MODEX Showcases Innovations to Address Productivity, Employee Safety and Labor Challenges



The speed, volume and complexity of the global supply chain continues to increase with the support of innovative technology that helps move goods more efficiently and safely. The 2024 MODEX exhibit hall was filled with over 1,200 exhibitors displaying the most up-to-date solutions for supply chain challenges. Ten of the innovative leaders were:

ArcBest: Vaux Smart Autonomy

arcbest vaux smart autonomy


The combination of MHI member ArcBest’s Vaux Freight Movement System and Vaux Smart Autonomy marks a significant shift in freight logistics. This innovative approach that was showcased at MODEX features a customizable mobile freight platform that transforms how trailers are loaded and unloaded. Designed to allow a trailer to be unloaded in minutes rather than hours, this system also makes previously unstackable items like all-terrain vehicles stackable. Loading the platform outside the trailer and then moving it in as a single unit eliminates multiple forklift entries, which enhances safety and minimizes freight damage.

Michael Newcity, chief innovation officer of ArcBest and president of ArcBest Technologies, emphasized the groundbreaking nature of this development. “The process of loading and unloading trailers has not changed in a hundred years, so this platform is truly a disruptive innovation,” he stated. The platform’s mobility streamlines warehouse operations by reducing the frequency of handling materials, which improves productivity and overall operations.

To augment these advancements, ArcBest unveiled Vaux Smart Autonomy, aimed at boosting efficiency and offering flexible staffing solutions for warehouse operations. This system incorporates an Autonomous Mobile Robot forklift and reach truck fleet equipped with cutting-edge software, sensors and cameras. The vehicles can navigate warehouses autonomously, recognize and interact with pallets and racking systems and perform tasks like loading, unloading and pallet stacking. Additional capabilities include advanced dimensioning and 2D barcoding. Vehicles can be operated in autonomous, remote or manual modes. A teleoperator center supports these autonomous vehicles, enabling remote oversight and control over multiple robots.

“Remote operations, whether in a room in the distribution center or centralized in another location, expands the pool of potential employees to include disabled veterans, people with limited mobility and others who physically cannot drive forklifts, unload trailers or move materials,” said Newcity. This capability was demonstrated at MODEX with a teleoperator in the ArcBest booth monitoring and operating operated lift trucks in a Fort Smith, Arkansas warehouse. “This initiative addresses employment challenges by expanding the pool of potential applicants.”

Boston Dynamics: Stretch

boston dynamics stretchAddressing workforce issues as well as assurance of predictable workflow while unloading floor-loaded trailers, MHI member Boston Dynamics’ Stretch is a mobile robot that works with a variety of carton sizes and shapes and can lift and place up to 50 pounds.

“Stretch always shows up to work, and does one of the toughest jobs on the receiving dock,” said Alex Perkins, chief roboticist for Stretch. Using the robot to unload trucks not only improves employee safety but also enables the warehouse manager to better utilize employees in other areas. “Another advantage is predictable workflow because Stretch can operate for 16 hours on one battery, continuously lifting cartons,” he said.

Because the robot is mobile, it can be easily moved from trailer to trailer on the dock, said Perkins. With this advanced mobility and a footprint the size of a pallet, Stretch is built to maneuver in and out of trucks and tight spaces in a warehouse,” he said. “The robot is easily scalable and can be installed and ready to work within existing warehouse infrastructure in just a few days.”

The robot is equipped with a powerful, custom vacuum gripper and an advanced vision system that detects boxes and the container surroundings, enabling Stretch to autonomously recover any packages that shift or fall during unloading. Stretch does not require any pre-programming of SKU numbers or information on box sizes; the robot makes all unloading decisions in real time, without the need for explicit directions or supervision.

Introduced just two years ago, early customers who began with just one robot are scaling up now, said Perkins. “We are learning what the ideal uses for Stretch are and exploring how we can expand the robot’s capabilities.”

Gather AI: Drones for Inventory Control

gather ai drones for inventory control


MHI member Gather AI’s MODEX booth demonstrated how the combination of drones and artificial intelligence improves the quality and speed of inventory monitoring by comparing pictures taken by drones flying through racks with what is in the warehouse management system (WMS).

