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David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 0:01
What role should our supply chains play in promoting diversity and social responsibility? How did one large retailer make the transition into a major omnichannel player? How can our supply chains reduce risk and still have greater resiliency? And shippers are finding creative methods for delivering their packages on time.
Pull up a chair and join us as the editors of DC Velocity and CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly discuss these topics on this week's Logistics Matters podcast.
Hi, I'm Dave Maloney. I'm the editorial director at DC Velocity and Supply Chain Quarterly. Welcome.
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We're going to do something a bit different on this week's podcast. As many of you know, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals held their EDGE conference virtually this week. CSCMP EDGE is always one of the most important supply chain conferences within the industry. And our editors were there in full force again this year--of course, virtually this time. And we were speaking at the sessions, attending sessions, reporting on sessions, and visiting the virtual exhibits in the Supply Chain Exchange area. It was a good week with a lot of takeaways, which we reported on in our daily news feeds. So joining me today are four of our editors to take part in a roundtable discussion on what we all experienced at EDGE. Our illustrious editorial panel includes Susan Lacefield, the executive editor of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly; Diane Rand, the managing editor of Supply Chain Quarterly; and, from DC Velocity, Victoria Kickham, senior editor, and Ben Ames, senior news editor.
Welcome to all of you. First of all, Susan, I'd like to ask you, you're the executive editor of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly, which is the official magazine of the organization. What were your general impressions of the conference this year?
Susan Lacefield, Executive Editor, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly 2:16
Well, Dave, thanks for having me on. I think the first thing to keep in mind about the EDGE conference this year is, not only was this the first time that CSCMP had ever done a virtual conference like this before, but it was also the first time that anyone in this space has done something on this scale in the virtual space. And over 100 educational sessions, 70 virtual booths with vendors from across the supply chain field, and I think I heard something around 2,400 registrants. So although there might have been some technical hiccups here and there, which you would expect at any conference, the fact that, for the most part, that the conference went off fairly smoothly, I feel, is a massive achievement for CSCMP.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 3:05
They did pull it off quite well. And as you mentioned, there were a number of things included in that, and among them were keynote addresses. And Victoria, you covered a number of those. How did that work in the virtual environment?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 3:17
Thanks, Dave. Thanks for having me. I agree with Susan completely. And what struck me was, you know, it was the same quality of speaker and sort of variety of formats that you're, that you typically see at EDGE. The first day featured sort of a motivational presentation. Second day was a one-on-one interview with a supply chain executive. And the third day featured more of a panel discussion. So it was really, I was impressed with the variety and, again, the quality of the speakers.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 3:46
And Diane, you've gone to a number of the sessions--as we said, there were over 100 sessions, overall--educational sessions. It was a bit different than attending them in person. But what did you experience, Diane?
Diane Rand, Managing Editor, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly 3:58
I really was impressed by the setup, I thought it was laid out really nicely. Elastic Solutions did a good job making you feel like you were at the convention center. It was easy to find the educational halls and the sessions, and everything went off without a hitch for me in terms of getting to the sessions that I needed to go to. In fact, I really enjoyed that the virtual experience allowed us, if there were a couple sessions were on at the same time, I could go back and listen later, and go back to the library and still get those good quality sessions and listen to the speakers. It was, it was a good environment.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 4:40
Yeah, the sessions were grouped into tracks as they normally are at the live conference, at the in-person conference, but in this environment, it also made it very easy to find your way around and navigate through that, that kind of an arrangement, correct?
Diane Rand, Managing Editor, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly 4:53
That's correct. Yes, it was pretty easy to find what you were looking for, and there was a wonderful chat function. If you got lost someone was there to help you.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 5:04
And Ben, you spent some time in the Supply Chain Exchange, a virtual version this year of the exhibit hall. What are your thoughts of those experiences?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 5:13
That's right, Dave. There were some new approaches that were in the other section to this show for all of us. But one thing that I found sort of helpful about that, was that instead of having one sprawling exhibit hall, it was divided into four basic areas. There was fulfillment and robotics, professional organizations and education, transportation and logistics, and technology. And so each of those sort of split-off rooms had a dozen or two dozen different companies in it, with digital virtual booths that you could visit and click on. But once you've chosen one, each booth had a real range of resources to choose from. If you wanted to learn more, for example, you could download your choice of a couple different white papers, you could click on links to different part of a vendor's website, or you could open a chat window and connect with a live representative from the company if you wanted to ask real-time questions through your keyboard. So, there was a real range of ways to interface.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 6:12
And a number of the vendors also had really good videos that were produced for the conference, and I thought those were good and gave a quick overview of the company and some of their capabilities.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 6:22
Exactly right. Yep. It was really a multimedia experience.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 6:25
Great. Now let's talk about some of the topics and the trends that came out of the conference. And Diane, you attended a keynote session on Wednesday on social responsibility and diversity in the supply chain. What was discussed?
