If you attended the 18TH Annual TPM Conference in Long Beach, CA like we did, it brought together an exciting group of thought-leaders, innovators, and industry experts to discuss and debate the hottest topics disrupting the shipping and freight industry. The recurring theme from all speakers and panelists: The Transportation & Logistics industry is going through a period of disruption and companies need to act fast, adapt, or get left behind.

While topics ranged from macroeconomic to technical, the topics that are front of mind for all of those in transportation and logistics are: competition and collaboration, data standardization, automation and Blockchain. Below are more details on each topic.

Competition and Collaboration: Gone are the days where logistics providers can operate independently. From the opening remarks of DB Schenker’s CEO Jochen Thewes, “The time is now to coinnovate and coinvest with your customers and competitors to create and gain needed efficiencies for our industry. Ocean shipping has and will continue to go through carrier consolidation and today’s competitor may be tomorrow’s partner for the greater good of our business.” To meet the needs of customers, competitors will need to collaborate and deliver value along every step of the supply chain.

Data Standardization: As the customer becomes savvier in making shipping and transportation decisions, and loyalty loses to price, interoperability and standards are needed to cross-communicate and maintain loyalty and customer satisfaction. This standardization is critical to enable the collaboration needed to satiate customer value. Just think where we would be without the ISO standards for shipping containers. Now imagine a future where all data feeds and structures are standardized and could be easily disseminated without the need for excess cleansing. Flexport’s Chief Operating Officer brought up a very interesting point; without data standardization, these future capabilities and buzz words (think Blockchain, AI, etc.) will never reach their full potential.

Automation: In the session: The Future of Trucking and What it Means for Shippers, Uber Freight’s Senior Director Lior Ron, painted a picture of the future trucking world that will be much more attractive to its customers, truckers, and a declining employee base. The question remains is:  Will the industry embrace the self-driving truck in time to turn the trucking market around? Ron thinks so. It’s a long-term solution to the current Driver shortage the industry is currently facing.

Blockchain: On Monday afternoon, the Blockchain session was standing room only, as everyone wanted to hear from the leadership panel on its impact. The conclusion: Blockchain isn’t coming, it’s already here and shippers need to make some critical decisions on its impact and/or potential implementation. Some shippers are already embracing the trend, as Maersk and IBM announced in January the formation of a fresh company to commercialize Blockchain technology in shipping. A centralized ledger enabled by data standardization and real-time insights will provide a layer of transparency into your supply chain that has yet to be experienced. Will the carriers buy-in to the Maersk and IBM platform? Or will other carriers or Venture Capital backed disruptors develop their own Blockchain?

Given that disruption was core to the TPM Conference, it’s essential for you to look at your own static internal processes and embrace digitalization, to help you stay ahead of the competition. Partnering with your competitor is great but eliminating your unknowns could prevent you from getting left behind in the wake of industry consolidation.

How are you leveraging your data to make more informed decisions to drive positive results for your strategic initiatives? More importantly, how can you take the perspectives shared at TPM from industry experts to incorporate into your 2018 Strategic Roadmap, so you can share your success at next year’s TPM? Contact us to learn more about how we can help you share your success at next year’s TPM.

Many thanks to the following people who helped to contribute to this blog: Bill Warren, Davis Gleaton, and Sandra Barlaan.