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Key Takeaways from ProMat 2023

ProMat 2023 is a conference designed to let supply chain leaders exhibit and discover trends and technologies that can take their businesses to the next level. Known for fostering innovation, ProMat is the leader in presenting industry-leading innovations in manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain equipment that will make any cynic’s jaw drop. Cornerstone Edge attended this year’s exhibit, and it did not disappoint. Read on for our main takeaways.

A return to normalcy?

What stood out dramatically was the epic turnout, attendance was reminiscent of pre-pandemic shows. In fact, Modern Materials Handling reported attendance set a new record with almost 51,000 registrants, 1,051 of which were exhibitors. That’s 12% more than pre-pandemic shows. With 562,700 net square feet of exhibit solutions and over 150 educational sessions in 1.2 million square feet of Chicago’s McCormick Place, it was epic. Was it the desire to reconnect after three years of separation, the presence of Hollywood icon Ron Howard, or could it be Boston Dynamic’s robot, Spot? Whatever the reason, attendance was high, and that was reassuring, inspiring, and exciting!

Robot Revolution

The robots are taking over!! Well, not quite, but they were certainly the belle of the ball at this year’s ProMat. There was a definite focus on automation with a laser eye on autonomous mobile robots. Whether discussions were had about warehouse robots or robotic lift trucks, robots were on everyone’s minds, and it’s likely because there was one there walking the floor – Boston Dynamic’s Spot.

Boston Dynamics’ Robot: Spot

But what we noticed was also that Robot as a Service is getting more interest and traction rather than any upfront purchases. Taking this approach can reduce some level of risk by minimizing upfront costs.  It can also prove beneficial by transferring maintenance responsibilities to the vendor.

Software Renaissance

We consider ourselves software nerds, after all, we have vetted over 80 solutions over the past decade. So we were thrilled to see a growth in the number of smaller vendors offering Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Transportation Management Systems (TMS). Every operation will have a different set of needs, so the more options out there, the better the chances for a company to find a solution that suits them perfectly, without any redundant features. We hope to see that trend continue to grow as the years pass.

It’s All About the Labor

No matter the solution, everyone there was talking about labor.  Historically, the main subject all attendees focused on was improving efficiencies, but this year the discussion was centered on the difficulty in finding and keeping labor. This isn’t new, or at least since 2020, this has been a large part of what manufacturers, distributors, and supply chain leaders have been struggling with. Of course, as the trouble with labor continues to impact every corner of the market, it comes as no surprise that automation, including robotics, is becoming more sought after.

We had a blast at ProMat and were so impressed with the creativity, innovation, and dedication exhibitors presented throughout, and we can’t wait to see what 2024 has in store for us. Until then, we’re here to answer any supply chain questions you may have. If you’re looking to make your supply chain your differentiator, you’ve come to the right place. Reach out and let’s see if we’re a match. 


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