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To say business that this year’s MODEX event was widely, if not wildly, anticipated is more than reasonable, given the months it’s been since many


To say that this year’s MODEX event was widely, if not wildly, anticipated is reasonable, given the months it’s been since many attendees have seen this many faces, masked or unmasked, in a single day. While a few were masked, most presenters and audiences were not. The many exhibitors were upbeat as they shared the latest inventions and processes that are and will be impacting the supply chain. The twitterverse was alive with pictures of tweeters with their “long-lost” friends.

The prime questions at the conference dealt with whether the changes in consumer and supply chain behavior are permanent and, if so, to what extent. The first item was almost universally answered affirmatively, but no consensus existed for the second. Yes, e-commerce is on the rise. Will the same pace of growth exist? Probably not. 

SSI Schaefer’s Saif Sabti, VP Business Development and Strategy, and John Barre, executive sales manager, reported that e-commerce had seen 39% YOY increases but they predicted that growth will slow to something more like 18%-23%. Some 82% of Boomers say they will go back to brick-and-mortar stores, but, even if that happens, it’s not clear if retailers should prepare for changed expectations regarding inventory, payment, and delivery. Millennials and Gen Xers confirm their use of e-commerce will continue. 

If changes in behavior were the underlying issues addressed in 2022, the answer to problems arising from these changes could be summed up in one word:  automation. Automation was presented as ultimately less expensive than human labor, faster than humans—important as the orders increase, and better for the workers who are present. Ergonomics are better if the number of steps workers take and the weight they must transport are reduced. 

Considering MODEX 2020’s panel on COVID, which grossly underestimated its effects, it seems prudent to include here the session that was NOT about a new machine, application, or process. Under Attack:  What Ukraine Means for Global Supply Chains could not have been timelier. Beyond the humanitarian concerns involving the American Logistics Aid Network, its executive director, Kathy Fulton, led this session on business and economic implications. Panelists were Alan Amling, Distinguished Fellow at UT Supply Chain Institute, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and CEO of Thrive and Advance, LLC, and David Shillingford, cChief sStrategy oOfficer, Everstream Analytics

Amling and Shillingford pointed out that supply chains connect many businesses to Ukraine and Russia. That connection, however, may not be obvious, even to the businesses themselves. Shillingford told us that 90% of the world’s sunflower oil comes from Russia. Why should this matter to us? Because Lays and Ruffles primarily use sunflower oil. Groceries and snack machine vendors are unlikely to have considered this as they assessed the risk the Ukraine situation poses to their businesses. In the case of war and embargoes, items may become more expensive or, worse case, unobtainable. Sunflower oil will be more expensive, and Lays may shift to olive oil or some other alternative. In contrast to the rare earth minerals, recently provided by both Russia and Ukraine, oil is a small problem. Those minerals may be unobtainable, and some have no known substitutes.

The panelists continued discussing risk. They said that businesses know their Tier One suppliers, but few know all their Tier Two supplies, or the Tier One’s of their Tier Twos. This time the disruption in the chain is geopolitical; two years ago, it was medical. COVID-19 infections and/or various governments’ responses to actual infections and to reduce spread have rippled through the supply chain. Weather, earthquakes, and climate degradation are also risks. Back in 2006 in Harvard Business Review, Elizabeth Economy and Kenneth Lieberthal wrote that China lost $31 billion in industrial output due to a lack of water clean enough to run the factories. Amling proposed that companies create scenarios that focus not on the cause but on how their business could respond to disruptions to inputs and outputs.

Compared to war, e-commerce and its implications seem almost simple to manage. Certainly MODEX 2022 displayed solutions to the challenges of too few workers for work that has become more complicated, but must be more accurate, and rising costs for materials, labor, and transportation. Both the educational sessions and the booth conversations pushed the same message. Firms anywhere along the supply chain need to clarify their strategy so they can find and be better partners to the firms with whom they choose to connect.



2022 Kicks-Off with Plenty of Events in Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Ah, a new year has arrived once again, bringing with it new opportunities to network, grow, and experience leading trade shows in logistics and supply chain management. If you haven’t already registered to attend in-person, many of the following conferences offer virtual streaming and virtual interactive meetings. That being said, here are our picks for upcoming events to mark on your calendar as we ring in the new year…

NRC Conference & NRC-REMSA Exhibition

Jan. 5-8

Phoenix, Arizona

The National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association and Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association events include presentations from major freight railroads, transit agencies and other key rail leaders.

