New Innovations Awarded Top Honors for Their Potential to Transform Supply Chains


The 11th Annual MHI Innovation Awards’ 12 finalists—four in each of three categories—brought strong competition to ProMat.

Of the hundreds of transformative, game-changing technologies that filled each and every aisle at ProMat, three supply chain and material handling solutions stood out among the 156 entries to MHI’s 11th Annual Innovation Awards competition.

Among the four finalists for each category (see sidebar on page 28), the awards went to Agility Robotics for Best New Innovation, Hai Robotics USA for Best Innovation of an Existing Product and OneRack for Best Information Technology (IT) Innovation.

Volunteering to review the submitted entries were five independent industry professionals from companies representing a broad range of sectors. They evaluated the submissions based on their concept, value and impact. To choose the winners, the finalists’ solutions were evaluated on their ability to deliver quantifiable and sustainable return on investment (ROI), cost savings and customer satisfaction for operations both large and small.

The winners were announced on Wednesday, March 22 during MHI Industry Night at ProMat 2023. The entire collection of entries can be viewed online at

Best New Innovation

WINNER: Agility Robotics—Digit, the first commercially available, human-centric, multi-purpose robot, is ideal for repetitive, process automated jobs that are difficult to staff.

best new innovation


Displayed for the first time at ProMat, Digit—the first commercially available, human-centric, multi-purpose robot—won the Best New Innovation award for its creator, Agility Robotics.

The company’s co-founders, CEO Damion Shelton and chief technology officer Jonathan Hurst, have worked for more than two decades to perfect the technologies that enable Digit to work safely and successfully in warehousing and material handling applications.

“Humans have always wanted robots that are capable of working alongside us, operate in our spaces, walking around and picking things up. It seems easy because we’re so familiar with it,” explained Hurst, a former college professor who left academia to pursue the development and commercialization of such a technology. “But to translate that into building a machine from motors and aluminum that moves at a human walking gait and performs tasks is actually a very deep challenge.”

Built on a foundation of breakthrough research that unlocked the science of how humans and animals walk, Digit is designed to walk into a warehouse and get right to work without costly retrofitting, said Hurst.

“Our first use case for Digit is picking up totes and putting them somewhere else,” he said. For example, selecting a tote from a shelf full of plastic bins and placing it on a conveyor belt. Working with partner companies, this type of workflow was identified as an optimal application for Digit.

“In logistics and warehousing, there are an awful lot of jobs that involve that kind of repetitive motion. They’re also the kinds of roles that tend to have very high turnover and are hard to hire for because they’re so process automated. It’s stripped the humanity out of jobs like these; there’s no variability, decision-making or judgment,” continued Hurst. “That makes a task like this perfect for Digit. It frees up employees to tackle more rewarding and complicated tasks that require human creativity.”

Safe to work alongside humans, Digit has been designed to handle a variety of terrains and environments while remaining upright. This means each robot requires very little floor space, yet supports a wide range of reach distances, from bending over to pick up items on the floor to reaching the top of high shelves, he said.

Agility Robotics is currently in phase two of its development plans, building a production facility to manufacture Digit robots on a larger scale for broader deployments in larger fleets. Moving forward, Hurst said the robots will be programmed to increase their performance versatility.

“The intent is for Digit to be multi-purpose and capable of being applied to several different use cases that are based on repetitive, process automated workflows,” he said. “That versatility will allow the robot to depalletize for a few hours, then move over to manipulate totes in one area, and then move totes in a different way elsewhere. As the intelligence and capability of Digit grows, so too will the use cases.”

Best Innovation of an Existing Product

WINNER: Hai Robotics USA—Ideal for goods-to-person applications, the A42T Autonomous Case-handling Robot features a new telescopic extension that allows the unit to reach items stored as high as 32 feet.

best innovation of an existing product


Winning the Best Innovation of an Existing Product award was Hai Robotics USA for its A24T autonomous case-picking robot.

The company built upon the success of the A42 Autonomous Case-handling Robot (ACR), which initially debuted in 2016, by developing a telescopic feature, said Brian Reinhart, Hai Robotics USA’s vice president of sales, marketing and solutions.

“The telescopic extension on the A42T ACR allows the robot to reach items stored as high as 32 feet, or 10 meters,” he explained. “The robot brings previously unseen flexibility to that elevation.”

The A42T incorporates an integrated inserter/extractor device that places and removes a variety of tote sizes and cardboard cases from storage positions. It supports both single- and double-deep storage configurations in standard static industrial rack or shelving storage.

Its autonomous navigation technology allows each robot within the fleet to access any aisle to retrieve and place items. Further, because it does not require precision racking or uniform storage media, the A24T is an ideal alternative to traditional automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), continued Reinhart.

Click here to read the full feature.