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MODEX Day Three: Robotics & Automation Continue Maturing

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MODEX Day Three: Robotics & Automation Continue Maturing

In typical Modex fashion, robotics and automation were among the hot topics discussed by keynote speakers, exhibitors, and attendees. A vast array of capabilities, sizes, and industry-specific robotics could be found throughout the show floor, each showing off a new capability. It’s clear that robotics continue to evolve and show no signs of slowing down progress in meeting demand within warehouses and distribution centers.

Mike Futch, President of Tompkins Robotics made this point very clear during his session on Wednesday afternoon titled, “The Lights Out DC/FC: How Close Can We Get?”

Futch addressed the use of various technologies to address workforce constraints while improving the effectiveness and performance of the supply chain.  He identified what advancements will assist in solving bottlenecks such as facility constraints, space issues, and the current situation in unemployment. As these challenges persist, robotics continues to mature.

“There’s a limited workforce, a limited number of people that can drive the distance to enter the immediate geographic region, and these larger buildings are competing for that workforce that’s already at a low unemployment rate along with offering increased wages and siphoning workers off of others. This is a real challenge for some markets.”

“Labor is scarce and we have record-low unemployment, typically to expand capacity from a volume perspective and companies are turning to more shifts. If you already have a tight labor market and you’re adding shifts, where are the workers coming from? And this creates a bigger problem.”

The workforce is a key constraint and while workforce rates are lower than others in some places, Futch states that companies are competing to stay ahead of demand through increased wages while solving the best approach to a limited workforce.

Machines continue to do the same things a human can do but without interruptions with repetitive, difficult, or taxing work that inevitably fatigues the human body. That being said, the industry still requires a skilled workforce and robotics should not be purchased for their appeal. It’s becoming clear that a blend of workers and robotics is a more common theme for integrating such advancements over the idea that robotics will “overtake” worker’s jobs. In fact, robotics is providing a way to re-establish worker tasks rather than eliminating the worker.

“Robotics has matured tremendously from where they were a few years ago. About 5-10 years ago, the pick-and-place robots at the show could not do the things they are capable of doing now. Two years from now, they’ll have the capability to do twice as much as now. Robotics is maturing and meeting the three R’s: improve rate, improve reliability, and improve the range of products and items,” he explained. ”

In terms of a fully automated DC, Futch added that about 60-85 percent of manual tasks can be automated realistically rather than a “lights out” center.

“Beyond the pick-and-place robots, other robots are doing the same thing: creating a blur of separation between what a human can do and what a machine can do.”

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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.”

MODEX 2020 Day One: Millennials and Their Impact on Distribution

Day one of this year’s MODEX event kicked-off with its anticipated array of technology solutions in action and hundreds of global companies sharing the latest and greatest impacting the supply chain. From warehousing and robotics to transportation and packaging, just about every moving part of the supply chain represented a part of the show.

Keynote speakers such as Michael Roe, Senior Account Executive at DMW&H, took on challenges specific to the distribution and ecommerce sector: millennials.

The generational differences brought to the ecommerce market have shaken the way distributors approach customer adaptation. Furthermore, distributors are now challenged to balance multiple consumer demands while remaining relevant. Roe explains:

“Millennials changed retail because of the way they shop. Millennials value culture, experience, and they value the value of the experience. Although it may seem new, it may not be so new.”

“Distribution practices have changed because we have to adapt to the customer base. If you understand what your customer wants, you have to change your distribution and understand how it’s going to work.”

He goes onto explain that during the early days of ecommerce, companies like Amazon (known to-date as the fastest company to reach $100 billion in sales) changed that model and took the stores out of the equation. This effort was a strategy used by ecommerce companies to reinvent the consumer’s shopping and comparison experience by adding ease and convenience. Amazon created a presence everywhere through its distribution centers – they were simply found everywhere. To this day, Amazon continues to expand its footprint with the help of automation.

For the modern consumer, the days of mall visits are a thing of the past for some, while for others in the same consumer pool prefer the option of both ecommerce and the traditional store model. Baby boomers typically still prefer the in-store experience with 84 percent confirming this preference. They want their product when they leave and aren’t keen on the idea of waiting for something already paid for.

Meanwhile, Gen X prefers the option of comparison-shopping while reaping the benefits of maximized value. Millennials demand a hybrid model offering a complex blend of what Boomers and Gen X’ers seek. And they want it for a competitive price. Navigating this shift has left some scratching their head as they identify the most adaptable approach.

