By Consultants Catalina Rodriguez and Veronica Houtmann

If you follow along with us on Twitter, you may have seen that part of our team recently attended #ProMat2019. Known as the leading innovator showcase, ProMat is an bi-annual trade show that highlights all of the latest manufacturing, distribution and supply chain equipment available on the market and provides seminars to educate professionals on industry changes. With more than 1,000 solutions providers exhibiting in the showcase and various seminars covering topics like technology, robotics, and millennials, the highly anticipated event did not disappoint. In case you weren’t able to attend, we’ve recapped some of our favorite exhibits, sessions and trends to watch.

1. Alleviate the Pain of Staffing Your DC with WMS

One of our favorite sessions that we attended was conducted by Open Sky Group on workforce management software—software which allows hourly employees to have scheduling access and visibility from the comfort of their phones. When a shift is available, the employee is able to view it on their mobile device and take it. In addition, they can see everything related to their current schedule such as hours worked, earnings for the current period, and accrued vacation.

But this software doesn’t just benefit the employee. Front line supervisors are also able to use it to quickly get the right people covering the right shifts without fear of overscheduling. Additionally, employers are able to manage notifications to send available shift openings to specific associates or operators. In other words, supervisors can send the update to top performers and if no answer is received within a certain amount of time, they can then send the notification to the rest of their employees.

According to Open Sky Group, employers invest an average of $1,800 in the learning curve of a warehouse employee. But those same employees are willing to leave one warehouse for another for an average hourly pay increase of $1.50. Retention is key, more than ever. That’s why this software is so exciting; it provides flexibility to employees and gives them control over their schedules—all items that can help lower the turnover rate of your DC.

2. Improve Operational Efficiency with these 10 Steps

The second session we attended was conducted by Honeywell Intelligrated and provided a checklist of ways to improve operational efficiency in a distribution center. These steps can help you brainstorm toward a solution for operational challenges like failure to meet on-time shipment demand or lack of order accuracy that is resulting in unsatisfied customers. If you follow the checklist, it could even help eliminate these kinds of problems altogether.

  1. Know your operation: Audit, compare and align metrics across the DC
  2. Train, train and train again: Instill the WHY, not just HOW, in employees
  3. The people business: People impact your success or failure
  4. Develop an order fulfillment focus: Optimize slotting and filling practices
  5. Improve customer service: Constant communication is key
  6. Remove barriers to success: Consistently track problems and opportunities
  7. Raise the bar: Don’t settle for mediocrity
  8. Process review: Document, evaluate and analyze
  9. Benchmark: Take note of what others are doing in your space
  10. System power: Could your operation benefit from a better system?

3. The Robots Are Here—and They’re Impressive

Throughout the trade show, we got to explore many of the new robotic solutions that providers are bringing to market. Here are a few of the most impressive ones that we saw.

Honeywell Intelligrated Fully Automated Robotic Unloader

This first feature is an autonomous robot that effectively unloads cases from trailers and identifies various package shapes and sizes as well as the optimal approach to unloading. It auto adjusts the conveyor from where the cases will go through to the width of the trailer so there is no need to make modifications. It can also be easily transported into different dock doors in your DC. This amazing machine has the capacity to increase productivity and improve safety by reducing all the manual effort required in extreme weather temperatures.

Packsize Machine

The Packsize Machine is a custom box-making machine with the capabilities of cutting, folding, labeling and glueing flat corrugated boxes in just 12 seconds. This automated on-demand packaging system is great for high-volume distribution centers with multiple order sizes. With Packsize, a DC is able to eliminate unnecessary void fill and increase throughput while decreasing their environmental footprint.  

Damon Group Narrow Belt Conveyor

Damon Group is the largest domestic logistics automatic conveying and sorting product solution supplier. This narrow belt merge uses the latest technology with an optimal mechanical structure to improve performance and increase the conveyor’s life cycle. Damon’s MB-D 1002 narrow belt conveyor uses modular design, fixed side by side on the frame with several standard series unit modules in a corresponding sequence making this belt merge a great logistics solution for many retailers.

That’s just a small sample of what we saw and learned. We’re still digesting all of the information we gathered at #ProMat2019, but, overall, we left feeling optimistic about all of the technological advances and industry changes that are coming. If you were in attendance at the event, what was your favorite takeaway? Head over to Twitter or LinkedIn to share with us!