Four Companies Honored For Supply Chain Innovations With Transformative Potential

The 12th Annual MHI Innovation Awards saw strong entries across four categories, including the inaugural Best Innovation in Sustainability competition, at MODEX 2024.

greg baer

Of the hundreds of solutions that filled all three of the Georgia World Congress Center’s exhibition halls during MODEX 2024, four supply chain and material handling solutions stood out among the 193 entries to MHI’s 12th Annual Innovation Awards competition.

mhi logoAmong the three finalists in each category (see sidebar), honors were awarded to Slip Robotics for Best New Innovation; ForwardX Robotics for Best Innovation of an Existing Product; Configura for Best Information Technology (IT) Innovation; and Avery Dennison for Best New Innovation in Sustainability, an award making its debut at MODEX.

Tasked with reviewing the entries were seven independent industry professionals from companies representing a broad range of sectors. These volunteers evaluated the submissions based on their concept, value and impact. To choose the winners, the judges assessed the finalists’ solutions based 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 revealed on Wednesday, March 13 during MHI Industry Night hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost. All Innovation Award entries are included in this issue of MHI Solutions and can be viewed online at

slip robotics


Best New Innovation

WINNER: Slip RoboticsSlipBot automated loading robots (ALRs) automatically load and unload trucks in five minutes or less with no additional infrastructure.

SlipBot omni-directional automated loading robots autonomously drive directly into or out of a trailer, cutting loading and unloading time from 50 minutes to five minutes. That significant time savings earned MHI member Slip Robotics the Best New Innovation award.

Measuring approximately 17 × 8 feet, SlipBots are low-profile, autonomous mobile platforms designed to hold up to 6 tons of material. Located at a staging area adjacent to a dock door, each SlipBot holds up to 20 pallets (depending on pallet dimensions and stacking). Prior to a tractor-trailer’s arrival, each bot is loaded by either a manned forklift or an autonomous mobile vehicle, said Jordan Sanders, chief commercial officer at Slip Robotics.

When the empty trailer arrives at the dock, an operator with a handheld device directs each robot to automatically drive into the trailer for loading without using the facility’s WiFi, he explained. “Up to three SlipBots fit into a standard, 53-foot-long trailer. The robots remain with the load, driving out of the trailer upon arrival at their destination’s receiving dock.”

SlipBots deliver a number of benefits, including increased process speed and dock throughput, improved safety and other cost savings. They also decrease forklift operator idle time, improve operational efficiency and safety and can be deployed without any dock modifications.

“Waiting for forklift operators to load and unload trailers results in drivers spending on average 23% of their workday idle,” Sanders said. “Because it takes just five minutes for three pre-loaded SlipBots to enter or exit a trailer, it dramatically cuts the amount of time truck drivers spend waiting at the dock.”

Loading and unloading trailers with SlipBots is also significantly safer and more efficient, he added. “Fork truck operators do not need to enter the trailer to load and unload it. Both are time-consuming processes that are limited to loading one to two pallets at a time in a confined area, creating bottlenecks. There’s also a higher risk of damage and injury associated with forklift operators carrying pallet loads between the trailer and the dock.”

Slip Robotics offers the SlipBots in a robots-as-a-service (RaaS) model. Their flexible design makes them easier to deploy than traditional automated trailer loading systems, continued Sanders.

“SlipBots do not require costly fixed installations, dock modifications or custom trailers,” he said. “Automated forklifts struggle to reliably manipulate varied freight and navigate inside trailers. Even in the best case, they can only match the speed of a human-operated forklift. SlipBots consistently carry up to 20 double-stacked pallets per minute—and all other freight types, including parcels—between any trailer and staging area.”

forwardx robotics


Best Innovation of an Existing Product

WINNER: ForwardX RoboticsUpdated with a new Total Spatial Awareness Module comprised of multiple sensors and obstacle recognition cameras, the Apex C1500-L autonomous forklift adjusts in real-time to avoid contact with any static or dynamic object.

The Apex C1500-L autonomous forklift’s enhanced environmental perception capabilities gave MHI member ForwardX Robotics the edge needed to win the Best Innovation of an Existing Product award. To ensure maximum operational safety and efficiency, the vehicle now sports the Total Spatial Awareness Module. This standard safety package is comprised of multiple sensors, including an array of multi-line LiDARs and obstacle recognition cameras, said Steve Mefford, sales director.