World Food Logistics Organization Institute West

Jan. 9-12

Tempe Mission Palms Hotel and Conference Center, Tempe, Arizona

The nonprofit WFLO develops education and research for the industry and provides cold chain advisory services that empower economic development and strengthen the global cold chain.

MARS 2022 Winter Meeting

Jan. 11-13

The Westin Chicago Lombard, Lombard, Illinois

Midwest Association of Rail Shippers provides an open forum for resolving transportation and car supply problems, coupled with educational programs on railroad operating practices, new transportation innovations and legislative matters.

AirCargo Conference

Jan. 17-19

Hilton New Orleans Riverside, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cybersecurity, mergers & acquisitions and government mandates are among the topics covered at this gathering of corporate leaders and compliance managers from across the air cargo supply chain. 

2022 N.C. Transportation Summit

Jan. 19-20

Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina

Hear industry leaders discuss the future of mobility and the latest innovations in a state that is expected to have 3 million more residents by 2040.

World Food Logistics Organization Institute West

Jan. 30-Feb. 2

Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center, Atlanta, Georgia

Professionals engaged in temperature-controlled logistics are offered more than 40 classes taught by industry leaders. The curriculum includes cold-chain management, customer service, warehouse operations, transportation and more. 


Jan. 31-Feb. 11


Enjoy exclusive networking and one-on-one events tailored for e-commerce and logistics professionals. Select buyers will also be invited to industry-focused Table Talks that allow for the free flow of ideas and thought leadership.

Reverse Logistics Conference & Expo 

Feb. 7-9
The Mirage, Las Vegas, Nevada

“The Circular Economy” is the theme for the premier gathering of returns and reverse logistics professionals. Improving brand reputation and customer satisfaction while increasing asset recovery is the secret sauce for 700 attendees.

Supply Chain Visibility Conference

Feb. 9-11

Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa, Bonita Springs, Florida

Health Industry Distributors Association manufacturers, distributors, group purchasing organizations and providers discuss ways to work together better to ensure product availability, improve forecasting and support patient care. 

LINK: the Retail Supply Chain Conference

Feb. 20-23

Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, Grapevine, Texas

The Retail Industry Leaders Association gathers top executives in the retail supply chain to network and learn from each other through case studies, leading practices and expert thought leadership. 

ASEAN Ports & Shipping 2022

Feb. 22-24

InterContinental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Port Klang Authority hosts this container ports and terminal operations exhibition and conference for shippers, cargo owners, importers/exporters, shipping lines, freight forwarders, logistics companies and ports, terminals and railway operators.


Feb. 27-March 2

Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, California

For the first time since 2019, Trans Pacific Maritime reconvenes this must-attend conference for the global container shipping and logistics community. “The many challenges that currently exist in the global supply chain will only enhance the importance of this event,” says South Carolina Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome.

Air Cargo Americas

March 8-10

Miami Airport Convention Center, Miami, Florida

Top executives from all sectors of the aviation, and logistics industries exchange views and experiences to enhance the growth of the cargo industry in the Western Hemisphere. Airport reps, exporters, freight forwarders, shippers and more attend.

TCA Annual Convention 

March 19-22

Wynn Las Vegas Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada

Receive the latest updates about the Truckload Carriers Association, which represents dry van, refrigerated, flatbed, tanker and intermodal container carriers operating throughout North America. 


March 28-31 

Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia

It’s the largest international supply chain expo held in North or South America. Solution providers demonstrate their equipment, systems and services to manufacturing, supply chain and transportation professionals.

Mexico’s Manufacturing Supply Chain Summit

March 31

El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center, El Paso, Texas

Leading OEMs in Mexico and potential suppliers meet as conference sessions and case studies inform about the latest developments in manufacturing and supply chain dynamics south of the U.S. border.


MODEX Day Three: Robotics & Automation Continue Maturing

In typical Modex fashion, robotics and automation were among the hot topics discussed by keynote speakers, exhibitors, and attendees. A vast array of capabilities, sizes, and industry-specific robotics could be found throughout the show floor, each showing off a new capability. It’s clear that robotics continue to evolve and show no signs of slowing down progress in meeting demand within warehouses and distribution centers.

Mike Futch, President of Tompkins Robotics made this point very clear during his session on Wednesday afternoon titled, “The Lights Out DC/FC: How Close Can We Get?”

