March 8, 2018
special report | Industry Events

Modex 2018: Innovation Central

Modex 2018: Innovation Central

At the Modex exhibition and conference in Atlanta, attendees can get up close and personal with sizzling new technology, equipment, and services for the supply chain.

By DC Velocity Staff

Thinking of distribution centers as cavernous facilities full of boxes, pallets, and racks is so 20th century. Nowadays, they are hot spots of technological innovation. Think about it: Conveyors that turn themselves off when there's nothing to convey. Customized packaging material made on the spot. Driverless lift trucks. Glasses that can tell you what and how much to pick.

Need to keep pace with the latest and greatest technological innovations? The Modex Show organized by MHI (formerly the Material Handling Industry of America) might be just the ticket. One of the largest expositions for supply chain solutions in the Americas, Modex will be showcasing products and services from more than 850 exhibitors at Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center from April 9-12.

For ease of navigation, the 250,000-square-foot show floor will be divided into function-specific solution centers: Manufacturing & Assembly, Fulfillment & Delivery, Information Technology (IT) Solutions, The Knowledge Center, Smart City Logistics and Connected Supply Chain, and Transportation & Logistics. Exhibitors from across North America will be on hand to showcase the following technologies and services:

  • Material handling equipment and systems, which includes a broad range of products, from the highly complex (like automated guided vehicles and automated storage and retrieval systems) to the elegantly simple (like casters, racks, and shelves).
  • Packaging, containers, and shipping equipment, which encompasses not just pallets, containers, and shrink wrap but also packaging machinery, equipment designed for the inspection of products by weight or scanning, and palletizers.
  • Inventory management and controlling technologies, which includes computers, controllers, and software programs as well as systems integrators.
  • Dock and warehouse equipment and supplies, such as dock levelers, pads, and doors; flooring; hoists; cranes; monorails; and below/hook lifting devices.
  • Consultants and distribution system planners, including simulators, modelers, and third-party logistics service providers.
  • Automatic identification equipment and systems, such as bar-code printers and scanners, radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems, vision systems, and voice recognition systems.
  • Supply chain management, which serves as a catch-all category for such products and services as alternative fuel systems, parcel management and distribution, reverse logistics, and inventory security services.
  • Smart city logistics and connected supply chain, connected technologies, including "smart city" technologies that can help urban areas address the increasing challenges of congestion, noise, and pollution associated with more frequent last-mile deliveries to their growing populations.
  • Transportation and logistics, such as road, rail, sea, and air freight services; parcel delivery; and autonomous vehicles.

In addition to the exhibition, an extensive educational conference will run concurrently with the show. The conference features five keynote addresses, a "Women in the Supply Chain" forum, and more than 100 supplier-led seminars on a broad array of manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain topics.

The Modex keynote presentations will offer a glimpse of the future and insights into how businesses can prepare themselves for what lies ahead. On Monday, April 9, Juan Perez, chief information and engineering officer at UPS, will deliver the opening keynote address, "Anticipating Tomorrow's Supply Chain Challenges - Today." In his presentation, Perez will discuss the importance of embracing innovation and describe how UPS is preparing for the "Fourth Industrial Revolution," which will be enabled by the Industrial Internet of Things, the ongoing evolution of mobility, and smart cities.

Following the opening keynote, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal will take the stage to welcome Modex attendees to Georgia. In his address, Deal will detail the state's significant investments in supply chain and transportation infrastructure for moving goods quickly and efficiently through the Southeastern region.

On Tuesday, April 10, Andrew McAfee, co-founder and co-director of the Initiative on the Digital Economy and a principal research scientist at the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Sloan School of Management, will deliver a talk on the digital revolution and its implications for employment and the economy. Arguing that technology is rewriting the business playbook and that a great deal of standard business practice is now dangerously out of date, McAfee will look at how digital technologies such as robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and autonomous vehicles will impact business moving forward.

Scott Sopher, principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP's supply chain practice, and George W. Prest, MHI's chief executive officer, will present the findings of a new report from MHI on Wednesday, April 11. The organization's "2018 Annual Industry Report" focuses on the supply chain trends and technologies that are transforming supply chains. After the presentation, the speakers will moderate a panel of manufacturing and supply chain leaders discussing the real-world significance of the report's findings.

Later that day, Mike Rowe, TV personality and founder of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, will present "Why Dirty Jobs Matter." In his presentation, Rowe will talk about skilled labor and why it's being devalued by the media, advertising, and even the government. Rowe will also share his insights into the benefits of hard honest work and how it affects everything from our national identity to our infrastructure to the economy.


Following the keynotes each day, Modex visitors can choose from a wide array of supplier-led educational seminars. These 45-minute sessions will be presented in theaters located right on the show floor. This format allows attendees to learn about various manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain solutions in the educational sessions and then actually see the equipment, systems, and services that can implement those solutions. This year's seminars are divided into six tracks: automation and robotics; data capture, analytics, and information management; manufacturing, planning, and sourcing; sustainability and risk management; transportation, distribution, and warehousing; and workforce and labor.

New to the seminar schedule this year are special conference sessions that will be held in the two newest solution centers, the "Transportation & Logistics" and "Smart City Logistics and Connected Supply Chain" centers. Sessions scheduled for the "Transportation & Logistics" center include "How to Reduce Small Parcel and LTL Transportation Costs in a Challenging Economy," "Technology Disruptors," and "Challenges in the Logistics Workforce." Sessions to be held in the "Smart City" center include "Artificial Intelligence: Evolution of Shipping," "Smart City Logistics - Successfully Navigating the Last Mile," and "Creating the Connected Warehouse." Here's the complete seminar schedule.

Modex will also reach beyond the confines of the convention center to offer supply chain-focused tours of the following Atlanta-area facilities: Telaid Industries Inc., Kroger, Kia Motors' assembly plant, and the ATL aircargo facility. (Preregistration and separate fees are required.)

This year, Modex will be co-located with the Georgia Logistics Summit, an event that brings together nearly 2,000 logistics and supply chain professionals from Georgia and beyond to network, share best practices, and learn about the latest trends in the industry. The 2018 summit is expected to feature nearly 50 speakers, including prominent shippers and leaders in the state's infrastructure and economic development community. A separate fee and registration are required for the summit. Learn more at

Pre-registration for Modex 2018 is free online. There is no charge to attend the exhibits, Modex keynotes, or show-floor educational sessions. The website also offers exhibitor search tools, floor plans, a complete list of educational sessions, and information about travel and accommodations.

Resources Mentioned In This Article

Material Handling Videos

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