Over 1,000 attendees joined SMC³ in its annual Jump Start supply chain conference, held as a virtual event this year. The focus on day one gravitated toward one common theme: Change.
In the aftermath of a big year of change for the supply chain and logistics industries, Monday’s keynote speakers addressed many of the economic, political and technology changes that will set the stage for the post-pandemic recovery in 2021.
To kick things off, industry keynote speaker Brad Jacobs, chairman and CEO of XPO Logistics, opened the event on a note of optimism.
“I think that 2021 can be a really good year,” he said. “It’s going to require the industry to build on what we accomplished last year, and still function profitably in the worst possible environment that has ever happened in our industry for decades.”
“I think we should be proud of what we achieved. We need to embrace technology, praise each other and find ways to be more effective, efficient and harmonious — to serve our customers better.”
Technology adoption will continue to be a big change agent in 2021 according to CEO of FedEx Custom Critical, Ramona Hood. In her remarks as the conference chair, Hood highlighted the strong role that an agile approach to technology and innovation played in her company’s ability to quickly adjust to industry volatility over the last year.
From an operations and innovation perspective, Hood believes the case for business agility will only become stronger as the recovery process continues throughout the early portion of 2021.
“When you incorporate business agility into the framework of your strategy and how you move through your initiatives and tactics, it brings a new level of value to the organization, your employees and your customers,” Hood said. “It allows you to compete and thrive in a digital age.”
In the political realm, a new presidential administration is also sure to bring about new changes for the transportation industry. While none of the first day’s speakers could say for sure what a Biden administration will mean for commerce and infrastructure, University of Virginia Professor and Founder of the UVA Center for Politics Dr. Larry J. Sabato predicted during his keynote session that President Biden and Cabinet Secretary of Transportation Nominee Pete Buttigieg will make investment a priority — which could drive significant advancements in sustainability and electric vehicle initiatives in trucking and beyond this year.
Finally, from an economic perspective, both Dr. Jeffrey Rosensweig, Associate Professor of Finance and Director at the Robson Program at Emory University, and J. Bruce Chan, VP and Senior Analyst of Global Logistics Equity Research at Stifel, predicted a continuation in 2021 of the steady recovery the transportation sector has experienced over the past few months. In particular, Chan noted that even as restrictions related to COVID-19 subside, high e-commerce demand should remain strong through the first half of the year.
As consumer spending on goods remains elevated and e-commerce continues to hit new records, we should continue to see a capacity constraint as retailers and other businesses aim to restore inventory levels.
“We have gained a lot of lost ground from the pandemic shutdowns, and historically the market is very strong from a freight perspective,” Chan said. “We still have room for more recovery. 2021 should be a particularly strong year from both a volume and a pricing perspective.”
The three-day Jump Start 2021 supply chain conference facilitates meaningful knowledge transfer and collaboration between logistics and transportation professionals from carrier, shipper, logistics service provider and technology verticals. To learn more about Jump Start conferences, visit smc3jumpstart.com.