Modex 2024 recap: Technology improvements for logistics, material handling applications

Modex 2024 in Atlanta emphasized the need to improve supply chain management and operations with automated technologies that take the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs away from people while still operating efficiently.

By Chris Vavra March 25, 2024
Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

Material handling insights

  • Material handling advancements showcased at Modex 2024 highlight the evolving landscape towards automation, with technologies like shuttle systems and AGVs enhancing efficiency and scalability.
  • As companies navigate labor shortages, the balance between automation and human intuition remains crucial for safety and operational effectiveness in logistics and warehousing.

Modex 2024 in Atlanta offered many insights and advances in the world of material handling and logistics. Companies are trying to do the proverbial “more with less” as worker shortages remain an issue. Automation, robotics and digital technologies can certainly help, but it’s not enough to be efficient. Workers also need to be safe and the facilities they operate need to be safe so they can avoid downtime and other issues.

Easier said than done, especially when companies are relying more on machines and less on human intuition and awareness. The latter may not be perfect, but it’s been honed and fixed through years of experience and survival.

The machines are catching up and the advances shown at Modex are an encouraging indicator of how far they’ve come, but also, perhaps, how much more they can do. Here are some notable highlights.

HWArobotics: Customizable shuttle systems launched

HWArobotics showcased its high quality, reliable and efficient shuttle automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) technology. With system availability of more than 99%, excellent reliability, accuracy and scalability, the customizable shuttle robot systems deliver high throughput for a wide range of industry sectors and can be deployed fast to deliver results quickly.

The SLS300 series standard tote shuttle storage system delivers high efficiency and up to 24 hours of continuous operation. Capable of speeds of up to 4 m/s and acceleration of 2 m/s, the SLS300 has single machine capability of up to 120 boxes an hour.

The SLS400 series variable tote shuttle system can mix and store containers of different sizes and can be configured to meet different efficiency requirements.

The SLS600 3D tote shuttle system meets the needs of low-traffic, high-efficiency environments, such as spare parts, publishing, and ecommerce sites. It has excellent warehouse sharing capabilities as shuttles can realize any change of lane operation.

The FPSS1500 series pallet robot shuttle system is designed for warehouses and distribution centers. The four-directional solution is an advanced ASRS designed for efficient pallet handling and storage, with global standard CE and UL certification.

“The recent deployment of HWArobotics shuttle systems by Darwynn demonstrates how our technology can be up and running quickly and effectively, automating and optimizing logistics and storage processes,” said HWArobotics general manager Sky Chen in a press release.

HWArobotics’ FPSS1500 series pallet robot shuttle system is designed for warehouses and distribution centers.

HWArobotics’ FPSS1500 series pallet robot shuttle system is designed for warehouses and distribution centers. Courtesy: HWArobotics

Lenze: Enhancing and improving material handling conveyor solutions

Lenze displayed a pair of solutions designed to improve material handling operations and efficiency.

The o450 magnetic MDR is designed to simplify material handling infrastructure while improving the power of conventional motorized rollers and reducing energy consumption up to 30%. The o450’s motor design eliminates gearing and integrates the power electronics inside the roller, simplifying the design and reducing variants by up to 85%.

The i550 motec frequency inverter is designed to optimize conveying operations and uses integrated regenerative braking functionality. This allows regenerated energy to be fed back to the main power supply, rather than burning it off using a braking resistor. It can work in adverse and tough material handling conditions and has minimized variances for open- and closed-loop control.

Both were displayed during a demo that showed the products’ efficiency and speed. Riley Schroeder, industry manager for material handling and logistics for Lenze, summed up the company’s approach to Modex as: “End users want to increase throughput, reduce energy consumption and improve safety, our products that can help them achieve those goals can also allow OEM’s to reduce installation time, reduce variants, and innovate their existing solutions. A true win-win.”

The o450 magnetic MDR is designed for applications that have busy supply chains such as packaging while giving users greater throughput.

The o450 magnetic MDR is designed for applications that have busy supply chains such as packaging while giving users greater throughput. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

ORBIS: Flexible and reusable packaging that provides cost-savings

ORBIS Corporation has long emphasized integrated reusable packaging and they had their OpteBulk on display at Modex as part of their plans to enhance their footprint. The OpteBulk container is made of plastic corrugate and is designed as a sustainable alternative for storage and distribution of raw material, assemblies and finished goods while offering transportation, packaging and warehouse cost savings as a reusable collapsible container.

