This article originally appeared in the April 2014 print edition of IMPO.
Thousands of professionals and enthusiasts converged on Atlanta in mid-March for one of the largest supply chain shows in the world: MODEX. The expo featured an expansive showroom, as well as more than 100 ongoing educational seminars and workshops throughout the four-day event. Registration for MODEX 2014 also included access to the collocated Supply Chain & Transportation USA Exhibition & Conference (SCT). The show is sponsored by The Material Handling Institute (MHI) and alternates annually with ProMat, MHI's material handling and logistics trade show.
In attendance was Lee Scott, the former CEO of Wal-Mart. In his keynote, Scott detailed how to build a logistics and supply chain organization that is a market differentiator. He focused on hiring the right people and giving them the right experiences to match supply chain performance to a company’s needs. Other keynote speakers included Gil West, Executive President & COO of Delta Air Lines and William L. Strang, President, Americas – Operations Group, TOTO USA and Chairman of TOTO Mexico. 
The anticipated 25,000 attendees from more than 80 countries represented numbers significantly larger than MODEX 2012 and required an expanded show space to accommodate growing interest. The 250,000 square foot floor was divided into three solution-specific centers: Manufacturing and assembly solutions; fulfillment and delivery solutions; and information technology (IT) solutions. 
While materials handling and core logistics software dominated the floor, there was a broad spectrum of exhibitors covering various aspects of the supply chain. The most obvious trends at the show included “goods to picker” technologies and automated case pick and related mixed-SKU palletization technologies. Other emerging trends in supply chain and logistics include sustainability, 3D printing and additive manufacturing, wearable technologies, and machine to machine (M2M) communications and mobility. 
Also apparent was the focus on ergonomics to reduce the strain on human workers. Caster companies showcased new technologies to reduce push and pull strain, coiled vacuum lifts removed strain from lifting, and forklift companies added rollers to their forks to reduce torque needed to squeeze under a skid.
The Winners of the MHI Innovation Awards for Best New Innovation and Best Innovation of an Existing Product were also announced at the show. The winners were Intralox and Product Protector LLC respectively. More information about the award program and this year's winners, as well as the show in general, is available at 
IMPO staff had the opportunity to view some of the latest trends in the manufacturing and distribution industries. Here are some highlights from the show:
ARPAC, an end-of-line packaging equipment manufacturer, featured their Semi-Automatic Pro Series LP Wrap-N-Weigh. The heavy duty pallet stretch wrapper with a 4,000 lb. capacity is integrated with a precision scale and digital controls, combining wrapping and weighing into one operation. This model is available in high profile (for forklift loading) or low profile for pallet-jack loading. 
Wildeck Inc. demonstrated several of their most popular storing, lifting, and guarding products, which are designed to help maximize space while achieving a higher level of safety in facilities. Wildeck work platforms add valuable space, and are designed to meet specific OSHA safety requirements. 
Automated picking stations are an easy way to increase worker efficiency and picking productivity. Kardex Remstar, an automated storage and retrieval systems manufacturer, showcased their Shuttle XP Vertical Lift Modules (VLM), which range from light duty storage to the new heavy duty Shuttle XP 1000 model, which boasts a 2,204 lbs. capacity per tray. 
Visitors to the Rite-Hite booth learned about the LiteSpeed Clean roll-up door, with speeds up to 65-inches per second. The door was designed to help keep contaminates from entering clean, interior environments and will be available starting in September. 
Customization was the theme at the Products For Industry (PFI) booth, as they showcased their BENCHPRO Kennedy Series Workstation. The workstation starts with a basic bench, and the customer is able to select one of four tops and add the accessories needed for specific jobs. 
The Vidmar booth featured several storage solutions, including parts cabinets, issue counters, workbenches, and cabinets. Their issue counters are custom-configured to meet business demands – from cabinet sizing, to draw configurations, to the entire storage system layout. 
4SIGHT demonstrated the latest features, benefits, and tailored applications for their Yard and Dock Management System. The system integrates loading dock equipment with intelligent software to monitor, communicate, and manage loading dock status – helping companies avoid costly detention charges, product spoilage costs, and employee accidents. 
For attendees looking for racking and shelving solutions, Rousseau Metal Inc. displayed new accessories for their Rousseau shelving and Mini-Racking units. The new accessories included a mobile base that installs under shelving units, handles to help with moving units, and protective bumpers to prevent damage. 
Vocollect, a Honeywell company, demonstrated the Talkman A730, a device that contains an integrated short-range scanner, which enables workers to use both voice direction and scanning to fully optimize a process in an ergonomic, wearable form. The small, easy to holster device even allows workers to scan hands-free by speaking a voice command to activate the scanner when moving boxes with labels past the scan target. 
Another Honeywell company, Granit, showcased the Granit 1280i, an industrial-grade full range laser scanner that can read barcodes from 54 feet away. The 1280i is built to read all linear bar codes across a wide depth-of-field range with ease. The device was also designed for industrial applications and is able to withstand harsh working environments. 
To address the unique challenges involved in the packaging of automotive Class A surface parts, ORBIS Corporation, an international manufacturer of sustainable reusable packaging and an expert in supply chain optimization, has developed ORBIShield Dunnage – a material that is inherently protective and requires very little secondary processing before it’s converted into dunnage sets. It provides the versatility to create rigid partitions which can support the weight of parts in a tote, while still having the flexibility needed to create curved cells for parts. 
The RapidPick goods-to-person work station was demonstrated connected to a Dematic Multishuttle 2 inventory staging buffer. Dematic also showcased voice directed picking stations and automatic pick face replenishment. Each order fulfillment solution at their booth was promised to increase pick rates, order accuracy, and worker ergonomics. 
For companies that require customized ladders and stairs, Ladder Industries provided solutions. Ladder Industries is a manufacturer of standard and custom ladders, stair products, conveyor crossovers, machine stands, aircraft maintenance platforms, and handrails. The Rolastair Mobile Rolling Ladder Stand was displayed, and is the company’s most versatile mobile ladder stand.