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MODEX Recap Part Two: The Coronavirus Update


I think for a lot of us March feels more like four years ago than just four months. However, July 13th does mark exactly four months to the day since we wrapped up our booth at MODEX 2020 in Atlanta, GA. If you’re unfamiliar, MODEX is one of the biggest supply chain and material handling conferences in the country and is put on by the Material Handling Industry (MHI). They did a phenomenal job managing the emerging pandemic – as that was just as the outbreak started in the US – and MODEX really was our last chance to interact with our clients and partners prior to everything going on lockdown.

Shortly after the show, we wrote a blog post covering what we saw, heard and learned at MODEX 2020. Now, after so much has happened in the past four month and there have been so many things changing for supply chains around the country and the world, we wanted to take a minute to relook at our MODEX 2020 takeaways and provide an update on some of the current trends in the industry.

The material handling industry is changing, FAST.

Well, if there’s one thing that the last four months have proven to be true, it’s that things can and will change quickly… sometimes seemingly overnight. Our initial takeaway from MODEX reflected specifically on data and how that is opening up insights into companies’ operations and how those companies are leveraging that information to up efficiency and productivity. Post-COVID breakout, all focus has turned towards two things: 1) automation and how to do more with less workers, and 2) how to equip a warehouse to be safe for its workers so operations can resume as much normalcy as possible.

Sustainability in the supply chain is gaining more importance.

One big thing that we saw a lot at MODEX 2020 was how companies have been finding new and innovative ways to make their operations “greener.” This focus on minimizing environmental impact is a relatively young development in the industry, though it will definitely take a backseat to innovative solutions for navigating the current pandemic and preparing for future situations that are similar. This forward-thinking approach does apply to those post-COVID efforts though. We’re seeing a lot of companies not just look for a one-time solution to social distancing workers, but rather long term, sustainable changes to their operations that will help them be more prepared for situations like this in the future, such as mobile conveyor that allows for moving workstations around a warehouse floor based on demand. Or, protective barriers mounted on wheels that can be taken in and out of storage as conditions require.

Technology is reaching new heights every year.

Our team was blown away by the amount of new technology showcased at MODEX 2020, just like we are every year. Likewise, we’ve been blown away by all the different ways the industry has reacted to the pandemic and how they’re leveraging different technologies to accommodate for changing needs. These technologies will only continue to develop, and as things normalize R&D departments around the world will get back to plugging away at their new and exciting developments outside of the realm of pandemic response tech.

Suppliers are better equipped than ever to help you navigate the changing landscape.

Everyone in this industry knows just how essential supply chains are. Without supply chains running smoothly there would be no available masks or PPE for our front-line workers to fight against the pandemic. Suppliers who help design, build and maintain these essential supply chains have had to react quickly to the pandemic to make sure things keep rolling. It’s been an all hands-on deck few months for companies like CCS to make sure we keep our client’s supply chains rolling. We’ve worked hard to adjust our processes and accommodate for social distancing. The challenge moving forward for us and similar suppliers is continuing to find ways to safely navigate post-COVID projects so we minimize risk for all parties involved but still keep things moving.

We’re not the only ones noticing a rise in labor as a pain point.

Labor Scarcity was a huge problem facing the material handling industry even before the global pandemic, now things have only gotten worse because COVID is taking even more people out of warehouses. Automated robotic solutions are even now more in the forefront of most companies’ minds as they adjust capex budgets for 2021. There is good news though. One of the potential factors that are causing the Labor Scarcity is a general disinterest in warehouse jobs, especially by Millennials and Gen-X’ers. Rampant unemployment caused by the pandemic is forcing more and more people out of jobs and subsequently into new ones. When warehouses start to open back up, there’s the potential for a large influx of new workers to help fuel the rising demands of the new “stay at home” culture of the pandemic.

The show must go on.

Ultimately, this pandemic doesn’t seem like it’s going to end any time soon. Luckily, the people who keep our nation’s supply chain have proven that we are stronger than it. We just have to keep adapting and stay flexible.  

If you think there’s something that CCS could help you with in terms of managing your supply chain, reach out to Jason Noble at jasonnoble@cartercontrols.com or 301-698-9660 x250.

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