Diane Rand, Managing Editor, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly 6:39
Well, as expected, the pandemic was front and center during the conference keynotes and sessions this week. Our world certainly looks and feels different. Yet COVID is not the only dynamic impacting individuals, companies, and supply chains. In the U.S., we're experiencing a renewed focus on racial injustices and dealing with heightened political polarization. It's not, you know, strictly about business anymore. The keynote on the last day of the conference included a diverse panel of experts representing academia, retailers, and shippers. They spoke about how the impacts of COVID and civil unrest have changed their businesses and leadership styles. On the business side, these crises have given these leaders the opportunity to certainly learn more about their organizations and become better listeners, while the customer experience and, in the case of higher education, the student experience are still extremely important. The physical and mental well being of their staff has taken a front seat. The panelists spoke about how critical it is to not just listen, but to take actions.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 7:40
What actions did the panelists say they're taking to address the COVID crisis and work toward achieving social justice?
Diane Rand, Managing Editor, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly 7:48
Well, many companies have established wellness centers, and also utilized anonymous forums to give staff and employees a chance to address their concerns, focusing on not only the physical, but mental well-being has become paramount.
I liked what Angie Freeman from C.H. Robinson said. She mentioned "As leaders, we are starting to flex our EQ so emotional IQ muscles, by being more vulnerable with our team members modeling healthy behavior and just being human. Where it used to be work versus life balance, now we are seeing that all blend together."
Flexibility was a word I heard many times during the session to address the need for their businesses to be more diverse and inclusive. The panelists mentioned that their companies are not only increasing financial support for racial and gender equality organizations, they are forming social and racial justice programs and focusing heavily on education within their organizations.
Terry Esper, who is a professor at The Ohio State University, he talked about the need for higher education institutions to focus on cognitive diversity. So if you can see it, you can be it. That means more diversity in the racial makeup of professors to help attract diverse students into the industry. As we all know, academia is the talent pipeline for supply chains. So he noted that young people today are not just asking him about certain companies, and what their supply chains are like, and what their work environment is like; they want to know what these companies stand for. How fair and equitable is the company? They don't just want to see the statement a company puts out about racial injustice. They want to see what money is being invested to stand behind their statements.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 9:33
Certainly important topics for our supply chains to address. Thank you, Diane. And Susan, one of the sessions that you reported on was creating a more resilient supply chain. What did you learn?
Susan Lacefield, Executive Editor, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly 9:45
Yes, thanks, Dave. So like Diane said, COVID-19 was really front and center at the conference. And in that sort of environment, it's hard to hold a conference these days about supply chain and not talk about risk management and resiliency. This panel discussion was really great because it provided a variety of perspectives on the subject, from academia to practitioners, consultants, and analysts. And one of the main points that was made during the session was made by Simon Ellis who works over at IDC, is that a lot of people talk about how important visibility into your supply chain is as far as resiliency, but visibility doesn't really help if you can't act on, then, what you see. Simon said that he had talked to a number of companies in the last six months that said they could, during the pandemic, they could see what was happening in their supply chain, you know, maybe past the tier-one supplier level, but they couldn't do anything about it. And they basically just sat there and watched their supply chain unravel.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 10:49
Did the panelists have any idea for how companies can make sure that they act in response to risks that they see?
Susan Lacefield, Executive Editor, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly 10:55
Yeah, there [were] a lot of answers that fall into the category of "easy to say, but hard to do." Some of the basic things that they talked about were making sure that you have a risk-management plan and a crisis-management team identified before a risk ever even happens. And a good point that Rob Haddock from The Coca-Cola Company made is that it's not necessary for the plan to be a perfect match for the risk that evolves. Coca-Cola didn't have a pandemic risk-management plan before this year, at least not in North America. But the company found that their crisis plan for hurricanes actually provided a good framework for how they responded to the pandemic. And that's because one of the main challenges Coca-Cola had, as the pandemic happened and all the shutdowns started to occur, is that it radically changed where consumers were getting their beverages from. So, people were no longer drinking their Diet Coke or their Disani bottled water at out-of-house locations or restaurants. Instead, that demand shifted majorly to grocery retail. And that same pattern happens after a hurricane. So they were able to apply their plan for hurricanes to the situation they were seeing on the ground during the pandemic.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 12:19
That's very interesting that they were able to adapt that way.
Susan Lacefield, Executive Editor, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly 12:22
Yes, you're right.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 12:24
And Victoria, you wrote about one of the keynote speakers, Arthur Valdez Jr. from Target, who addressed his company's transition into a major e-commerce player. Can you share what he said?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 12:35
Sure. So, Arthur Valdez Jr. leads. Target supply chain and logistics operations, and he was the keynote on day two. And it was a wide-ranging interview conducted by CSCMP's Rick Blasgen. And I thought there were a few key takeaways from the many things they discussed.
