Promat 2015 Review (Part 1) – The supply chain equipment and distribution exhibition

Promat is the largest expo for manufacturing and supply chain professionals in North America.PROMAT, the exhibition that showcases the latest innovations in manufacturing, distribution and supply chain equipment and systems, has just finished playing out at Chicago’s McCormick. Place. The exhibition didn’t disappoint, and the people who attended (over 30,000 in all) were rewarded by being able to view innovative ideas and solutions from more than 800 solution providers over the 4 days that the exhibition took place from 23rd to the 26th March.

As well as the PROMAT exhibition, with its displays and stands spread across 300,000 square of floor space, the venue also co-hosted the Automate 2015; the leading robotics machinery and motion control exhibition. In this, the first of two articles being run by Supply Chain Station, we take a look at some of the supply chain products and innovations on display.

More video and less “in-the-face” sustainability

There were a couple of themes that were noticeable across both exhibitions as a whole. The first is that many more exhibitors are now making more use of video presentation, rather than transporting actual plant to shows, and using it to put on live demonstrations. The fact that the quality of the videos and animations was so high, meant that nothing was lost; in fact explanations are even clearer and virtual demonstrations are able to depict many more application scenarios.

The other noticeable thing was that sustainability wasn’t as much in evidence as it has been on previous exhibitions. For example the hydrogen fuel cells for forklift trucks that have had such a high profile over the past 2 two years, were not on show this time round. The “green messaging” theme appeared to have been somewhat toned down.

The Mobile Case-flow system from Hi-tech Robotics Systems (India)

One interesting innovation on show was courtesy of an Indian company, Hi-tech Robotic Systems, who demonstrated a high density storage system called “Mobile Case-flow” that utilized AGVs (Automatic Guided Vehicles). It’s a high density multiple storage system whereby the AGVs not only bring the products to the storage system, but can also store them at various vertical locations within the storage facility, in effect realizing full 3D storage potential.

As well as putting products away, “Mobile Case-flow” also enables products to be picked from anywhere within the storage facility and be delivered to stations for manual picking and collation, or put onto multiple product pallets.

PC Data’s revolutionary “Smart Glass” solution to Pick and Put-to-Light

PC Data had their new take on a “Pick and Put-to-Light” system on display. Instead of the costly screens and displays other manufacturers have used before, with this product the operator wears a special pair of spectacles. After scanning a 2D barcode depicting the items to be picked (or put away), an image is then projected onto the plain glass spectacle lens, showing the operator how many of the item(s) to put or pick in each location.

Engineering Lifting Systems & Equipment – Re-Stuff-it Machine

Engineering Lifting Systems & Equipment were promoting their “Re-Stuff-it” machine, which they first brought to market 3 years ago. It’s a very simplistic device which is basically a mobile conveyor belt that has great mobility and dexterity, and can be used for the loading and unloading of floor loaded trailers. It not only makes the loading/unloading process faster and more efficient, but it is also ergonomically beneficial in as much as it negates a lot of the lifting, turning and twisting that is characteristic with this type of manual handling.

The new static electricity handling technology from Grab-It

A company by the name of Grab-it Technology displayed how their new static electricity based technology called “electro-adhesion” can be used for things like adhering loads to conveyor belts poised at a steep angle, so that they don’t  slip backwards or forwards. The same technology can also be used to apply a braking system to a series of rollers, typically at the end of the conveyor belt. This can prevent packages from crashing into one another, a problem that is common throughout the supply chain material handling industry; for example where gravity flow lines are used.

Another application they demonstrated using this electro-adhesion technology was to charge and pick up an inanimate object such as apple, a paperclip, or a printed circuit board, without exerting hardly any pressure on the product being picked.

New supply chain software – “Plan to Fulfill” – from Softeon

Plan to Fulfill, or P-to-F, is a new software package that can take a product forecast and create inventory and replenishment on a dynamic, proactive basis.  It spans the gaps that exist within the supply chain software arena between planning software and execution software by offering a comprehensive, across-the- board solution in an all in one program, rather than having to bolt on separate programs and manage the output from one program and converting it into the input of another. It’s much less unwieldy.

Demo 3D – Simulation and Emulation software

This new breed of supply chain management software is designed to look at the instructions that lay within existing supply chain functions. Its purpose is to be able to simulate what will happen when instructions are altered before a program has been installed, and also to emulate what will happen when commands are changed within existing, already installed supply chain programs.

System Logistics – Automated Pick-to-Pallet system (APPS)

System Logistics demonstrated their new Automated Pick-to-Pallet system (APPS) that incorporates the latest vision technology which is installed on the end of a robotic picking arm tool. The arm picks from a “source pallet” and delivers picked products onto multiples of up to four pick packets. The clever thing about this systems is that using its advanced vision technology, the arm is able to automatically identify, select and install the correct pick tool in order to pick the appropriate size and package of product from mixed pallet loads.

Watch out for article 2 on PROMAT 2015

This short resume will give the reader a brief idea of what is happening in the supply chain world in terms of new systems, software and management innovations that were on show at this year’s PROMAT exhibition. It is the first of a two-part article series, so keep your eyes skinned for part two shortly to be published here on the Supply Chain Station website.

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