Gather AI software enables drones to fly autonomously through warehouses with no GPS or Wi-Fi, in the dark and in very narrow aisles. The drones photograph inventory stored in pallet locations. These pictures are uploaded into the cloud where the AI reads barcodes, text and other information in the photographs and automatically compares it with data in the WMS.

“The big advantage to our system is that it can work 24/7 with people and equipment in the aisles—there is no need to shut down the warehouse for inventory,” said Sean Mitchell, vice president of customer success at Gather AI. “The system is flexible and scalable with one person able to monitor and operate multiple drones at one time.” Safety features built into the software enable the operator to pause the drone when people or equipment are in the area.

Off-the-shelf drones and cameras along with the Gather AI software combine for a cost-effective inventory system that requires no changes to the warehouse infrastructure, said Mitchell. “The system works with any WMS, and the installation is simple.”

Actual customer benefits have included a decrease in WMS error rate from 11% to 3% in three months, discovery of $1 million in lost inventory in a single warehouse, 15 times the average number of pallets scanned per hour, increased revenue and a reduction in inventory counting staff from six to one.

LG Electronics: LG CLOi CarryBot

lg electronics lg cloi carrybot


MHI member LG Electronics unveiled its new LG CLOi CarryBot family of autonomous mobile robots at MODEX. Building on the company’s experience with autonomous robots that transport products, guide customers, deliver food and beverages and provide information in commercial settings, the CarryBot AMRs focus on warehouse and fulfillment center needs to move payloads.

“The robots are ideal to move small- to medium-sized packages that weigh up to 66 pounds in narrow spaces and can be configured to fit specific warehouse needs and floor plans,” said Jim Livingston, senior account manager of LG Robotics. “A good wireless connection in the warehouse and one to two servers, depending on the number of robots deployed, is all that is needed to implement the system.”

The LG CLOi CarryBot can be programmed for virtually any floorplan with practically unlimited pickup and delivery points, enabling precise navigation, multi-point deliveries and AI-enhanced decision-making that streamlines deliveries when multiple AMRs are servicing a single zone. The robot has a typical runtime of 18.5 hours and automatically returns to its charging dock at the end of its “shift” or when power is low.

Robots interface with warehouse management systems and warehouse execution solutions to support smart order grouping, picking item categorization, order information distribution and total picking cooperation support including notations of shortages or skipped items. Fleet management system integration provides path-planning for multi-AMR users, intelligent AMR fleet navigation and prioritization, traffic balancing and detouring and obstacle avoidance.

Ocado Intelligent Automation: Robotic Ultra-High-Density Cubic ASRS

ocado intelligent automation robotic ultra high density cubic asrsThe robots in MHI member Ocado Intelligent Automation’s MODEX booth entertained conference attendees as they zipped back and forth, lifting bins and delivering them to the robotic picking arm at dizzying speeds.

The Ocado Storage and Retrieval System, a robot-on-grid ultra-high-density cubic automated storage and retrieval system, has been in use in the grocery industry but is now available to other industries such as healthcare, retail apparel and footwear, consumer packaged goods and third-party logistics.

“The lightweight grid structure and light, high-speed 3D-printed robots can easily be scaled to fit the needs of a fulfillment center with very high throughput,” said Mark Richardson, CEO of Ocado Intelligent Automation. Because the grid can be installed in multiple configurations, the system can be designed to fit the very specific needs of each facility. “We have one customer in London that has a grid with 750,000 bins and 3,000 robots to manage fulfillment.”

Robots fetch bins and drop them off to human-assist pick stations or to fully-automated robotic pick arms. A patented, single-grid cell footprint design allows robots to pass each other unobstructed, follow optimized route plans and ensure availability and stock access.

The robotic pick arm combines computer vision and advanced sensing to identify, pick and pack items from storage bins without prior knowledge of what they contain. Machine learning capabilities enable the robotic pick to train using its own data to make faster, more dexterous handling decisions in real time for new or potentially delicate items to protect from damage and maximize packing density.

While the robots and bins are composed of lightweight, sturdy plastic, a new innovation is the introduction of metal storage bins that can accommodate and protect a wide range of products. “The metal bins are designed to eliminate the risk of fire spread without compromising the throughput and storage density,” said Richardson. Use of the metal bins eliminates the need for fire breaks, which adds up to 20% of cubic storage space for the grid structure.

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