On September 29 and 30, thousands of supply chain professionals tuned in to hear global logistics leaders, Coyote experts and successful shippers deliver the goods at the second annual Digital Summit.
Speakers covered a range of topics, including the state of supply chain, where we’re headed in Q4 and beyond, and what you need to do to be ready.
If you missed the Digital Summit, you’re in luck: All sessions are available to watch on demand.
Don’t have time to view all the recorded webinars? We’ve got you covered.
We’re celebrating our 15th anniversary by delivering you 15 key takeaways from the event — one for each year we’ve helped keep the world’s freight moving.
1. People and technology need to work together.
From the opening keynote through the closing “Ask Us Anything” session, the importance of blending people and technology was a recurring theme throughout the entire event.
In her session “Is the Supply Chain Being Automated?”, Coyote Chief People Officer Carmen Smith noted that shippers are turning toward technology in their operations to contend with rising costs and rising customer demands in the COVID-19 era.
However, while many digital-first companies give the impression that technology alone is the key to better supply chain operations, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
"Any supply chain that does not incorporate a healthy balance of digital solutions combined with human expertise from logistics professionals is not going to cut it."
- Carmen Smith, Chief People Officer, Coyote Logistics
Coyote CEO Jonathan Sisler spoke about how important fostering the right mix between people and technology is to our success in the keynote discussion “People & Technology: Why Every Supply Chain Needs Both (& How to Balance)”:
“Providing great service and solving supply chain problems are what we do best at Coyote, and our people play a critical role in helping us deliver on that.
We provide them with best-in-class training, equip them with great technology and teach them how to use our 15 years of market data.”
- Jonathan Sisler, CEO, Coyote Logistics
2. We’re not out of the woods yet for COVID-related volatility.
While we’ve seen some encouraging signs of recovery and reopening, supply chains are still in disarray heading into Q4.
The most headline-grabbing disruption at present is the port congestion in Los Angeles and Long Beach, which looks unlikely to clear up in the immediate future.
In our "Q4 Freight Market Forecast," UPS VP of Global Logistics and Distribution Eric Dolan described how the backlog of goods on ships anchored off the California coast is due to several interrelated factors:
“As we head into Peak, retailers knew they’d run into constraints, so they started sourcing product from overseas earlier, which drove a higher amount of goods through the same ports.
When that freight came in, they needed people to unload it, and the port operators ran into constraints with that, some of it due to COVID.
Their demand went way up with limited capacity, and they couldn’t feed it through quickly enough to get it to the truck drivers who themselves were constrained getting it inland to warehouses.
This in turn created a perfect storm of congestion that brought us to where we are today.”
- Eric Dolan, VP of Global Logistics and Distribution, UPS
Our experts similarly projected that other COVID-related disruptions, such as the ongoing microchip shortage that is constraining Class 8 truck capacity currently, will continue into at least Q1 2022 as well.
3. Logistics and customer experience go hand in hand; both are more important than ever.
It’s been well-reported how a major effect of the pandemic has been an explosion in ecommerce, but the actual numbers associated with it are still shocking.
According to Ware2Go CEO Steve Denton, 64% of consumers indicated they purchased from a brand they had never purchased from before during the pandemic.
In "People and Technology," he described the consumer-vendor relationship in ecommerce as potentially “one and done,” meaning that first impression is crucial in determining whether a customer is coming back.
Steve articulated just how important supply chain is to this vital first touch:
“There’s all this pressure on the supply chain from all the forces we all know, but we also have this consumer pressure.
We’re getting new engagements from so many consumers we never got to do business with before, and that first experience is so critical.”
- Steve Denton, CEO, Ware2GO
The “Amazon effect” of consumers expecting products to ship immediately and for free is not going away anytime soon, and all ecommerce retailers need to shore up their supply chains to accommodate it.
4. Form a strong shipping Plan B for Peak Season.
No matter how predictable the Peak Season demand surge is, it still can cause unpredictable logistics challenges.
As we enter our second pandemic-era peak season, it remains particularly important to expect the unexpected. As Paul Bingham, Director of Transportation Consulting, Economics and Country Risk at IHS Markit, put it in the "Q4 Freight Market Forecast":
“We’ve been pleading with shippers, so they’re less caught off-guard this week when there’s another disruption from wherever it is in the system, to understand their alternative set.
If you’ve got a single point of failure someplace in your network, what’s your plan B? what’s your alternative supplier?”
- Paul Bingham, Director of Transportation Consulting, Economics and Country Risk, IHS Markit
Paul recommends identifying backup suppliers, facilities and carriers that you can turn to when failures happen in your network.
