MODEX 2022 Eye-Catching Booths
Professionals in the supply chain industry head to MODEX for a variety of reasons. Making new contacts, discovering cutting-edge solutions and learning about the latest trends are just a few that describe what was to be had at MODEX 2022, the largest MODEX event to date for MHI, with 20% more visitors than the last pre-pandemic show—MODEX 2018.
But MODEX 2022 had a few more reasons added to this list, which was only fitting as the theme this year was all about “more”—more supply chain solutions, more equipment and technology and more of the smartest thinking. With COVID-19 restrictions slowly lifting around the country, March 2022 proved to be the ideal time to not only return to in-person trade shows, but to do so with a little flair and fun.
There is no doubt—with exhibitors spread across 405,000 square feet of exhibit space—innovation, efficiency, sustainability, and amazing ideas were present in droves all throughout Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center. But there were some booths that stood out just a little more, according to the attendees. They caught the eye, and held it for a bit longer—which is quite the accomplishment when there are more than 857 exhibitors/booths on the show floor!
While we weren’t able to talk to all 37,047 visitors who came to MODEX 2022, March 28-31, to ask them about their favorite booths, we did survey quite a few and came up with the following booths that topped the charts when it came to catching the eye of the attendees.
PUT CUSTOMERS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
The setup at Engineering Innovation’s booth seemed to have a gravitational pull as attendees walked by. And the larger the gathering became, the more people stopped.
The reason? “It combines multiple passions into one,” said Baily Collings of Dematic about the draw. “I love racing and I love innovation. ”
The attraction was an F-1 racing simulator, where attendees could take a mock F-1 race lap around the track and experience the sensation visually—as there was a wrap-around screen—and physically through the simulated motions and vibrations in the driver’s seat and steering wheel. “This, so far, is my favorite part of the show along with talking with people,” said Collins, who was at the show to learn and experience all the vantage points of supply chain innovation.
Co-worker Madeline Plantz, agreed. “It was a lot of fun. That was harder than it looks!”
Fun is just what Don Caddy, CEO of Engineering Innovation, had in mind when they came up with the idea. “We like to do something fun. We think it attracts more attention.” They were looking for interesting ideas and settled on the racing idea partly because of their location in Indiana (think, Indianapolis 500) and partly because Caddy’s son was keen on taking on the project of building it from scratch.
The simulator “was a good way to get people into the booth,” said Caddy. “It gives you a chance to talk to people as they are standing there waiting and explain what we do, which is building parcel processing solutions.” For those purposes, they also built a wall of visual information related to their services facing the racing onlookers. “We have very configurable, customized parcel solution that we call the Chameleon because it adapts to your processes,” said Caddy.
GET HANDS-ON WITH HEAVY-LIFTING
One of the many perks of having an in-person show is the ability to offer a hands-on experience to attendees. Sometimes, the goal is to illustrate a products’ user-friendliness and safety to potential customers and other times the attendees might already be customers. Such was the case at the TAWI booth, where Wayfair had a whole crew there testing out the equipment.
“They are installing it in our building,” said Rich Buhay, maintenance manager, Wayfair, who appreciated the opportunity to be able to see it and actually use it before the system is up and running at the Wayfair facility. “I liked coming to see it and actually doing it. You can read about it all day long, but it doesn’t really come to fruition until you get to see it and use it. If you aren’t doing it, it doesn’t really sink in.”
The TAWI team also cycled through various safety features of the vacuum-powered lifting device, which was beneficial to Buhay, who as a facilities maintenance manager will be in charge of keeping it running—even in the event of a power failure, which was one of the scenarios simulated.
This was TAWI’s first year having so many hands-on options for attendees, and also the biggest booth they’ve ever had at the show. “We enlarged it so it could be more hands on,” explained Bennett Hall, regional sales manager SE, TAWI. “We brought our whole team.” He said people were surprised with how easy it is to use. “And we can show how easy it is to adapt. Many people haven’t seen those features before.” Nick Hajewski, the marketing director at TAWI, said some of the adaptation options include having a handle that works for getting up high, for shorter people, or for picking up a 600-pound load by a worker. “We are also showing how the process can be ergonomic, easier on the joints and safer.”
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said Hall about all the safety features and adaptability of the lifting device, adding that the show has been great. “We got a lot of people here!”
OFFER A CHANGE IN PERSPECTIVE
“The great part of coming to something like MODEX is that you can get great access to working equipment so you can envision it at scale in your own working environment,” Brent Johnson, senior director of engineering services, Essendant. “That’s the stuff that makes the difference as an attendee—seeing it up close and in person instead of on a TV in a booth, because that can be done on a computer screen from anywhere. Plus, it is a tangible way to demonstrate the value of attending MODEX to executive leadership.”
That is one of the reasons Johnson brought 13 members of his team to MODEX and also the reason he gave the OPEX booth a thumbs up. The OPEX booth had an observation deck as a VIP area, where people could take a closer look at how OPEX’s new Infinity G2P solution works from above. It gave attendees a different perspective as they could see in it and over it. There was also the opportunity to view the workings from the inside, thanks to room with Dynamicsa clear, plexiglass wall that was situated in the middle of the working display.
“In a live operation, it would be machine guarded or blocked by interfacing conveyors and you wouldn’t be able to get that close to a production system,” said Johnson. But the setup at MODEX allowed for the otherwise unattainable.
“MODEX provides an amazing opportunity to launch new technology,” said Laura Evans, manager, marketing communications at OPEX, about the Infinity Solution, which was launched at MODEX. “We are able to give attendees access to best see how our solutions work up close and personal,” she explained.
