Senior Consultant, Belinda Scott reviews the BoxLogic team trip to the International Material Handling Exhibition (IMHX) at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham between 6-8 September 2022, the first of this in-person event since before the pandemic in 2019, when BoxLogic had our own stand.
What is IMHX?
IMHX is an exhibition held at the NEC, Birmingham biennially specialising in showcasing the material handling providers of the logistics and warehousing industry. It’s a great opportunity to see what’s new in the market and what market-leading suppliers are promoting.
This year’s IMHX was smaller in footprint than in previous years, but the exhibitors were more focused on automation and solution provision, which meant that there were a lot of interesting conversations to be had about overall warehouse solutions.
A Dazzling Array of Robotics
There were some great demonstrations of automation technology, in particular a wider variety and larger presence of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) than at previous IMHX events, the last one being all the way back in 2019. These included tuggers trucks, transportation units, sorting units and a range of ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System) units.
A variety of mechanisms to retrieve and putaway totes and boxes were exhibited. These ranged from single-load carriers where the base unit drives under the racking whilst the arm slides handling units from the racking (Caja Robotics) through to ‘Carton Transfer Unit’ (CTU) technology (e.g. Hai Robotics, Wise Robtics, Geek+ etc.) which acted as a mini-load attached to a robot base to collect multiple totes per cycle. These could be deployed on either single or double deep racking. There was also an impressive AMR that scales the racking to deposit or pick totes or trays (Exotec). Many of these could work in an environment with people making them ‘cobots’ or assistive technology. There were also several AGV fork trucks in addition to pallet and roll cage handling machines.
There were several examples of Goods-to-Person (G2P) stations. The CTUs would automatically decant all eight totes at once for them to be presented to the picker in sequence while another solution showed an AMR driving up an incline to presents the tote to a picking operative before returning via a decline. There were also multiple installations of the AutoStore solution present, with AutoStore exhibiting as well as their resale partners.
Traditional Intralogistics Providers
There were examples of pallet shuttle systems also on display, especially highly automated ones that allow the shuttle unit to change levels and travel through a network of passages allowing dense storage and variable storage depths while decreasing the number of shuttles required. This was impressive as it essentially makes the solution more accessible to customers with significant stock depths but lower throughputs.
Several of the larger automation integrators surprisingly did not have a presence at the exhibition in 2022 and there were notably less forklift companies or supplier of sub-componentry (like wheels, specialist conveyor, roll cages safety barriers etc.) which meant the solution providers felt more concentrated.
Why Should You Attend IMHX?
IMHX is worth spending a day out of the office for anyone interested in learning more about warehousing solutions or identify potential vendors for upcoming projects and I look forward to seeing what the next show will bring in 2024.
It allows us, as expert consultants in warehouse automation and robotics solutions to keep up-to-date with the latest industry trends, innovations whilst also providing our team with the opportunity to keep in touch with old colleagues and many other friendly faces.
Thanks to all the vendors who went to the effort of displaying their equipment. Videos on YouTube are great but there is nothing like seeing something working in front of you to really spark the imagination.