Talk of freight transportation procurement, emerging supply chain technology highlight first day of Jump Start supply chain conference

Possibly even before all of the 500 attendees were settled in their seats Monday morning for the opening keynote of SMC³’s Jump Start 2020 supply chain conference in Atlanta, speaker Joe Thiesmann was running up the center aisle to talk with a logistics professional that had taken his bait.

“Who here is a Browns fan?” the former Washington Redskins great had asked, looking for an easy target. After finding the attendee in question (one of only a few that admitted their football prediction), he fake gloated: “I’m going to show you something you’ll never see in your lifetime. It’s a Super Bowl ring.”

While Thiesmann’s speech contained plenty of friendly ribbing and a good deal of behind-the-scenes football talk, the quarterback deftly wove his experiences as a leader on the field into anecdotes relevant for the crowd of logistics and supply chain stakeholders. He explained that in business, contracts are created to make sure both parties follow through on the deal. Successful people, he said, make contracts with themselves.  

“We don’t hold ourselves accountable,” he said. “Over the next two weeks in your life, take a pen in hand: What do you want professionally, personally, spiritually and financially?”

As for when one might attain actual, lasting success? Thiesmann had an idea about that, too.

“True success comes when you’ve reached a point in your life where you start to give back,” he said.

Success can be won through collaboration, and supply chain and logistics conferences like Jump Start 2020 are great events for nurturing that partnership, he said. Thiesmann’s speech contained a lot of football talk, of course, but he used those lessons, other than the witty inside look at the game or friendly ribbing of audience members, to apply the leadership and goal-oriented nature of sports to life and the supply chain business.

“Your industry is the heart and soul of this nation,” he said. “All anybody has to do is get on the highway and see how many trucks roll.”

Jump Start 2020 conference chair Eric Stone, senior manager of domestic sourcing and supplier performance at Johnson & Johnson, ended his brief presentation by showing the audience how to create value in the freight transportation procurement process. When looking for LTL and truckload carriers to transport the company’s goods, Stone considers a host of attributes.

While price is important, his team also considers the sustainability programs at their carrier partners, the diversity of those suppliers, and the companies’ commitment to new technology. Finally, Stone is looking for carriers that are interested in longterm partnerships and collaboration. On the diversity front, $1 billion of Johnson & Johnson’s transportation spend is set aside for minority businesses, he said. In a sign that greening the supply chain is important to the company, Stone announced a 2020 goal of spending 80 percent of its yearly budget with carriers that have clear commitments to sustainability.

“Cost is not the only element of value for sourcing at Johnson & Johnson,” Stone said.

During the rest of day one, attendees learned about the current state of the market from a panel of transportation CEOs and dissected current economic trends with Emory University’s Dr. Jeffrey Rosensweig and Ben Hartford of Baird.

During the CEO roundtable, Wayne Spain of Averitt Express brought up the labor market, echoing the driver-shortage theme that has been discussed in the supply chain world for years. The current labor situation is tough, he said, especially in the truckload arena. “We have a tremendous shortage presently,” he said.

The panelists also spoke about the speed of today’s technology and how customers are no longer demanding complete shipment visibility or that companies are versed in the latest transportation technology – they just expect it. During a poll of Jump Start 2020 attendees, visibility solutions and artificial intelligence/machine learning emerged as the two areas of technology the crowd thought would have the most impact on the supply chain world this year.

“What’s most interesting to me is the technology that has really become possible,” said 3Gtms CEO Mitch Weseley. “Now we can really create value from what was just a cool idea a couple of years ago.”

The three-day Jump Start 2020 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 SMC³ supply chain conferences, visit http://www.smc3.com/supply-chain-education.htm.

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