Futch addressed the use of various technologies to address workforce constraints while improving the effectiveness and performance of the supply chain.  He identified what advancements will assist in solving bottlenecks such as facility constraints, space issues, and the current situation in unemployment. As these challenges persist, robotics continues to mature.

“There’s a limited workforce, a limited number of people that can drive the distance to enter the immediate geographic region, and these larger buildings are competing for that workforce that’s already at a low unemployment rate along with offering increased wages and siphoning workers off of others. This is a real challenge for some markets.”

“Labor is scarce and we have record-low unemployment, typically to expand capacity from a volume perspective and companies are turning to more shifts. If you already have a tight labor market and you’re adding shifts, where are the workers coming from? And this creates a bigger problem.”

The workforce is a key constraint and while workforce rates are lower than others in some places, Futch states that companies are competing to stay ahead of demand through increased wages while solving the best approach to a limited workforce.

Machines continue to do the same things a human can do but without interruptions with repetitive, difficult, or taxing work that inevitably fatigues the human body. That being said, the industry still requires a skilled workforce and robotics should not be purchased for their appeal. It’s becoming clear that a blend of workers and robotics is a more common theme for integrating such advancements over the idea that robotics will “overtake” worker’s jobs. In fact, robotics is providing a way to re-establish worker tasks rather than eliminating the worker.

“Robotics has matured tremendously from where they were a few years ago. About 5-10 years ago, the pick-and-place robots at the show could not do the things they are capable of doing now. Two years from now, they’ll have the capability to do twice as much as now. Robotics is maturing and meeting the three R’s: improve rate, improve reliability, and improve the range of products and items,” he explained. ”

In terms of a fully automated DC, Futch added that about 60-85 percent of manual tasks can be automated realistically rather than a “lights out” center.

“Beyond the pick-and-place robots, other robots are doing the same thing: creating a blur of separation between what a human can do and what a machine can do.”


MODEX Day Two: Coronavirus Impacting More than Just Trade Operations

Day two for MODEX 2020 concluded with industry players addressing the now-notorious coronavirus and what this means for both domestic and international markets fortunate enough to continue operations without disruption. From what we learned during the session, “Coronavirus and Global Supply Chains” the wave currently felt in China, Italy, and beyond, will eventually make its way to the U.S. and companies have no reason not to be prepared.

Researcher Philip J. Palin, John Paxton with MHI, and David Shillingford with Resilience360 took the unsettling topic head-on and addressed concerns without hesitation. Traders be aware: for domestic and untouched international markets, the worst isn’t over. The coronavirus creates more than just health concerns. It impacts trade operations, legal concerns, and causes financial turmoil as we’ve already started to see.

“The virus is the primary cause of the supply chain impact but the secondary causes coming from the virus include financial, regulatory, compliance, and legal,” explained Shillingford. “Another risk to think about is workforce risk. How many of the workers that left for Chinese New Year have been able to come back, and for those that have returned, are they able to work with open factories or are they still under quarantine?”

“The good news is, the extraordinary supply and demand disruption we’re discussing in terms of China is being released. It’s slow but it’s happening and it’s giving us a benchmark of for how long domestic disruption will be,” Palin stated after announcing the first containership from China arrived at the Port of Los Angeles in almost 10 days on Monday.

Shillingford goes on to explain the shifting patterns in consumer behavior as well, noting that due to worldwide panic, demand is shifting and challenging the logistics sector. Buying habits have undoubtedly changed in recent weeks along with mindsets. Interactions are now limited to a fist-bump or elbow touch rather than a handshake and the numbers of public events cancelled are going up.

“Other things we are seeing involve personnel movement. It’s not just transportation impacted,” Shillingford added.

On the legal side of the crisis, Chinese suppliers are having an issue with certificates and contractual obligations. Shillingford urges industry players to understand the importance of knowing if suppliers have been issued force majeure slips.

“One thing supply chains hate is variance, and there’s going to be a lot of variance and volatility on the demand side,” he concluded.

What does all this mean for the U.S.? At the end of the day, it’s a matter of preparation and strategizing for the more fortunate markets without the disruption of a complete shut-down.

“There was a hidden, horrible problem in the Hubei province that required a draconian measure to prevent transmission of the virus. We should be ahead of that curve as well as the rest of the world, even with this very contagious virus,” explained Palin. “And even if we are behind that curve, we don’t have 300 million workers separated from their place of work.”

