Modex Day One: Trade lane shifts and mobile robot growth

Posted by Geekplus on Mar 12, 2024 9:02:34 AM

For Bill Seward, president of UPS Supply Chain solutions, one of the major trends in the market is the shifting of trade lanes around the world.

Mexico became the U.S.’s largest trading partner last year, replacing China after 20 years, and foreign direct investment in Mexico has increased tremendously. UPS Supply Chain Solutions now has an entire team of experts focused on Mexico to help customers weigh the benefits of exploring operations in the country.


“And if you look at occupancy rates in warehouses along the border, if you look at the cost of labor, all of that is indicating that a massive shift is going on,” he said, advising companies move beyond a disintermediated approach the country and opt for an end-to-end outlook. “There are enormous, powerful tax benefits to be had from Mexico into the U.S. and other markets.”

In the Asia-Pacific region, customers are moving from Mainland China to elsewhere in the region. Seward now refers to the area as “China+.” He’s quick to point out that China is still a major player in the global supply chain, but notes that companies are exploring growth in other areas.

“What we’re seeing in Thailand, what we’re seeing in Vietnam … what we’re seeing in other markets along the southeast Asia border and also in India is this idea of companies actually moving into these markets in a way that’s different than it was five or 10 years ago.”

He also advocated for an updated supply chain plan of attack. With all that has happened in the last few years, companies need to reevaluate the locations of their operations.

“If you looked at your supply chain approach … three years ago, you need to look again,” he said. “Things have changed so dramatically and so rapidly.”

Before the keynote, Fortna announced the launch of its OptiSweep solution, which is powered by Geekplus mobile order fulfillment robots. Geekplus is demoing its suite of Goods-to-Person robots at Booth C6076.

Looking specifically at the warehouse industry, one of the main trends is a lack of labor. That’s what Rick DeFiesta, executive vice president of sales and solutions at Geekplus, told the audience during his afternoon discussion, “Don’t get locked in: Why flexible automation is a safe, long-term bet.”

Staffing shortages at warehouses are due to retirements, people dropping out of the workforce and simply the fact that it can be difficult to attract new workers to order fulfillment jobs.

“The majority of companies that we speak to have a difficult time even getting to 70 percent of staffing,” he said. “I even have customers that schedule 150 percent of staffing hoping they get to 100 percent on Monday morning.”

One way to attract new workers is by using mobile order fulfillment robots. The change can be immediate and highly beneficial for employees. In a manual warehouse, DeFiesta said that pickers spend between 40 and 60 percent of their time walking through the warehouse finding goods. With Goods-to-Person order fulfillment robots, those items come directly to the workers, eliminating the time spent walking the aisles and vastly improving working conditions. This turns employees into master selectors.

“How productive would selectors be if they were only selecting?” he asked the audience.

In addition to eliminating constant walking to picking locations and increasing productivity, order fulfillment mobile robots also reduce errors, eliminating the bottlenecks that cost time and money.

Not all warehouse automation is created equal. DeFiesta advised attendees to carefully weigh the options in the marketplace against ROI, making sure not to choose a solution that can only be fully implemented years down the road to solve a problem needing immediate attention today. Measuring a company’s flexibility, scalability and reliability is extremely important.

Carefully selecting a reliable provider is even more crucial as the market for mobile automated robots only continues to grow. Interact Analysis expects the market globally to add 2.7 million robots by 2027 – 65% of these will be order fulfillment robots. While there is a high demand for our mobile order fulfillment solutions, there are vast numbers of warehouse operators around the globe stuck in a manual world.

With a full suite of Goods-to-Person mobile robot solutions, Geekplus is there to help. The team is spreading the word at Modex 2024 in Booth C6076 and at the LogiMAT trade show in Stuttgart from Booth 6B61.


Topics: Software, Supply Chain, goods-to-person, 3PL, 2024, tote-to-person