Next week’s MODEX intralogistics event, which attracts many robotics companies in the supply chain space, will still happen despite several companies canceling their attendance due to concerns of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Several other upcoming events, including the large Hannover Messe show in Germany, have postponed their shows.
Berkshire Grey, Dematic, SICK, Zebra Technologies, Hannibal Industries, and Kindred are among the companies that have canceled appearances at MODEX or are scaling back their commitments and canceling appointments. Other companies, such as Vecna Robotics, are providing additional opportunities for attendees who might cancel their attendance at the show. Vecna announced it will host a “virtual booth” at the event for attendees looking to visit virtually.
In a statement, Berkshire Grey cited the safety and well-being of its team and customers for its decision to cancel. “Although we will not participate in this large international event, we will continue to conduct essential business travel to support our customers and installations,” the company said. In addition, Berkshire Grey said it would be available for video or teleconferences within the same time frame or to engage with customers via other mechanisms.
Kindred in an emailed statement said that its “mission is to enhance the lives of human workers with the power of AI robotics. In keeping with that mission, we have decided to withdraw as an exhibitor from MODEX 2020 as a precaution to protect the well-being of our employees, customers and partners.”
Kindred continued, “We look forward to engaging with our customers and partners in the coming weeks through video conferences and webinars to share insights as to how AI-powered robotics can help them overcome the supply chain challenges ahead.”
SICK, a manufacturers of sensors, safety systems, machine vision, encoders and automatic identification products for industrial applications, said the decision to cancel was not an easy one. “SICK’s most important priority is the well-being of all employees,” the company said in a statement. “Therefore, as a precautionary measure to minimize health risks to SICK employees worldwide, SICK will not send any staff or support resources to Atlanta for this event.”
30,000+ attendees still expected
MHI, which runs the MODEX event, yesterday provided a statement about keeping the show open. The company said it is still expecting more than 30,000 attendees for the show, although it acknowledged that it expects fewer attendees from China, Italy, South Korea and other countries with travel restrictions due to the virus.
“We understand concerns about COVID-19 Coronavirus are top of mind, and we want to be as transparent as possible and share information about what we are doing to prepare for MODEX 2020,” the statement said. “For MHI, the producer of MODEX 2020, the safety and security of our exhibitors and attendees is our paramount consideration.
“We are closely monitoring the situation regarding COVID-19/coronavirus and are following protocols that are provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control” (read the complete statement here).
LogiMAT, a similar logistics show that was set to take place from March 10-12 in Stuttgart, Germany, canceled its event earlier this week. Organizers said “the risk of infection has become more acute due to the increased and accelerated spread of the coronavirus in Germany, with the region of Stuttgart among those particularly affected.” German public health officials instructed organizers to cancel the show.
“This is bitter, given the overwhelming importance of LogiMAT Stuttgart for the global intralogistics industry,” said Christoph Huss, managing partner of EUROEXPO. “The cancellation of LogiMAT 2020 for external, unforeseeable circumstances is unprecedented in the event’s 18-year history. Despite tremendous efforts working with Messe Stuttgart, we were unable to find a later date to host the event in 2020, so it is with great regret that we have decided to cancel LogiMAT 2020.” The next LogiMAT will take place in 2021 in Stuttgart, March 9-11.
Similarly, Hannover Messe, which was scheduled to take place in April, announced that it was postponing the event to July in response to coronavirus concerns.
“The Hannover Region Health Authority had strongly recommended that Deutsche Messe follow the advice of the Robert Koch Institute, which includes comprehensive measures to safeguard health when hosting major events” the event said in a statement. “For instance, fever measuring stations at all entrances and not allowing people from risk areas or those who have had contact with people from risk areas to enter the exhibition center. This would have entailed a comprehensive evaluation of all trade fair participants – from exhibitors and visitors to service providers, exhibit builders and catering companies.
“Deutsche Messe is unable to implement the proposed measures,” it continued. “In addition, their implementation would impair the staging of the event to such an extent that the event would not fulfill its purpose or would do so only with considerable restrictions for exhibitors and visitors.” The event is now postponed until July 17-20.
Robot company announcements
Companies with robotics products and services are still making news announcements ahead of the MODEX event that highlight new products, product upgrades or partnerships. Here are a bunch of items from companies that will be showing items at the event:
* 6 River Systems (Booth 7489) announced upgrades to its Chuck collaborative mobile robot, as well as improvements to its order-allocation algorithm and optimzations for batch, zone, and other picking methodologies. Enhancements to the Chuck robots include an increased capacity that can support payloads up to 200 lb. (90.7 kg), expanded compliance through a patent-pending safety system that meets the CE and UL1740 standards; and improved usability through lighting, images, and new prompts that accelerate training for associates.
* Soft Robotics (#3627) announced its Polybag Picking System, an extension of the SuperPick platform, specifically designed for the handling of product returns (see story here).
* Waypoint Robotics (#9600) and Numina Group (#7006) announced that they are teaming up to create an autonomous batch cart automated order-picking solution, which they will demonstrate at the show. Numina’s real-time distribution software will integrate with Waypoint’s Vector autonomous mobile robot to showcase pick-by-voice commands to direct operator zone movement and picking tasks. It will also coordinate AMR batch cart movement throughout a distribution center. Read more here.
* Vecna Robotics (#9807) announced an extension of its partnership with UniCarriers Americas, part of the Mitsubishi Logisnext family of companies. The partnership has UniCarriers manufacturing and promoting their pallet jacks running Vecna’s Pivotal automation software (read more on our sister site, Collaborative Robotics Trends).
* Prime Robotics (#9836) announced it will show its Auto Shelf, a fully patented design that integrates a robot into every shelf. Instead of using a series of traditional AMRs that spend time picking up and moving shelves, all of the AutoShelf units move and bring themselves to the pick stations. In addition, each Auto Shelf includes lights that are directly integrated into shelf slots, providing pick-to-light functionality. The company said its dispatch system adds a layer of intelligence by “optimizing item/shelf locations, reducing the movements the robots need to perform and shortening the distance on the fastest moving items” (read more here).
* Geek+ (#6696) will showcase several products at the show, including its C200 Robot Shuttle System, and Geek+ Forklift, to U.S. audiences. The company also plans to showcase its existing picking, moving, and sorting systems.
* Kindred (#7791) will debut its Kindred SORT 3.7 piece-picking robot at the event. The SORT 3.7 system includes eight additional cubbies, for a total of 27, which translates to a 42% increase in the number of items it can sort at e-commerce fulfillment centers and warehouses. The system can also integrate with continuous induction systems, such as cross belt or Bombay sorters, and can now pick 400 units per hour consistently, Kindred said.
* Universal Robots (#1007) will showcase its cobot arms in new applications, including the first public display of the Quick Deployment Kit (QDK), a collaborative, accurate, and scalable solution for parcel induction, case packing and goods-to-person tasks. The kit is developed by MDCI Automation, a certified systems integrator for UR in partnership with Plus One Robotics.
The company will also showcase Cross Company’s Cross Palletron, a system that uses a UR10e cobot to create a collaborative and mobile palletizer and de-palletizer. In addition, UR cobots will be featured at the RightHand Robotics booth (#9826) as part of its RightPick2 platform.
Editor’s note: We will update this with additional company announcements and COVID-19 statements as situations warrant.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 1:30 PM Eastern with news about Kindred.