The Future of the Supply Chain: Uncovering the business strategies, personal development techniques and external factors that will define tomorrow

Day two of SMC³’s Connections 2021 conference ran the full gamut of topics and speaker backgrounds, but they all shared one thing in common: a focus on building a brighter future.

In day two’s keynote presentation by award-winning motivational speaker and author, Dan Thurmon, he started with a focus on the human side of the industry’s future—addressing the personal goals and motivational strategies employees in transportation, and beyond, can use to create more collaborative and performance-driven environments.

One of the more athletic keynote speeches to ever take place on the Connections 2021 stage, Thurmon’s unique presentation style—including juggling axes, climbing ropes, unicycling on a mountain and balancing on a podium—illustrated his points about the importance of developing and honing your uniqueness to bring new value to your work and everything else that you do.

“Bring all of you to all you do,” he said. “It isn’t an easy task, but it is a great aspiration. To say, “Look, as I get older and wiser and more powerful in my influence, I am going to live what I believe and who I am. And I am going to empower others to do the same.”

This theme of collaboration and working together carried through many of the other sessions. In a panel discussion overviewing the current state of the supply chain industry and how it can become more resilient, all four panelists including Dave Malenfant, director of outreach and partnerships for TCU’s Center for Supply Chain Innovation, Donna Kintop, senior vice president of client experience at DDC FPO, Chip White, the Schneider national chair of transportation and logistics at the H. Milton Steward School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Bindiya Vakil, CEO at Resilinc, agreed that supply chain resilience can only ever be as good as the partnerships that support it.

Visibility to all aspects of a given supply chain, from the sourcing of key parts and components to the delivery of final products, can only come from symbiotic partnerships that share data and work together to prepare for unexpected events—like a pandemic or canal blockage—that can upend supply chains and stagnate inventory.

“It is communication, transparency and trust,” Vakil said. “These three things go hand-in-hand. A lot of customers in the post-COVID world are asking their suppliers to be more transparent. Many suppliers are opening their terminals and sharing a lot of their information about their operation and their business.”

“Working together to fix these problems builds stronger relationships.”

Despite an abundance of new collaboration taking place throughout the industry, panelists in Connections’ mainstay regulatory session highlighted the comprehensive lack of collaboration taking place in Washington as debate and deliberation on new transportation and infrastructure legislation continues to drag on.

From a pending Motor Carrier Safety Selection Standard Act to broad congressional disagreement about what should be included in the next infrastructure bill, the panelists including, Randy Mullett, founder and principal of Mullett Strategies, Chris Burroughs, vice president of government affairs at the Transportation Intermediaries Association, and Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, don’t expect any drastic changes to existing policies in the near future. Mullett, for one, believes that may actually be a good thing.

“Everybody wants an infrastructure bill,” he said. “I wouldn’t be disappointed if it falls on its face and isn’t negotiated for another year or so. I’m concerned that we’re moving to where the puck used to be, in terms of spending money and bucketing money, and we still don’t know the snapback from COVID. Our needs a year from now may be very different from what we assume they are going to be.”

Finally, in a conversation with XPO Logistics – Europe CEO Malcolm Wilson to begin the day, Jeff Berman, group news editor at Logistics Management, and Wilson discussed how XPO’s emergence in the logistics space demonstrates a renewed emphasis on the importance of third-party logistics moving forward.

“The pandemic showed everyone the critical nature of logistics and the part it played in supply chains,” Wilson noted. “We are seeing more and more large organizations move to outsource their logistics and give it to the experts—recognizing that it might not be their core competence.”

The three-day Connections 2021 event 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 www.smc3connections.com.

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