“We engineered the Total Spatial Awareness Module to create a full sphere of protection around the vehicle,” he explained. “The Apex C1500-L is a 3,300-pound capacity lift truck, and our initial model was engineered to CE standards. That meant that the forks would stop if they came into contact with an obstacle.”

However, in general, most operations aren’t exactly comfortable with the idea of an autonomous vehicle’s forks—or any of the vehicle for that matter—making contact with an object or a person to trigger a stop. Therefore, ForwardX decided to engineer a solution that exceeds the CE requirements. The result was the Total Spatial Awareness Module.

“The module includes two multi-line LiDAR sensors along with three additional 3D RGB cameras and computer vision software that interprets the information,” Mefford said. “It’s mounted to the mast to create a complete sphere of detection above and below the forks, as well as around the vehicle.”

Thanks to the multi-directional detection capabilities of the module, the vehicle can accurately perceive any changes it encounters in its environment—like a static pallet load in the middle of an aisle, or a person walking under elevated forks—and maneuver appropriately to avoid it.

“The software uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to interpret the environment and determine if an obstacle is an inanimate object that is not going to move, or if it’s a person who may move in an unpredictable way,” he explained. “Because it can distinguish the difference, the Apex C1500-L can react accordingly to maximize operating efficiency.”



Best IT Innovation

WINNER: ConfiguraCET Material Handling system design software allows integrators, pallet rack and conveyor manufacturers and third-party logistics (3PL) solutions providers to create accurate, large-scale facility concepts.

CET Material Handling design software from MHI member Configura allows system integrators, pallet rack and conveyor manufacturers and third-party logistics (3PL) solutions providers to create 2- and 3-dimensional facility concepts quickly and accurately. Those capabilities earned Configura the Best IT Innovation award.

The software’s use of parametric graphical configuration (PGC) technology eliminates errors, improves efficiency and streamlines the process of designing warehouses and distribution centers, noted Rich Trahey, vice president of sales and marketing at Configura.

“CET Material Handling enables users to effortlessly create accurate, large-scale projects and collaborate within a single drawing,” he said. “It incorporates intuitive features, such as the ability to click, snap and stretch 2D and 3D symbols resembling real products. That helps speed up sales and design processes. One customer recently told us that drawing a project previously took two full days, but with CET it only takes half a day to finish.”

The software also facilitates collaboration with customers, allowing them to become more comfortable with the final solution. Trahey said several CET users report that doing so has allowed them to win their largest bids to date. “It also improves communication between departments. Sales can start the design to create up to 85% of the concept, then pass it on to engineering to finalize the last 15% without redrawing,” he added.

avery dennison


Best New Innovation in Sustainability

WINNER: Avery DennisonDT Linerless logistics grade direct thermal labels don’t use a paper liner, cutting material use by 32%, providing up to 50% more labels per roll and eliminating 100% of associated waste.

Anyone who has shipped a package knows this process: Print the label. Peel off the paper backing. Stick the label on the package. Throw out the paper. With its DT Linerless direct thermal labels, however, MHI member Avery Dennison has eliminated the paper—and the resulting waste. That loss resulted in the company winning the inaugural Best New Innovation in Sustainability award.

“Our DT Linerless labels are a continuous roll of direct thermal paper media made with a pressure-sensitive adhesive,” said Colleen Costello, senior manager of the Label Solutions Innovations Team at Avery Dennison. “The labels also have a special top-release coating made of silicone on the face. The coating prevents the face of self-wound labels from sticking to the adhesive backing—similar to a roll of tape.”

The goal of eliminating liners on labels evolved from Avery Dennison’s continuous and intentional efforts to reduce its own environmental footprint, Costello explained.

“Sustainability is something that, as a company, we’re always looking to do better—and so are our clients. We dedicate a lot of research and development to meeting that goal. The DT Linerless labels were something we worked on for two years prior to launching the product in third quarter 2023,” she said.

The logistics grade labels work with printers designed with release surfaces along the paper path. The printers feature platen rollers, feed rollers and knives specific for use with linerless labels. Because they are dispensed in a continuous roll and cut to size, there’s no die-cut shape left behind on the label material, known as a matrix.

“One of the most effective ways to really make a positive difference in the environmental footprint of any product is to eliminate material. As an innovation, the DT Linerless labels have no liner waste, no matrix waste and no media used between labels. That makes a significant impact on a user’s sustainability efforts,” added Costello. “Each roll also contains 50% more labels and 32% less material compared to standard direct thermal labels with a liner.”

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