Material handling and supply chain industry professionals converge at a few marquee shows across the world. MODEX is one of those events and it took place last week in Atlanta. I have been going to MODEX since 2004 when it was called NAMH (held in Cleveland) and have made an incredible number of connections, some of which have become lifelong clients and friends.

Last week at MODEX, I felt humbled to walk the floor and see at least one or two connections in each aisle that I would stop and have a discussion with. One day, it took me two hours just to reach our Blue Yonder booth!

Based on these conversations, here are my three key takeaways:

1. AMR Market Continues to Show Resilience and Investor Faith

  • After MODEX 2022, I had famously predicted that the Robotics and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) market is poised for consolidation. Boy, I couldn’t be more wrong. This year’s MODEX was filled with even more AMR names and from all over the world.
  • Investors are showing continued confidence in most AMR companies. Some grew bigger at others’ expense, while some have diverted their funding to become more of a software and data company versus pure material handling moving boxes.
  • According to research by Interact Analysis, less than 10% of warehouses are mechanized or automated and have a long runway for growth.

2. Sustainability in Focus

  • For the first time, there was a Theatre dedicated to Sustainability-specific topics  with15+ sessions. This is not even counting a session I participated in with our Chief Sustainability Officer Saskia van Gendt, which was part of Last Mile Theatre.
  • Perfect timing by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to announce Scope 1 and Scope 2 reporting requirements for publicly listed companies on March 6. Read more in this article.
  • Supply chain is a big polluter (manufacturing activities with lots of finite natural resources, global shipping traffic across all transport modes, packaging boxes, and not to mention utilities). SEC reporting requirements are still not mandating Scope 3 but it just puts sustainability in sharp focus. My session with Saskia and Patricia Riedl, Managing Director Supply Chain and Operations at Accenture, went through Blue Yonder’s pledge and vision to improve our client’s sustainability initiatives. Here is a quick summary of the session with guidance for how you can help create a sustainable supply chain.

3. Larger Presence by Asian Companies

  • It was pleasing to see a lot of Chinese and Taiwanese companies having a large booth presence. To my recollection, this is the largest presence of those companies at MODEX.

  • This is significant for the B2B market as the last 18-24 months have shown huge growth of Chinese consumer/e-commerce brands like Temu and Shein in North America. Extending it with B2B brands shows how intertwined U.S. and Chinese economies are, contrary to all the geopolitical news we read every day.

I went away from the show tired from all the walking but energized to see how we continue to work together as a profession for betterment every day! I am a lifelong student and very thankful for playing my role in it.