Lessons Learned at MODEX 2016

MODEX 2016 was held in Atlanta, GA on April 4-7 this year, showcasing 800 exhibitors with 25000 attendees. It was a great show for UNEX, where we exhibited our order picking systems, including the new Pick-Plank, which was named a Best New Innovation Finalist by the MHI Innovation Award competition. Visitors were guided through a mock Air Guitar Factory at our booth, including UNEX lineside storage solutions for pulling parts in assembly, UNEX Gravity Conveyors taking parts to shipping, and UNEX picking solutions that ease fulfillment. We also gave away two Epiphone guitars – congratulations to winners Bart Buffington and Doug Oliphant!


The advanced material handling equipment available at the show created a wave of excitement. We got a chance to walk around the floor, and here is what we learned:

• Voice interaction will expand to other applications in the warehouse besides picking. One vendor demoed a Siri-like voice technology in a WMS that showed the completion status of a pick wave on a cell phone.

• Predictive and prescriptive analytics applications are growing in adoption. One vendor showcased an analytics voice app that predicted what would happen in the warehouse. For example, you could ask, “If I move two workers from this dock door to another, will it allow me to still get products out the door?”

• Social media and weather information will be incorporated into fleet management giving managers the ability to see in real-time whether deliveries would arrive on time.

• Waveless picking optimization improves the utilization of equipment and shortens order cycle times. New WES platforms look at the whole picture in the warehouse of orders, inventory, productivity, equipment and labor, creating a continuous flow of fulfillment.

• Autonomous AGVs don’t need guide markers to move around so they can be easily introduced into a warehouse.

• 3-D, cloud-based software facilitates material handling systems quotations, telling user how much racking and other equipment is needed. Users can catch issues before implementation to ensure fewer mistakes.

• Software for cartonization and pallet building helps optimize mixed SKU pallets loads. Some offerings look at orders of mixed SKUs and tell worker what size box to use, then provide price of parcel shipping.

• Box on demand software and technology minimizes carton size, building the box to size based on an order. Systems measure what is in the box, score the box to the right size, then adds a lid to it, creating direct to consumer boxes without having use any packing materials. These box on demand systems lower DIM cost while increasing labor efficiency.

• Robotic piece pickers for CPG, food and pharmaceutical industry use video imaging to determine the object to pick. Picking accuracy is very high with pick rates up to 300 pieces/hour.

• Task-to-person robots meet workers at a location using autonomous navigation to reach a pick slot. Workers, using iPads, see what to pick and perform pick. Robot goes to next location with picked items, increasing pick rates by 5 – 8 times.

• Preconfigured warehouse management systems make for quick and easy deployment, lowering costs with faster ROI.

• Data collection has moved to the smart phone. Handled platforms connect to phones, turning them into RFID barcode readers.

• CMMS, computerized maintenance management systems, are growing in importance for warehouses and DCs as more automation is added. As fulfillment becomes more demanding, systems must be more reliable to stay up and running.

• Turn-table wrapping machines demonstrated their ability to quickly wrap up to 35 loads/hour, with one orbital wrapper secured oversized, oddly shaped palletized loads with the pallet still on the forklift.

Other highlights included modular conveyors, forklifts, vertical and horizontal carousels, AS/RS, sortation systems, vacuum grippers, smart lockers and much more.

With so much exciting technology out there, if you are confused about what you need for a picking system, contact UNEX today. Our Pickologists design and provide engineering support for all our products with one goal in mind: to help customers keep processes and profits flowing.