NASSTRAC 2016 Highlights Trends in Shipping & Logistics Management

The annual NASSTRAC Shippers Conference & Transportation Expo is one of the most important events of the year in the shipping and logistics management industry. NASSTRAC’s members are the decisions makers in transportation, supply chain and logistics, including executives from industries like retail, manufacturing food and beverage, consumer goods, pharmaceutical and chemical.

For RateLinx, NASSTRAC has continued to be a great educational event and allows us to reconnect with many of our customers. Over the years, it seems like we have more and more customers that we are able to catch up with at NASSTRAC. We also look forward to talking with the carriers and learning what changes they may be making and how it would affect shippers.

What’s Next in Shipping and Logistics Management?

NASSTRAC offers us the opportunity to learn from many of the leaders in shipping and logistics management, and this year featured some interesting keynote speeches and panels. One panel I found particularly interesting was the Transportation CEO panel, which provided insight into the views of some of the most important decision makers in the industry. During the panel, XPO Logistics (which acquired Con-way in 2015) CEO Bradley Jacobs talked about how the company is embracing technology in the LTL (less-than-truckload) market.

The one thing that is becoming clear is that density-based pricing is becoming more and more of a reality. As Brad Jacobs stated, it is probably only a few years away from becoming a standard in the industry. This is going to put a lot of pressure on LTL shippers to update their systems and processes in order to capture the required dimensions and weights of their LTL shipments. Luckily, our software has supported this type of pricing since 2008, so RateLinx customers won’t have to worry.

NASSTRAC 2016’s kick-off keynote ‘Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? A Trucker and a Railroad Man Speak’ featured retiring UPS Freight President Jack Holmes and CSX Railroad President Clarence Gooden and highlighted the importance of intermodal transportation and the need for cooperation between different types of freight carriers. It was an interesting conversation that illustrated how rail carriers play a big part in helping the over-the-road carries haul freight. During peak season last year, CSX handled 630 million UPS packages without a sort failure. That shows you how connected the entire industry is. We also learned that intermodal is a big part of rail’s revenue and something our customers can take advantage of using the RateLinx Auction module.

Thought-Provoking Discussion in the Technology CEO Panel

This year, I was honored to be selected by the Education Committee to take part in the Technology CEO panel for the second time. It’s humbling to know that we are recognized in this industry as a forward-thinking shipping and logistics management technology provider. Being on the panel allowed me to connect with my other panelists for the first time, and they all have some very interesting applications and views on the industry. The discussion was well attended, with few open seats in the audience.

The panel was moderated by DC Velocity Group Editorial Director Mitch MacDonald, one of the most respected journalists in the shipping and logistics management industry. Mitch was a great moderator and asked some thought-provoking questions. The most interesting questions he posed to the panel were: ‘What are the most important tech tools that every logistics operation should be using today, and why? and the follow-up ‘How will your answer to this question be different 10 years from now’?

My answer was that every logistics operation should be using a strategic platform that allows them to measure and monitor their logistics operation. You can’t improve something you can’t measure. As to the second question, the challenge many logistics operations face is that this industry is typically 10 years behind when it comes to adopting technology. Ten years from now, I believe that every logistics operation will finally have the intelligence they are lacking today. The other panelists also offered some great perspectives on those questions, but I’d like to think that my points were different in the same way that RateLinx is different: I like to focus on the practical side of things, by trying to focus on solving the customer’s problem, rather than talking about the features and functions of our software.

Overcoming IT Challenges in Shipping and Logistics Management

At NASSTRAC 2016, The biggest trend that I noticed was the buzz around connecting data together. Shippers talked about wanting to have all of their data for all carriers in one system and integrate it together in real-time. You’re starting to see carriers are offering tools like web-service API’s to allow this to happen.

Technology is making things easier for the shipper, and the companies that adopt it and integrate it within their processes will definitely have a competitive advantage over the companies that are slow to adopt. However, the biggest barrier to adopting this crucial technology is often the shipper’s own IT staff. As I said during the panel discussion, ‘IT’ often stands for ‘I Tried to get something done’, ‘I’m Tired of waiting to get something done’ or ‘I’m Terrified to make a change.’

Thankfully, with RateLinx shipping and logistics IT managers don’t have to worry. We can adapt our integration points to fit the IT standards of any company and use relatively few IT resources during an implementation. RateLinx is easily integrated, scalable and customizable to help achieve your company’s goals.

If you’d like to know how RateLinx can help improve your shipping and logistics management processes, please send me an email.