Freight capacity is likely to remain extremely tight throughout Peak Season, so if you haven’t already put these backups in place, do so ASAP.
5. Supply chain has transitioned from cost center to competitive advantage.
The pandemic has clarified just how crucial logistics is to a business’s success.
In the session "Does Your Boss Speak Logistics? How to Make Your Shipping Budget Make Sense," Nick Verceles, President of Sales and Operations for Coyote, posed the terms “cost center” and “competitive advantage” against one another to describe this transition.
The traditional view of supply chain saw it as a cost center, a part of a business that cost money to operate but didn’t add directly to profitability.
In recent years, and particularly since the emergence of Amazon as an ecommerce giant, getting product to customers faster in the digital space and on the shelves in brick-and-mortar environments has given new weight to logistics operations.
Coca-Cola Group Director for Planning and Logistics Rob Haddock agreed, and he expanded upon this point while discussing how logistics budgets are set and justified to the c-suite today.
“A lot of customers on the retail side are very focused on on-time delivery performance. It really behooves you to be there when the customer expects those orders.
Sometimes you might need to invest a little more to make sure you have the right level of shelf presence. If you’re successful at that, chances are you might end up with a competitive advantage.”
- Rob Haddock, Group Director for Planning and Logistics, Coca-Cola
6. We need to get creative to solve the driver shortage.
What if the answer to the driver shortage wasn’t necessarily more drivers?
In the "Q4 Freight Market Forecast," Vector CEO and Co-Founder Will Chu cited an MIT Freight Lab study that said if we can return 12 minutes to every driver every day, we will essentially solve the driver shortage.
Will suggests we focus on asset utilization rather than labor market solutions to help meet the current capacity crunch.
As an example, he cites a power-only and trailer pool program Vector has implemented over the past several years to help Coyote and UPS meet Peak Season demand spikes.
“It’s an asynchronous workflow where you don’t need boots on the ground, where a driver can drop off any trailer, take a photograph, we geotag and timestamp it, and provide visibility back to Coyote and UPS about where that trailer is and what state it’s in.”
- Will Chu, CEO and Co-Founder, Vector
7. Communication is key to being a “Shipper of Choice.”
If you want to put yourself in the best position to secure reliable capacity — in Peak Season or at any other time during the year — you need to know what it means to be a good partner.
Ryan Maltbie, Founder and CEO of BBQGrills.com, has spent the past two years perfecting his communication as a shipper.
In the session “The Price is Right: How to Quote Smarter from Spot Rates to Mini-Bids,” Ryan described his process for vetting carriers as one in which he always calls to speak to their representatives both to get information about their rates, costs and approach and to get a fee for how they would work together as shipping partners.
“You can never go wrong asking questions. You’re not going to look like an idiot asking questions. If you don’t ask questions you don’t get answers.
So we’re constantly trying to do everything we can to not only make our jobs and our lives easier, but also the jobs of our carriers, and to help our consumers have a stress-free buying experience.”
- Ryan Maltbie, Founder and CEO, BBQGrills.com
Retired CSCMP President Rick Blasgen also discussed the importance of communication to strengthening supply chains in the "Q4 Freight Market Forecast":
“We have to collaborate better with our partners up and down the supply chain.
Information is great, but information without the ability to make better decisions is just more information.
We’ve got to do a better job of collaboration between our transportation providers and distribution centers to make sure we know how to best use that information.”
- Rick Blasgen, retired President, CSCMP
8. Attracting logistics talent isn’t enough. You have to retain it.
Like most other industries, the logistics labor market is in flux in 2021.
The “Great Resignation” is well underway as workers in every field have taken the pandemic as a chance to assess what really matters to them in a job and what exactly they are willing to do.
Speaking on the topic "Who Will Power Tomorrow's Supply Chain? Logistics Labor Force Trends," Upwork VP of Innovation and overall labor market guru Tim Sanders articulated three related reasons for this impending mass turnover:
“Reason number one: people have experienced prolonged increased workload and frankly they’re burned out.
Number two: a lot of people don't want to return to the office or hit the road again. And number three: for millennials and Gen Z, there's been a paradigm shift about life and how short life is.”
- Tim Sanders, VP of Innovation, Upwork
Tim believes retention requires even greater focus than talent acquisition when navigating a challenging logistics labor market.
He recommends putting time and resources into building an emotional connection with new hires during onboarding to instill a mission-driven sense of commitment.
