CSCMP EDGE Panel Recap: The Rules for Transportation in a Digital Economy

Earlier this week, supply chain professionals gathered in Atlanta for CSCMP’s annual EDGE conference. The event provided attendees with opportunities for networking, premium supply chain related content, and a wealth of strategic input from the industry’s thought leaders. Among the many excellent sessions was “The Rules for Transportation in a Digital Economy – 26th Annual Study,” which featured project44’s President, Tommy Barnes, alongside Karl Manrodt – Professor at Georgia College & State University, Michael Levans – Group Editorial Director at Peerless Media LLC, and Mary Holcomb – Professor at The University of Tennessee.

The CSCMP EDGE panel discussed the findings of the “26th Annual Study of Logistics and Transportation Trends (Masters of Logistics),” conducted by Logistics Management. If you couldn’t attend the session, or simply want to revisit it, below is a recap of some of the highlights from the discussion.

Customers Are More Demanding

Mary Holcomb spoke to the impact that even the direct consumer feels, especially around the holidays, “Everybody in the supply chain is going to be affected by time-based competition.” During periods of high demand, limited product availability can cause increased competition for the most popular products. This is an example of a situation where the end-consumer might not realize the impact that the supply chain has on their personal situation, but that doesn’t change their expectations in any way.

They want to be able to place orders anytime from anywhere.

“Our expectations have changed,” says Tommy Barnes, “We think of things in seconds. It’s kind of a rude awakening.”

Technology Needs Are Expanding

According to the survey, satisfaction with IT capabilities has dropped 9% among shippers over the last year. This deals both with the solutions they have been using in-house, and the legacy solutions provided by 3PLs.

“Our freight transportation operations need to be working at digital speed, and we need to use the technology that allows that,” stated Barnes.

What he’s referring to is replacing legacy technology with automation and visibility solutions that are effective now, but also scalable as consumer needs continue to evolve. The omni-channel supply chain has reached a high level of complexity, and companies who don’t start rethinking their technological approach to addressing that complexity are at a competitive disadvantage that will be difficult to overcome.

The panel explained that it all begins with strategy.

Planning For The Future of Supply Chain Technology

Think about the progression of technology over the last 26 years. The term “disrupt” has become commonplace in many industries, and disruptive technology has been the driving force behind winners and losers. Established players have fallen from the top of their industries simply for their failure to adapt.

If you are thinking about upgrading tools and techniques, Karl Manrodt suggests you ask yourself one question, “What are the anticipated benefits?” You need to consider scalability, security, functionality, and strength of partnerships, and how those things will factor into your business once you’re integrated. That’s actually why API Integration Programs are becoming more and more popular.

The panel agreed that the future is, “All about the cloud and visibility.”

Leveraging real-time data to react to the supply chain’s needs and predict what might come next are crucial elements to combating this “Amazon Effect.” These initiatives go a long way towards reducing costs as there is more and more outbound freight going direct to consumer.