At the end of the day, it boils down to understanding the customer and identifying the best approach to navigating the balance of consumer demands. The millenials concept isn’t all that new at all. in fact, generational changes have always been present, it’s all a matter of anticipating these changes and preparing the solution accordingly. Roe concluded that “Every generation has changed their shopping preferences. With each generation comes faster response times to customer preferences.”

2020

Dates You Don’t Want to Forget in 2020

Midwest Association of Rail Shippers (MARS) Winter Meeting

Jan. 14–16

Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, Lombard, Illinois

mwrailshippers.com

“Rail’s 2020 Crossroads: Market Share vs. Operating Ratio” is the theme as the impacts of the declining freight market are discussed.

National Retail Federation’s 2020 Vision

Jan. 12-14

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, New York

nrfbigshow.nrf.com

“Retail’s Big Show,” as it is known, includes more than 38,000 retailers, vendors and expert participants.

Nulogy Presents: xChange 19

Jan. 19-21

Westin Phoenix Downtown, Phoenix, Arizona

xchange.nulogy.com

This is the preeminent conference for consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands and co-pack suppliers.

Southern Motor Carriers’ Jump Start 20

Jan. 27-29

The Renaissance Atlanta Waverly, Atlanta, Georgia

smc3jumpstart.com

This event covers all things supply chain, such as industry disruption predictions, ethical AI, cross-border logistics, freight profitability analysis, blockchain strategies and much more.

Cargo Logistics Canada

Feb. 4-6

Vancouver Convention Centre West, Vancouver, Canada

cargologisticscanada.com

The global impacts of China’s $1 trillion One Belt One Road and the massive global e-commerce surge are among the expo topics.

17th Annual RLA Conference and Expo

Feb. 4-6

Mirage Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

rla.org

Reverse Logistics Magazine’s annual event focuses on solutions and technologies surrounding reverse logistics and the circular economy.

38th Annual Mississippi Valley Trade and Transport Conference

Feb. 19-20

Omni Royal Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana

mvttc.com

One of the longest-running river-related logistics events features expert panelists speaking on a range of important topics, including river statistics, port updates and commodities.

Food Shippers of America 65th Annual Logistics Conference

Feb. 23-25

J.W. Marriott Grand Lakes, Orlando, Florida

foodshippersofamerica.org.

This invitation-only conference is aimed at the food shipment field.

LINK2020: The Retail Supply Chain Conference

February 23-26, 2020

Dallas, TX

Gaylord Texan

Rila.org/supplychain

RILA LINK2020: The Retail Supply Chain Conference is the best way to network, learn, and explore hot trends in retail supply chain management.  Hundreds of executives from the top retailers will gather at LINK2020 to discover new, innovative strategies, find new solutions to their challenges, and position themselves as leaders in the field.

Automotive Logistics Mexico

Feb. 25-27

Marquis Reforma, Mexico City, Mexico

automotivelogistics.media/automotive-logistics-mexico

C-Level execs, directors and managers responsible for all areas of logistics and supply chain strategy for vehicle makers, parts suppliers, government, LSPs, tech providers and start-ups gather to learn the latest industry developments.

3rd Cold Chain Global Forum West Coast .20

Feb. 25-27

San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California

pharma-iq.com

Senior supply chain, logistics, transportation, packaging, quality and operations stakeholders from both large and small pharma West Coast-based companies get a holistic temperature-controlled blueprint that goes from clinical supply chain to commercial supply chain.

AFFI Con 2020

Feb. 29-March 3

Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, Nevada

affi.com

This is the American Frozen Food Institute’s premier event for frozen food and beverage makers, industry suppliers and logistical partners.

82nd TCA Annual Convention

March 1-3

Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Kissimmee, Florida

Truckload.org

The premier networking and education event in the truckload industry features diverse speakers, workshops and an insightful keynote.

TPM 20

March 1-4

Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, California

joc-tpm.com

Among the largest logistics, business and transportation events includes a variety of industry roundtables, workshops and mixers.

Elevate Annual Users Conference

March 2-5

Orlando World Center Marriott, Orlando, Florida

elevate.highjump.com

A diverse group of HighJump users, experts and industry leaders and partners discuss Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), 3PL software and Direct Store Delivery (DSD).

MODEX 2020

March 9-12

Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia

modexshow.com

The possibilities are endless thanks to 950+ exhibits and 100+ education sessions tailored to help you discover equipment and system solutions for your material handling and supply chain needs. With keynotes, networking, education and product booths, MODEX is where manufacturing and supply chain innovation come to life.