He also emphasized taking steps to avoid employee burnout, including developing a “load management” program by carefully interspersing freelance labor to take some of the strain off key contributors.
9. Sustainability matters. You can do your part.
Companies in every industry are working to reduce their carbon footprints, not only because their customers increasingly demand it but because it is the right thing to do.
Sustainability is particularly important to the transportation industry. According to Coyote VP of Innovation Melissa Jordan, 29% of greenhouse gases in the U.S. come from transportation.
In the session "Go Green, Save Green: How a Multi-Modal Mix Improves Efficiency and Sustainability," Melissa stressed that there are steps shippers can take right now to be more sustainable while they wait for longer-term solutions like alternative fuels or electric vehicles to hit the market.
“Every mode has a different impact, and it’s important to understand that if you have any flexibility in your network, you can reduce your carbon footprint.
15-20% of U.S. trucks on the road are empty, and approximately 36% of loaded trailers are underutilized. If your trailer is not full, there’s likely a more sustainable shipping method.
Intermodal is the most environmentally friendly way to move freight, emitting roughly 30% less emissions than full truckload. To put that into perspective, one train can take up to 280 trucks off the road.”
- Melissa Jordan, VP of Innovation, Coyote Logistics
10. Supply chain as front-page news is an opportunity to educate.
While the dire coverage of supply chain disruptions in recent months might produce anxiety for logistics professionals, it also creates a unique opportunity.
When everyone — from the c-suite to marketing to HR — is attuned to the complexities of supply chain, you can engage in more detailed and productive conversations than you could previously.
In "Does Your Boss Speak Logistics?", Coyote COO Pat Campbell reflected on how coverage of the current challenges in the logistics landscape can actually simplify it for non-expert audiences:
“They are giving us an opportunity to connect the dots because they’re impacting every single business unit in most of the companies that we’re engaged with.
They give us an opportunity to advance the conversation around transportation and how challenging and dynamic it can be without having to drive people into the weeds.”
- Pat Campbell, COO, Coyote Logistics
Coca-Cola Group Director of Planning and Logistics Rob Haddock spoke directly about his tactics in this regard.
He explained that “Since the pandemic started, [I’ve sent] some weekly, high-level updates of the headlines to help the organization understand where transportation is in terms of covering demand.”
He emphasizes, however, that there is no need to overwhelm your audience if you go this route. By summarizing “Here are the one or two things you need to know, how it affects us personally or as a company,” you can keep your organizational leaders informed and proactive.
11. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is coming — but what will it look like?
A key piece of legislation for the first year of the Biden Administration, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in the Senate on August 10.
However, it is currently held up as some House Democrats seek to tie it to a larger budget reconciliation package that would fund other arguably related programs.
Tom Jensen, Senior Government Relations Executive for UPS, neatly broke down the philosophical division that currently has the bill stuck in limbo in the session "Transportation Policy in 2021: How to Navigate a Complex Regulatory Landscape":
“The notion of rebuilding American roads, bridges, airports, seaports, intermodal connections, sewer systems, drinking water systems, rural broadband, all these elements are what we would consider traditional or ‘hard’ infrastructure.
In addition to that, there’s been debate about so much more that folks are calling infrastructure, as it relates to schools and education and social programs. That’s a real big distinction and a real big part of the ongoing debate.”
- Tom Jensen, Senior Government Relations Executive, UPS
Tom Madrecki, VP of Supply Chain and Logistics for the Consumer Brands Association, described the budget reconciliation conversation as “the counterbalance to the compromise for infrastructure.”
He expressed excitement about its potential to include other programs with potentially positive impact on the transportation industry like alternative fuel research.
Overall, he believes successfully passing the bill would represent important progress at a time when the Biden Administration and the Department of Transportation are dealing with a number of supply chain crises they inherited during the pandemic.
12. Exciting transportation technology may be closer than you think.
Autonomous vehicles and electric trucks are not only desirable for efficiency and sustainability, they’re also exciting symbols of the future of logistics.
Hani Mahmassani, William A. Patterson Distinguished Chair in Transportation at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, believes that future may be closer than you think. In our "Ask Us Anything" roundtable discussion, Dr. Mahmassani said we may see both technologies reach the market within the coming decade.
“We are seeing many carriers testing electric trucks and beginning to think about what it would take to charge them, etc. I’m very optimistic that we are going to see more adoption in the next three to five years.”