And the launch surpassed their expectations. “MODEX 2022 was more than we had hoped,” said Evans. “While we do virtual events on demand that allow views from inside the machine, nothing takes the place of in-person events where you can interact live,” she said.
BOND OVER FUN MEMORIES
The 1976 Pontiac gracing the booth of Van der Graaf (VDG) was no ordinary Trans Am. It was THE Trans Am driven by Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit, which was the second-highest-grossing movie in 1977 after Star Wars. Heads were swiveling and feet were stopping all around this booth!
“It’s an eye-catcher,” said Daniel Krueger, sales manager, Superior Industrial Products, a forklift dealership that had employees at the show because “we are always looking for new products to represent. Plus, we like to see what new products are changing the industry.”
Catching attendees’ eyes was exactly what VDG had in mind when planning its booth set up. It was also an ice-breaker. “It engages you in conversations you probably wouldn’t have started otherwise,” said Jason Kanaris, B. Eng., U.S. operations production manager, VDG. Even if you’re not a car person, maybe you know the movie, he added. “Plus, sometimes, now and again, you find there is a connection there you wouldn’t have thought of.”
“It brings back a lot of fun memories for people,” shared another attendee.
But, perhaps this comment by Phillip Lemke, packaging engineer, The Ames Companies, summed it up the best: “We walked over here because of the car. We are car fans. I don’t know what else they are selling here, but I am standing here because of the car!”
MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE TO RESIST
Spot captivated everyone, yet again, this year at MODEX. The robotic dog at the Boston Dynamics booth didn’t just command a quick pit stop, either. “I’ve been standing here for 10 minutes watching it,” said Robert Banner of BMW Manufacturing Co., even though BMW has its own Spot. “We have the exact same dog!” laughed co-worker Eulene Agra. But the pull is irresistible and videotaping it is almost impossible to resist. “Everyone has their phone out!” exclaimed Scott Grooms, also of BMW. Agra said they use Spot to “promote innovation.” They have also started using the robotic dog to pick and move parts in the warehouses.
USE CREATIVITY TO MAKE A CONNECTION
Chess at a supply chain show. How does that relate, you might ask? Muratec figured out a way to connect the two—and draw countless numbers of attendees to its shared booth with Cimcorp at the same time.
“At Muratec, one of the things that is a hidden secret is we can make it, move it, store it and service it across a customer’s global supply chain. We help them integrate their solutions,” said Christine Spiegel, strategic marketing director, Murata Machinery USA. The chess set manufacturing and the robot that was programmed to play chess, both while set up on the show floor at MODEX, were both ideated to illustrate this. “We were trying to help them understand how it all integrates,” said Spiegel.
For the show, we created the chess sets as our premium gift at the show to illustrate how we can use automation to create any part that is needed. It helps with their understanding, from making to storing to moving parts out to customers.” Close to 600 people attended the “Pints and Pawns” beer and chess reception, where they gave away 100 chess sets. “Crowds create crowds!” exclaimed Spiegel.
Mark Schuchter of United States Cold Storage said, “It is very cool that we can see how the chess sets are made. They are able to do something as simple as a chess set, but also as complicated as an automated layer picker.” Co-worker Christoph Erdel concurred and added, “It is interesting to see the foundation of what Muratec uses to manufacture the smaller components that go into the larger systems they develop for us, the end user.”
Muratec also programmed a Universal robot to play chess. Normally the robot would be used to feed into the turning machine, but a quick programming update turned it into a mean chess player. Spiegel said, “Chess illustrates the level of flexibility and ease of programmability” of the robot.
Another eye-catcher at the Muratec booth was an interactive 3D automation model that helped attendees imagine how integrated solutions work together to optimize operations in a warehouse or distribution center. The model was built to help people understand that various options are available and to show how they all come together. It took almost 1.5 years to build, but “it is unlike anything else out there,” said Spiegel. Some of the solutions portrayed the products in action and each product had a QR code alongside it to give you more information, specifications, and a video, she explained.
APPEAL TO THE CURIOUS
One attention-getter at the Swisslog booth was a cobot bartender—and it was definitely intriguing quite a few attendees. “We’ve had people in line since we started pouring at noon. It’s been pretty effective,” said Megan Wolf, director of marketing at Swisslog. “They are also getting a chance to talk to our automation experts and see our data-driven and robotic solutions for the supply chain,” explained Wolf. Plus, they go away with the beer and the glass, which they get to keep.
The idea for the bartending cobot came about when brainstorming ways to illustrate the cobot’s capabilities. “Swisslog is a member of the KUKA Group, so we integrate their robotics into some of our solutions,” explained Wolf. The bartending cobot was intended to be a “luxury experience” to grab everyone’s attention so we could showcase our commitment to providing future-proof products and solutions that set new standards in warehouse automation.”
The cobot was programmed to open a bottle of beer, pour it and hand it attendees, who are able to collaborate with the robot throughout the process. “It gives attendees a chance to interact with robotics in a way they would not be able to in a warehouse,” explained Wolf. Plus, it shows the adaptability and programming range of the cobot.
Frank Matunis, senior manager, technology and material handling, Harbor Freight, appreciated that fact. “They’ve raised the bar with their control. Previously, it was far less elegant. It is intriguing that you are interacting directly with the cobot and putting it through much more fine movements—pulling caps off, pouring and rinsing, for example. Matunis has been a regular attendee at both the MODEX and ProMat shows since the 1980s because “I learn something every time and we always come away with something. Plus, it gives me opportunity to raise and coach the next generation. It’s good to see the students here!”