I have never seen such a happy, enthusiastic bunch of people.
Despite the fact that on a daily basis they are asked to solve a million different challenges, face changes in processes and policies, and have to figure out technology that evolves at the speed of light, they say that's it's all in a day's work. And they seem to relish the opportunities that all of this change is bringing about.
For the past two days, I have been talking to supply chain professionals in all aspect of logistics. I have sat in on sessions that discussed natural and man-made disasters, issues at global ports, talent management, digitizing the industry and dealing with reverse logistics. The common thread that runs through all of these challenges is that there are many answers to solving these problems and there is no doubt in their minds that they will solve them.
A large part of the conference is learning from each other best practices. Companies are sharing how they bring Industry 4.0 into their processes, how they recruit and retain talent, how to find additional revenue streams from these changes and tricks of their trade.
When pressed in every session about how the speakers' companies are dealing with the shifting trade policies, I didn't see much hang-wringing at all. Some took the attitude that they have had to adjust to trade issues before and have found solutions. Others felt that having to find additional sourcing would, in fact, strengthen their supply chain and make them more competitive. While many didn't care for the quick time frames at hand, none the less, they were planning for a variety of scenarios.
Even the lack of workers, which has spread from the warehouse and truck drivers to most all roles of the organization, was tackled with a variety of approaches. Upskilling the current workforce was a common solution. Creating a workplace that encouraged collaboration and the use of technology was offered as a way to attract younger workers. And automation will play its part to do those types of jobs that some companies felt were not value-added and could free-up employees to provide more value to the companies.
Perhaps part of the positive energy was the fact that there were a lot of young leaders wherever you turned. Over 70 students were around and you could feel their presences in sessions and on the expo floor. These future supply chain professionals were integrated into the fabric of the conference and I'm guessing it lifted everyone's outlook.
A keynote that was made of up a panel of Millennials ( although they don't care for that label), who were thought-leaders and entrepreneurs, was well attended. One of the panels said he was very heartened to see the large crowd that was interested in hearing what they had to say.
The dizzying array of technology that has been developed and is in development was not met with skepticism at all. It was welcomed as a tool to increase productivity, cut costs, improve profits and offer capabilities that companies didn't even know could be realized.
Many times in discussions someone would say that they never thought they would see a solution to a particular issue or didn't even conceive of these new ways of doing business. And to a person that told me what an exciting time it was to be in this field.
The pride of being in this field and providing an essential service to all industries and end-users came through loud and clear.
So, if you are ever feeling pessimistic, spend some time networking with supply chain professionals, and it will surely lift your spirit.