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Mark DelaneyVP, Retail Industry Strategy, FourKites

From Robotics and Automation to Micro-Fulfillment and Computer Vision, Modex 2022 signaled the advancement of some incredible technology.

I recently joined my FourKites colleagues in Atlanta for Modex 2022, the premier event for all things supply chain technology. For what feels like the first time in years, the spirit of the trade show was on full display with an exhibit hall packed with the industry’s brightest minds. I saw a lot of exciting new technology, heard some groundbreaking perspectives, and, most importantly, met lots of you while I was there – all of which left me reflecting on the exciting direction of our industry.

For the last twenty years, I’ve been either implementing or tracking technology innovations within retail. This experience has made me a trusted advisor with some of the industry’s most disruptive companies. But this type of experience has also made me recognize that you learn a lot more by listening – which is why I made sure to make note of the four most important things I heard at Modex 2022.

1. Autonomous Equipment Will Be a Differentiator in Supply Chain Resilience

With the world facing a labor shortage crisis and an e-Commerce boom, innovators have kicked next-era technology development into hyperdrive. Exhibitors like Phantom Auto and Ancara Systems BV each won awards for their technology innovations directed at alleviating the labor shortage.

From autonomous forklifts to bots that moved, lifted and sorted it’s clear that the time to automate is here. As order volumes become smaller and more frequent, manual pick & pack processes can become a significant bottleneck in the warehouse, removing any gains won in speed across the supply chain.

2. Tearing Down Silos Across the Supply Chain

Many of the solutions showcased were hardware and software working in harmony, building on our unified vision of a fully integrated supply chain ecosystem. Whether it was WMS-integrated automated order pickers, or our own yard management system, Dynamic Yard, which integrates with our supply chain visibility platform, the idea that data optimizes productivity was universal.

It was also nice to again see many of my fellow attendees huddling in aisles or over coffee comparing notes.

3. Everybody is Cognizant the Pace of Change Has Never Been Faster

Modex was far and away the largest event I attended since the beginning of the pandemic. Seminars were well attended as everybody recognized the need to stay on top of new trends and technologies. It’s as if the world flexed their combined creative genius during the pandemic, springing us 5-10 years into the future — we now need to learn how to contend, manage and continue growing the incredible technology we’ve created.

4. Micro-Fulfillment is Here to Stay

There were multiple micro-fulfillment (MFC) demos that showcased what can be accomplished with a limited amount of real estate. Each provider has a slightly different flavor in terms of capabilities, but a common thread among industry leaders was a significant interest in learning how to implement their own MFC model. Clearly, this is a technology solution that is growing rapidly and is gaining adoption.

How to Move Forward from Modex 2022

The stakes have never been higher between retailers and their customers. Two-day fulfillment has evolved into two-hour fulfillment, and keeping an ever-diversifying set of vendors, providers and products in-tune with those expectations has become a core part of a successful commercial strategy. When 73% of customers say they would be less loyal or less likely to buy from a retailer again if they experience an out-of-stock item, it’s easy to understand why.

While most companies may be focused on controlling their downstream supply chain budget, savvy companies are investing in technology closer to their sphere of control to boost productivity, increase supply chain agility and become preferred shippers. These advantages help maximize the output from their human capital, improve year-round supply chain resilience and drive their micro-fulfillment strategy forward — building a supply chain that not only generates value, but becomes their competitive advantage.

Want to learn more about how to optimize your MFC solution? Read our eBook here.

What I Hope to See at Modex 2023

The change of pace in our industry is incredible, but what I truly hope to see at Modex next year is even more of a continued return to normalcy. We, not only as technology providers in a tight-knit industry, but people, work best when we can collaborate and solve problems together.

I hope to see more collaboration between vendors and the companies they provide solutions to. And I hope to see friends and colleagues worrying about driving their respective businesses forward and not worrying about Covid tests or wars overseas.

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