First, Valdez touched on Target's transition to using its stores as local fulfillment hubs. And those hubs accommodate guests--which is how Target refers to customers--no matter how they want to interact with Target--in person, by delivery, curbside pickup. And this is a complete turnaround from where the company was even just a few years ago, they were running a traditional brick-and-mortar operation with an e-commerce side business. So, he talked a lot about how they had to focus on integrating those operations to become, as you say, an omnichannel, business leader.
The second thing that I thought was really interesting echoes what Diane was mentioning, earlier. Valdez talked about diversity and inclusion, and how important that is to him, and to both the supply chain and the larger business community. He's the son of Mexican-American and Cuban parents and was the first in his family to go to college. He graduated from Colorado State University.
And today, he and his wife sponsor a scholarship there for minority students that he says is part of a larger effort on his part to mentor and develop young talent. He's involved with similar efforts at Target as well. So I thought it was, you know, really interesting and important to point that out.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 13:58
That's great. Did he offer any insight on developing that talent, or why the supply chain makes a good career opportunity for these students?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 14:07
Yeah. He didn't talk specifically about talent development, but he did mention the growing value of a supply chain education and background in today's business world. And this is driven largely by the pandemic and the fact that supply chain has really been front and center in the news, and really in our daily lives, since March. And he predicted there will be a greater need for supply chain skills at the highest corporate levels going forward, and he even said that he expects more CEOs to have a supply chain background in the future. And I thought that was a really great message for the audience-- obviously, the professionals in the audience, but also the many students and young professionals in the audience. It really kind of talks--speaks to them about what maybe ahead
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 14:48
Yeah, it really does. Thank you, Victoria.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 14:50
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 14:52
And Ben, you attended a session on how shippers can make sure that their e-commerce parcels are getting delivered to consumers, even though the pandemic has caused a capacity crunch in the trucking sector. Can you share what was said?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 15:04
That's right, Dave. This was a really interesting one. And it echoes some of Susan's points, that some of the impact of the pandemic has been really comparable to a natural disaster, so some of the other examples that we've seen in the past. And in the case of the North American trucking sector, the panelists were talking about how the limitations of COVID-19 and social distancing and increased hygiene have pushed many carriers to be in a position where they're receiving more parcels than their networks can handle. So, they're often limiting the number of parcels that they're willing to accept from even their largest shippers. Another sign of that pressure is a new round of rate hikes and surcharges that we've seen in recent weeks imposed by what people call the Big Three carriers--that's the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx. And that was a point was made by Carson Krieg, who's the cofounder of Convey--that's a software firm that makes parcel-delivery visibility software.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 16:00
Did the panelists have any ideas for ways that shippers can manage that tight market and make sure that their parcels get delivered?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 16:06
They did, and this was some of the really interesting part of the panel there. They're getting very creative in their ways to approach that, because even though some of the carriers have adopted a take-it-or-leave-it attitude about the rates that they charge, sometimes increased rates, it turns out the shippers, they can change other variables to make their loads more attractive.
For example, one company has begun allowing its customers to ship their orders to what they call centralized hold-for-pickup locations, which are urban parcel lockers, where multiple packages can be held in a single location. So, delivery trucks can make a single stop, instead of visiting 20 different consumers' houses for individual home delivery. And that was according to Wayne MacGregor, who's the director of logistics at Indigo Books and Music, which is one of the major Canadian retailers.
And he also said that other strategies that his company is using include diversifying the number of carriers they use. In past years they had unified their volume in order to get better rates. But now they're looking to split those up a little bit across a number of different carriers, because it provides them with a backup in case of some of those conditions that we were talking about earlier.
And thirdly, MacGregor give another example: that his company offers to sometimes commit some of its B2B-- that's business-to-business shipping volume to carriers, instead of just trying to arrange business-to-consumer shipments. Because truck fleets, they typically make more money off B2B shipments, because they're carrying a larger amount of freight from point A to point B, and then don't have to make all those stops.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 17:46
That's very interesting. Thank you, Ben.
And we want to remind folks that the entire EDGE conference will continue to be available for the next 90 days, which is an added benefit this year, and being virtual gives attendees an opportunity to see the sessions, like Diane had mentioned earlier, that they might have missed. So you can go back and you could access the various sessions by registering for the conference, if you haven't done so already. Go to cscmp.org to register for the conference. And just look for the "EDGE 2020" tab at that site.
Our thanks again to Ben, Diane, Victoria, and Susan for comprising our editorial panel today. For more information on the stories we discussed, please go to DCVelocity.com and SupplyChainQuarterly.com. And we encourage your feedback on our discussion. You can email us at podcast@dcvelocity com.
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