“A plastic container can be used repetitively within the plant,” said Mike Ludka, senior product manager at ORBIS Corporation. The challenge with plastic is the sides are tight and it doesn’t quite have the flexibility corrugated cardboard does. He said they’ve spent a decade researching the challenge and have made it so the product stays consistent throughout and won’t cause jams or slowdowns, which is a critical concern for many companies in material handling and warehousing.

The container also includes reusable plastic pallet, sleeve and topcap. The sleeve, in particular, is manufactured from a tri-laminated structural core material with bi-directional strength. The clamshell collapse kits all components together for reverse logistics for easier use.

Ludka said they’ve been emphasizing reusability and sustainability to cut down on the carbon footprint while giving material handling and warehousing companies a full solution that cuts down on downtime.

ORBIS’ Optebulk is designed as a sustainable alternative for storage and distribution of raw material, assemblies and finished goods as a reusable collapsible container.

ORBIS’ Optebulk is designed as a sustainable alternative for storage and distribution of raw material, assemblies and finished goods as a reusable collapsible container. Courtesy: ORBIS Corporation

Raymond Corporation: Automated stacker brings flexibility for material handling applications

The Raymond Courier 3030 Automated Stacker is designed to improve flexibility, scalability and reliability to automation applications and implementations. The Courier is built on the chassis and mast and uses vision-guided technology that requires no additional infrastructure.

Enhancements to the Courier 3030 Automated Stacker include improved motion control, object detection coverage, increased speeds and lane staging capabilities to the existing features of the Courier 3030, including:

  • Increased travel speeds from 3 to 4 mph.

  • Improved Secondary Object Detection System from 2D light detection and ranging, or lidar, to 3D lidar. This increases visibility for overhead, cantilevered and overhanging obstructions, which are common in warehouses.

  • Low-clearance arch allows the lift truck to work in applications that operate under low overhanging structures.

  • Reverse object detection sensor detects objects when traveling in the fork-first (reverse) direction.

“Another critical feature of the 3030 is that it requires no modifications to existing facility infrastructure,” said Martin Buena-Franco, product marketing manager of automation, The Raymond Corporation in a press release. “This is a lift truck that can be operational on Day 1, providing for a fast return on investment.”

It ties into a general theme president and CEO Mike Field emphasized during a video interview at Modex where he emphasized how they’re trying to provide solutions for engineers and companies regardless of where they are in the facility or what their role is.

The Raymond Courier 3030 Automated Stacker enhancements improved motion control, object detection coverage, increased speeds and lane staging capabilities.

The Raymond Courier 3030 Automated Stacker enhancements improved motion control, object detection coverage, increased speeds and lane staging capabilities. Courtesy: Raymond Corporation

VisionNav robotics: Trailer truck loading and unloading solution unveiled

VisionNav Robotics launched its VNST20 PRO trailer truck loading and unloading solution, featuring the VNST20 PRO AGV robotics, at a press conference during Modex. It combines the autonomous forklift VNST20 with an advanced robot control system (RCS) for fleet scheduling and 3D LiDAR SLAM deep learning positioning technology for greater accuracy. It has been designed specifically for trailer trucks, automating loading, unloading and manual handling tasks and doing the job in less than an hour.

Featuring 3D LiDAR SLAM positioning, the dedicated, proprietary system delivers increased space utilization, high scenario adaptation, high compatibility, and reliable solution redundancy to provide fast, safe, and efficient cargo handling.

During a press conference, Kyle Chan, senior manager of sales and business development manager at VisionNav Robotics, said, “We want to be clinical and pick the right projects and solutions for each company.”

The VNST20 PRO is designed to turn 180 degrees and its own with three degrees of variability and can handle almost anything, Chan said, including wheel-open and wheel-closed pallets, cages and even wrapped pallets.

This is part of a larger effort by the company to tackle labor shortages and elevate on-site worker conditions, Chan said, by giving a strenuous and difficult task to a robot that can do in less than an hour, which is faster than what a human can do.

 VisionNav Robotics’ VNST20 PRO trailer truck loading and unloading solution has been designed specifically for trailer trucks, automating loading, unloading and manual handling tasks.

VisionNav Robotics’ VNST20 PRO trailer truck loading and unloading solution has been designed specifically for trailer trucks, automating loading, unloading and manual handling tasks. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

Improvement is a constant

Material handling, logistics and warehousing are going through some interesting times as automation continues to take a greater role. More tasks are being run by autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and other heavy machinery to take it off the humans’ hands. It’s all about efficiency and improving a supply chain that was tested and pushed to the breaking point a few years ago. Manufacturers and their customers are better prepared and are working to make the day-to-day tasks less challenging.


Author Bio: Chris Vavra is web content manager for CFE Media and Technology.