ProMat & MODEX Evolved Along with Supply Chain Technology

August 13, 2016

The first National Material Handling Show launched by the Materials Handling Industry (MHI) in 1948 was a result of new methods used to transport goods during World War II. That first show in Cleveland had 60,000 net square feet and approximately 3,000 attendees.

During the early years, the annual event moved around to various ‘industrial’ locations, including Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Chicago, Baltimore, and San Francisco. Detroit’s show in 1974 was the first to hit
six-figure net square footage. Exhibits included industrial trucks, cranes, monorails, shelving, loading dock equipment, and conveyors.

Throughout the history of MHI, the annual expos have provided attendees with the latest developments in managing the flow of materials and products through the supply chain from manufacturing and distribution to
consumption and disposal.

Today’s exhibitors include not only traditional equipment manufacturers, but also modern technology such as automated storage and retrieval systems, radio frequency directed technology, bar coding, smart cranes,
robots and more.

The ProMat brand evolved from the slogan ‘Productivity through Material Handling,’ and became the official show name in 1985 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. ProMat is now held every odd-numbered year in Chicago.

For the first time in 2017, ProMat will have exhibits in both the South and North Halls of McCormick Place. Over 850 exhibitors will fill the two halls, totaling over 370,000 net square feet, representing all segments of the industry, from traditional manual equipment to computerized, automated .

"Driverless (or autonomous) vehicles … are disrupting traditional supply chains,” said Tom Carbott, MHI Senior Vice President of Exhibitions. "Attendees can see, touch and operate these solutions including automated storage and retrieval systems, automatic guided vehicle systems, driverless trucks, delivery drones, and automated crane technologies."

Prior to launching MODEX, in the alternate years of ProMat MHI held a show called the North American Material Handling Show (often referred to as the NA Show). It launched in Detroit in 1992 and moved to Cleveland in 2004 where it stayed until being retired in 2012.

Because the industry was becoming more global MHI recognized the need to expand the focus to a worldwide audience, so after two years of research MODEX launched in 2012. It is now held during even-numbered years in Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center.

“Material handling has been a huge enabler of productivity in both manufacturing as well as distribution,” said Carbott. “Yet some things stay the same which is evidenced by some of the original exhibitors and basic technology that was on display back in 1948 as well.” Two companies – Columbus McKinnon and Yale & Hyster – have been exhibitors for more than 50 years.

Over 28,000 attendees gathered at MODEX this past April, exploring solutions featured by more than 800 exhibitors in 250,000 net square feet. It was recognized as one of the Top 25 Fastest-Growing Shows by TSNN, and true to MODEX’s global focus the participants came from over 100 countries and six continents.

As a part of this year’s MODEX, Student Days introduced over 300 high school and university students and educators to the world of material handling, supply chain and logistics through hands-on learning and a
guided tour of the show floor where they had the ability to see state-of-the-art equipment and network with industry professionals.

Over the years, MHI shows have experienced their share of adventures. At one show in Detroit, Michael Moore showed up unannounced to film for a documentary on General Motors. He was denied entry and was not happy, according to Carbott.

“At one of the early ProMat shows, an exhibitor hired an imitation Beatles Band with an Ed Sullivan impersonator,” said Carbott. “They set up on the top level of a 40-foot-high rack assembly and proceeded to sing at a decibel level of about 130. For four minutes, the show was shut down because nobody could talk or hear. We had to threaten to cut off electricity to the booth because the band was not interested in playing soft. They agreed to one more song and would then leave. That last song was ‘Revolution’ — not funny then, but incredibly funny now.”

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.