Last week, Gartner held its first in-person Supply Chain Xpo in Orlando. The conference was one of the largest with over 3,000 people – larger than even pre-COVID attendance. I have categorized my experience into 4 major categories:
-The joys and woes of in-person conferences
-Key themes at the conference
The joys and woes of in-person conferences
After a long 2.5 years, this was my first in-person conference. My flight actually started and reached on time. I even had a nice chat with my fellow passenger with Christopher Wolf about how much ML is already penetrating the supply chain business. I also shared a ride to the resort with Orit Efrat, and we had a pleasant conversation. These interactions felt similar to pre-pandemic days, which was a refreshing experience after being in quarantine for so long.
Of course, no in-person conference is complete without at least one bad flying experience, and this year’s conference didn’t disappoint. My flight on the way back home got delayed and delayed it did by 16 hours. At least it gave many people from the Bay Area a chance to bond in various hotel lobbies and root for the Warriors who sadly still lost the third game.
First, our flight delay was blamed on the weather and when United Airlines agreed to pay for our hotel, I knew the story had to be different. When our delayed flight finally left Orlando, we learned that the pilot of our flight got sick and so they had to wait for a new pilot who had to fly in from Newark to rescue this flight. The silver lining of this whole fiasco was that most of us got a free middle seat. Special shout out to Santosh Pant and Yemi Falokun for all their help and great company.
Unfortunately, I got Covid and so did another one of my colleagues. I just hope that this experience of our team was not shared with other conference-goers as this might put the kibosh on in-person events again.
Some Key Themes at the Conference highlighted by Gartner
After attending the Gartner sessions at the conference, the following were the most popular topics discussed at the conference in their order of priority:
Supply Chain Planning and Risk management
C Level Issues
I couldn’t attend all the sessions but scanned through the presentation deck of most sessions and attended whatever sessions I could. Based on that, here is my impression of the issues raised at the conference. If you attended the conference, I’d love to hear your impressions as well.
Since this conference is about the supply chain, we expected the most sessions on this topic, and Gartner didn’t disappoint. The key theme was that “just-in-time” is dead and the old way of planning based on historical data is outdated. Reinventing can no longer be a reaction. It needs to also be your planning technique. The supply chain world has to move to continuous planning based on the real-time data input from all systems - from your customers to the inbound supply chain to production and distribution. Pia Orup Lund of Gartner's title for her talk sums up this theme in a really thought-provoking way: “The Digital Era: The end of S&OP”
There were many sessions on what a CSCO, CPO, or CEO thinks about the future of the supply chain. C-suite executives realize their jobs are evolving, and the supply chain has now become a forefront issue in their boardrooms. It was also clear that near-shoring of supply chains is likely to become a reality this time. Everyone agreed that digitization is now top of mind for every C-level executive. Thus, the supply chain digitization industry should expect an increase in spending over the next few years.
Shipping delays, overloaded docks, and increases in transportation costs are some of the common themes when discussing Logistics. Many sessions catered to discussing how to achieve efficiency and cost savings through optimizing Logistics. The logistics industry, aided by large startup investments, is digitizing fast both to achieve optimization and create new business models for various stakeholders in the industry.
Even though not many visitors to our booth asked about the ESG solutions, there were lots of sessions on carbon emissions and how to measure and reduce your company’s footprint. With new SEC rules and more and more customers and investors demanding to know the carbon footprint, supply chain leaders will have to focus on environmental issues in a big way in the near future.
Supplier management is becoming critical, especially in a constrained environment and companies should shift their attention to building relationships with not just with Tier-1 suppliers., but also their Tier-2 and Tier-3 suppliers.
Trade Show booth
Over a hundred companies were exhibiting. Since most people came to attend the conference, they came to the booth only during special sessions, lunch breaks and the evening reception. So, the traffic was somewhat sporadic but we did have some engaging conversations with the supply chain leaders on the challenges they are facing and alternative solutions they are considering. A common question was about how we implemented Multi-Tier Control Towers for our customers and the challenges along the way. Since our theme was around the Digital Twin of the Supply Chain, many customers wanted to know how can they use this technology to improve their supply chains. To help answer these questions, we provided live demos of our patented digital twin technology, Digital Duplicate(R) and access to many resources.
Roundtable discussion – Preparing your Control Towers for SC Disruption: Is Digital Twin in your future?
This roundtable discussion, comprising of 15 supply chain executives, started with discussions on Control Towers; its definition and how they impact supply chains. There was a general consensus that Control Towers, when done well, take real-time information from all systems and provide insights and reports to facilitate key supply chain decisions. Adam Nuttall from The Toro Company, one of our customers, talked about his experience of implementing TADA’s Production Control Tower. He discussed how the Toro Company was able to significantly reduce the role of spreadsheets and manual processes by automating their day-to-day operations with TADA’s platform. Some executives shared their experience with Logistics Control Towers and how that helps with their transportation visibility and cost control. Thanks to all of you who made this discussion interactive and valuable for everyone.
Supply chain upturns and downturns are here to stay and companies that take the lead in digitizing and transforming their organization for continuous real-time planning will stay ahead of their competition. So, what are you waiting for? Now is the time to discuss with one of TADA’s supply chain experts and explore how we can help you on this journey as we have done with many other customers