Reported by MassRobotics Executive Director, Tom Ryden

ProMat is one of the largest material handling and logistics trade shows. It is held biannually and just finished up in Chicago last week. I had not been for a while and I must say I was surprised at the change. Last time I was there robotics companies occupied a small section of the show floor, mostly hidden off in the back. It is clear the show has grown and the focus is different. This year there were more than 1,000 manufacturing and supply chain solution providers covering more than 560,000 square feet of exhibit space, over 1/3 larger than 2019. Not only did robotics companies dominate in terms of size, they were front and center. These companies had significantly bigger and more elaborate booths with interactive demos – robots doing their thing. 

It was great to see so many of the companies we work with taking part in the show, and increasing their presence. With one of the largest booths right as you walk in to the South Hall, Locus Robotics was highlighting its data science-driven warehouse automation platform, LocusONE. This software helps help customers operate and manage large quantities of multiple AMR of different shapes and sizes in a single, coordinated fashion in all sizes of warehouses.

RigthHand Robotics, which provides autonomous robotic picking solutions for order fulfillment, is positioning itself for growth by raising some additional capital and brining on a new CEO.  It was great to see Yaro Tenzer, one of the co-founders, showing off its new RightPick 3 platform

Vecna Robotics, a provider of flexible material handling automation solutions, was highlighting their collaboration with GEODIS, a leader in transport and logistics, to use Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) solution for case picking, doubling workflow throughput.

Berkshire Grey, before the recent announcement about their go private transaction with Softbank, was showing off their robotic Pick & Pack and Pick & Sort systems.

There were no Spot dogs in their booth. Rather Boston Dynamics was showing off Stretch, their mobile, automated case handling robot in an automatic trailer unloading application. Not alone, Pickle launched its truck unloading robot arm at the show this year.

We also had a number of our start-ups demonstrating their capabilities. Southie Autonomy was in Mitsubishi Electric Automation booth with a food and beverage demonstration featuring easy-to-program robotics.

And German Bionic was in the start-up alley showing off their exoskeleton.

While robots are not new to ProMat, the depth and breadth of the applications is growing as is evident by the dozens of AMRs and piece-picking cells that were on display. With research firms like Interact Analysis noting that mobile robot shipments grew at a 70% clip in 2021 and predicting that by the end of 2027 more than four million AMRs will be installed globally, and with many companies introducing higher-value applications and integrated solutions as robots tackle some of the more physically demanding tasks in distribution centers, it looks like the show, and the industry, is on a good path.