January 18, 2018
Column | outbound

Navigating a disruptive decade

No one knows what the future holds for the logistics and supply chain profession. But an ambitious new research project aims to guide the way.

By Mitch Mac Donald

To us humans who populate this rock, the horizon doesn't really seem to move at all. That, of course, is an illusion. The earth actually rotates at just over 1,000 miles per hour, so while the horizon may seem both static and a long way off, it is actually moving toward you at a pace more twice that of a commercial jetliner.

The same can be said of the changes looming in the business world. Many emerging trends—think artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and autonomous vehicles—may seem to be way out on the horizon, but they're actually coming toward us at a furious pace.

That creates a quandary for managers. Even if you feel you have a sense of "where this is all going," you are likely not quite sure what course you should plot to get there.

That is the basis of "Logistics 2030: Navigating a Disruptive Decade," a robust multiyear research effort aimed at guiding logistics and supply chain professionals through the uncertain times that lie ahead. Kicked off last month with the first in what will be an ongoing series of focus groups, executive interviews, and surveys, "Logistics 2030" is led jointly by the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council (NASSTRAC); the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP); DC Velocity and its sister publication, CSCSMP's Supply Chain Quarterly; and Auburn University. Among its objectives are:

  • To identify critical challenges and opportunities facing the logistics field in the next 10 years, with an emphasis on workforce development, freight transportation, strategic practices, and enabling (and potentially disruptive) technologies.
  • To develop recommendations and best practices to help companies navigate these emerging challenges.
  • To raise general awareness, particularly at the state and federal levels of government, of the importance of logistics to the broader national and global economies, with a focus on regulation and infrastructure investment.

"We've launched this research effort to identify the trends and issues that will drive supply chain strategy and practice over the next 10 years," explains professor Brian Gibson of Auburn University. "The pace of change in technology introduction, the expanding risks faced by practitioners, and the pressures to deliver consistent results have become so severe that supply chain professionals have limited time for strategic thinking and thinking ahead to 2030. We anticipate that our research efforts will provide these types of longer-range insights to drive planning for the future."

The research team plans to select a special area of focus each year. For instance, in 2018, it will tackle the topic of transportation. "The goal of the project in the first year is to redesign the transportation management function within the shipper community," explains NASSTRAC Executive Director Gail Rutkowski. "This project will allow us to rip apart the transportation functions currently being performed among shippers and redefine them, as well as identify the new skills needed for shippers to 'push up' into their new responsibilities."

As for the public awareness part of the project's mission, CSCMP's President and CEO Rick Blasgen believes the initiative could prove invaluable in raising logistics and supply chain's profile at the highest levels of government. Blasgen can speak with some authority on that matter—he currently serves as chair of the Department of Commerce's Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness. "We have a voice directly to government," he says, "and this initiative will provide us with useful data to further support the case that logistics and supply chain needs to be front of mind in Washington."

The future is coming at us fast. Logistics 2030 aims to help guide the way.

About the Author

Mitch Mac Donald
Group Editorial Director
Mitch Mac Donald has more than 30 years of experience in both the newspaper and magazine businesses. He has covered the logistics and supply chain fields since 1988. Twice named one of the Top 10 Business Journalists in the U.S., he has served in a multitude of editorial and publishing roles. The leading force behind the launch of Supply Chain Management Review, he was that brand's founding publisher and editorial director from 1997 to 2000. Additionally, he has served as news editor, chief editor, publisher and editorial director of Logistics Management, as well as publisher of Modern Materials Handling. Mitch is also the president and CEO of Agile Business Media, LLC, the parent company of DC VELOCITY and CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly.

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