly break, causing downtime and expensive repairs. We heard from several people that it’s normal for 10-25% of their chargers to be broken at any given time. This was true for both plug-in and automated contact chargers with arms and other parts that have to touch AGVs to charge them.

It's Possible to Plan for Now and the Future

Ocado’s Lego warehouse might win the most creative booth display, but MODEX isn’t known for showcasing tiny things and this year was no different. In fact, things seemed to get taller this year with several vertical conveyors and other solutions on display to help warehouses maximize space. Maximizing space was a theme in several of our conversations and we also heard the need for versatility from almost everyone we met. When learning about our wireless charging for material handling equipment, attendees were thrilled to learn they could charge their lead acid and lithium-ion batteries, and their manned trucks and AGVs, with one system. While there’s been tremendous growth in the number of companies offering lithium-ion batteries and warehouses continue to adopt lithium, the reality is that many operations that use lithium-ion batteries also still use lead acid batteries and it’s frustrating for them to have to deal with different chargers and processes for different types and sizes of batteries. 

Now's the Time

Regardless of their size, warehouse operators repeatedly shared the need to both simplify (like consolidating to one vendor for all of a certain type of equipment) and stay organizationally agile. Many told us now’s the time. Now’s the time that warehouses are pausing to plan for and make changes they couldn’t make during the wild west of the past few years. These changes range from changing their equipment to changing operational processes, like replacing battery swapping with opportunity charging or replacing lead acid batteries with lithium-ion. The reality is when you’re in survival mode, barely able to manage getting materials from here to there, you’re not thinking about whether you have too many forklifts or should be implementing automation to ensure operational continuity. You’re just putting out fires. Well, the feedback from many warehouse operators this year is that now they can finally breathe. Because of that, they’re focusing this year on assessing the impact of the massive changes we’ve undergone before and since the COVID-19 pandemic, and figuring out how to proceed most efficiently and effectively moving forward.

If you missed MODEX and you want to learn more about the trends, technology, and tools making warehouses work today and tomorrow, reach out

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