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MODEX Day Two: Coronavirus Impacting More than Just Trade Operations

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MODEX Day Two: Coronavirus Impacting More than Just Trade Operations

Day two for MODEX 2020 concluded with industry players addressing the now-notorious coronavirus and what this means for both domestic and international markets fortunate enough to continue operations without disruption. From what we learned during the session, “Coronavirus and Global Supply Chains” the wave currently felt in China, Italy, and beyond, will eventually make its way to the U.S. and companies have no reason not to be prepared.

Researcher Philip J. Palin, John Paxton with MHI, and David Shillingford with Resilience360 took the unsettling topic head-on and addressed concerns without hesitation. Traders be aware: for domestic and untouched international markets, the worst isn’t over. The coronavirus creates more than just health concerns. It impacts trade operations, legal concerns, and causes financial turmoil as we’ve already started to see.

“The virus is the primary cause of the supply chain impact but the secondary causes coming from the virus include financial, regulatory, compliance, and legal,” explained Shillingford. “Another risk to think about is workforce risk. How many of the workers that left for Chinese New Year have been able to come back, and for those that have returned, are they able to work with open factories or are they still under quarantine?”

“The good news is, the extraordinary supply and demand disruption we’re discussing in terms of China is being released. It’s slow but it’s happening and it’s giving us a benchmark of for how long domestic disruption will be,” Palin stated after announcing the first containership from China arrived at the Port of Los Angeles in almost 10 days on Monday.

Shillingford goes on to explain the shifting patterns in consumer behavior as well, noting that due to worldwide panic, demand is shifting and challenging the logistics sector. Buying habits have undoubtedly changed in recent weeks along with mindsets. Interactions are now limited to a fist-bump or elbow touch rather than a handshake and the numbers of public events cancelled are going up.

“Other things we are seeing involve personnel movement. It’s not just transportation impacted,” Shillingford added.

On the legal side of the crisis, Chinese suppliers are having an issue with certificates and contractual obligations. Shillingford urges industry players to understand the importance of knowing if suppliers have been issued force majeure slips.

“One thing supply chains hate is variance, and there’s going to be a lot of variance and volatility on the demand side,” he concluded.

What does all this mean for the U.S.? At the end of the day, it’s a matter of preparation and strategizing for the more fortunate markets without the disruption of a complete shut-down.

“There was a hidden, horrible problem in the Hubei province that required a draconian measure to prevent transmission of the virus. We should be ahead of that curve as well as the rest of the world, even with this very contagious virus,” explained Palin. “And even if we are behind that curve, we don’t have 300 million workers separated from their place of work.”

ProMat Day Three Combines Education, Awards, and Comedy

Thought leaders, exhibitors, and attendees kept the momentum going on day three of this year’s massive ProMat Trade Show in Chicago, despite chilly temperatures. Wednesday’s education seminars continued addressing some of the biggest industry challenges while identifying key differentiators that foster optimal results and competitive advantage.

One of the most talked about themes at this year’s conference is the major issue of labor shortages. Employee recruitment and retention are among the biggest concerns for industry players. As automation continues reducing unnecessary manpower, human involvement has become a complex role to balance. Topic leaders across multiple sectors have already made it very clear that humans in the workplace continue to be a critical component. Even so, some companies continue expressing uncertainty in how to approach tapping into the labor market.

OPEX Corporation’s John Sauer addressed these concerns head-on in a presentation on Wednesday. Sauer is the Senior Business Development Manager for OPEX and boasts 8 years of front line material handling management experience. In his presentation, Sauer confirmed some of the biggest issues among employees in warehouses are factors some might consider to be small – such as climate control, physical demands, consistent hours, and work independence. At the end of the day, employees nowadays are looking for more than just a salary – they want to feel some importance and pride in what they do.

In today’s technology-centric environment, these factors can be addressed through strategic implementation of the technology at-hand. By utilizing technology for optimizations in operations and creating an environment that supports a positive work environment for employees, retention and recruitment challenges can be alleviated.

MHI Industry Night

Wednesday concluded with a special networking event featuring comedian and actor Craig Ferguson following the announcement and recognition of leading companies for “Best Innovations” and Young Professional Awards. There were 108 submissions for the awards and only four finalists were selected for each category. Among the winners included:

Best New Innovations:

Fetch Robotics for CartConnect

Locus Robotics for Gamification

Attachments for Forklift Safety Device (FLSD)

CMC srl for Pick2Pack

Best Innovation of an Existing Product:

ProGlove for Mark 2 Smartglove

RightHand Robotics Inc. for RightPick: The Piece Picking Solution

Artitalia Group Inc. for Versatile Nesting Cart

Swisslog Logistics Automation for ItemPiQ

Best IT Innovation:

Yard Management Solutions for Eagle Eye Yard Management Software

LogistiVIEW for Vision Pick and Put Wall

Schaefer Systems for WAMAS Lighthouse

KNAPP Inc. for redPILOT