- Dr. Hani Mahmassani, William A. Patterson Distinguished Chair in Transportation, McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University
The outlook is a bit less rosy for autonomous trucks. While “The technology for autonomous trucks is pretty much here right now, in terms of the artificial intelligence and the ability to recognize features, and the ability to deal with traffic on a major highway,” according to Dr. Mahmassani, “In terms of deployment, though, many things have to fall in place.”
Still, he says, “In an optimistic view, I would say that in three to five years, we’re going to start seeing selective deployments in certain corridors and certain functions.”
13. Small businesses should invest in logistics tech early and with purpose.
Experiencing exploding demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, shipper Bootstrap Farmer positioned themselves for success by reacting quickly and setting up systems that ensure their orders are fulfilled promptly and accurately.
Brad Youst, CEO and Founder of Bootstrap Farmer, detailed the way they integrate with Coyote’s API to give themselves visibility and agility in the session "Expert Advice: How I Get Stable Freight Spend in a Volatile Market":
“We as a small company have leveraged the web API to allow our warehouses to with one click send all their information over to Coyote and get back a shipment that’s already booked. It saves our time and prevents any errors.”
- Brad Youst, CEO and Founder, Bootstrap Farmer
Bootstrap Farmer Creative Director Nick Burton emphasized that not only was this technological solution key to their success, they also made an important decision to implement it before their demand really got out of hand.
Nick’s advice to similar companies emphasizes that point, as he warned “Get these integrations now when it’s slow, or by the time you really need them and you’re running out of product it’s going to be too late.”
At the end of the day, he recommends keeping a strong sense of costs and benefits in mind as you make this major investment:
“It’s going to seem expensive in the beginning but it’s going to pay for itself very, very fast.”
- Nick Burton, Creative Director, Bootstrap Farmer
14. European shippers and carriers are still adjusting to Brexit.
Because supply chains are so global in nature, it’s no surprise that European shippers are facing some of the same volatility and challenges we’re seeing in the US.
There’s another wild card at play in Europe that is adding to the complexity, however. Post-Brexit trade rules went into effect on January 1, and since that time, prices have risen and delays have compounded for cross-Channel freight.
In the "Q4 Freight Market Forecast" session, Coyote SVP and Head of Europe Jaap Bruining displayed data tracing the growing gulf between spot rates for UK outbound traffic and the more expensive UK inbound traffic.
He explained the rising relative cost of shipping into the UK as a result of several Brexit-related factors:
“It’s much more time-consuming and more difficult to cross the border, because now there is a customs process.
But also, UK exports have really suffered [in the wake of Brexit], and that’s why truck drivers are less keen to get into the UK, because the chance of a backhaul has declined.”
- Jaap Bruining, SVP and Head of Europe, Coyote Logistics
Jaap also predicted that this state of affairs is unlikely to abate soon. “Volatility increase because of COVID might be reducing as we get more used to the impact of COVID and potential new strains,” he noted, “but I believe the impact of Brexit is going to be permanent.”
15. Plan early for cross-border shipments. You won’t regret it.
Cross-border shipments are incredibly complex, with many moving parts that may be unfamiliar to shippers who typically only move freight domestically.
Our session “Don’t Break Down at the Border: International Shipping Mistakes to Avoid” was designed to help cross-border novices learn the ins and outs of working with a freight broker and a customs broker, completing important paperwork like power of attorney documentation, and ensuring all weights and volumes are meticulously accurate to avoid delays and extra charges.
The worst mistake you can make throughout this complicated process, according to UPS Director of US Freight Forwarding Customs Brokerage Paul Gehrig, is to wait too long to make these important decisions.
"Don't wait until the goods are at customs to say ‘I need a broker.’ Think a week to two weeks beforehand when you are making the decision to move material — that's when you want to start the process of engaging a broker."
- Paul Gehrig, Director of US Freight Forwarding Customs Brokerage, UPS
But at the end of the day, Coyote VP of Strategic Projects for Europe Claire Capstick-Dale advises that some things might just be out of your hands.
“Don't try to control what you can't control. Customs is very powerful — sometimes they can stop a trailer for a random search or they may have a reason to search. It's very frustrating, but it's out of our control."
- Clare Capstick-Dale, VP of Strategic Projects for Europe, Coyote Logistics
The Insights Don’t Stop Here: Watch Any Session On-Demand (for Free)
All the key insights from the 2021 Coyote Logistics Digital Summit can’t fit in one blog post — not even one this long!
There’s something for everyone in our streaming archive, whether you’re a novice shipper for a burgeoning business or a seasoned logistics pro at an enterprise-scale company.
If you enjoyed the information we collected here, view more sessions from the Digital Summit now.