MODEX 2020 Day One: Millennials and Their Impact on Distribution

Day one of this year’s MODEX event kicked-off with its anticipated array of technology solutions in action and hundreds of global companies sharing the latest and greatest impacting the supply chain. From warehousing and robotics to transportation and packaging, just about every moving part of the supply chain represented a part of the show.

Keynote speakers such as Michael Roe, Senior Account Executive at DMW&H, took on challenges specific to the distribution and ecommerce sector: millennials.

The generational differences brought to the ecommerce market have shaken the way distributors approach customer adaptation. Furthermore, distributors are now challenged to balance multiple consumer demands while remaining relevant. Roe explains:

“Millennials changed retail because of the way they shop. Millennials value culture, experience, and they value the value of the experience. Although it may seem new, it may not be so new.”

“Distribution practices have changed because we have to adapt to the customer base. If you understand what your customer wants, you have to change your distribution and understand how it’s going to work.”

He goes onto explain that during the early days of ecommerce, companies like Amazon (known to-date as the fastest company to reach $100 billion in sales) changed that model and took the stores out of the equation. This effort was a strategy used by ecommerce companies to reinvent the consumer’s shopping and comparison experience by adding ease and convenience. Amazon created a presence everywhere through its distribution centers – they were simply found everywhere. To this day, Amazon continues to expand its footprint with the help of automation.

For the modern consumer, the days of mall visits are a thing of the past for some, while for others in the same consumer pool prefer the option of both ecommerce and the traditional store model. Baby boomers typically still prefer the in-store experience with 84 percent confirming this preference. They want their product when they leave and aren’t keen on the idea of waiting for something already paid for.

Meanwhile, Gen X prefers the option of comparison-shopping while reaping the benefits of maximized value. Millennials demand a hybrid model offering a complex blend of what Boomers and Gen X’ers seek. And they want it for a competitive price. Navigating this shift has left some scratching their head as they identify the most adaptable approach.

At the end of the day, it boils down to understanding the customer and identifying the best approach to navigating the balance of consumer demands. The millenials concept isn’t all that new at all. in fact, generational changes have always been present, it’s all a matter of anticipating these changes and preparing the solution accordingly. Roe concluded that “Every generation has changed their shopping preferences. With each generation comes faster response times to customer preferences.”


Dates You Don’t Want to Forget in 2020

Midwest Association of Rail Shippers (MARS) Winter Meeting

Jan. 14–16

Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, Lombard, Illinois

“Rail’s 2020 Crossroads: Market Share vs. Operating Ratio” is the theme as the impacts of the declining freight market are discussed.

National Retail Federation’s 2020 Vision

Jan. 12-14

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, New York

“Retail’s Big Show,” as it is known, includes more than 38,000 retailers, vendors and expert participants.

Nulogy Presents: xChange 19

Jan. 19-21

Westin Phoenix Downtown, Phoenix, Arizona

This is the preeminent conference for consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands and co-pack suppliers.

Southern Motor Carriers’ Jump Start 20

Jan. 27-29

The Renaissance Atlanta Waverly, Atlanta, Georgia

This event covers all things supply chain, such as industry disruption predictions, ethical AI, cross-border logistics, freight profitability analysis, blockchain strategies and much more.

Cargo Logistics Canada

Feb. 4-6

Vancouver Convention Centre West, Vancouver, Canada

The global impacts of China’s $1 trillion One Belt One Road and the massive global e-commerce surge are among the expo topics.

17th Annual RLA Conference and Expo

Feb. 4-6

Mirage Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

Reverse Logistics Magazine’s annual event focuses on solutions and technologies surrounding reverse logistics and the circular economy.

38th Annual Mississippi Valley Trade and Transport Conference

Feb. 19-20

Omni Royal Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana

One of the longest-running river-related logistics events features expert panelists speaking on a range of important topics, including river statistics, port updates and commodities.

Food Shippers of America 65th Annual Logistics Conference

Feb. 23-25

J.W. Marriott Grand Lakes, Orlando, Florida

This invitation-only conference is aimed at the food shipment field.

LINK2020: The Retail Supply Chain Conference

February 23-26, 2020

Dallas, TX

Gaylord Texan

RILA LINK2020: The Retail Supply Chain Conference is the best way to network, learn, and explore hot trends in retail supply chain management.  Hundreds of executives from the top retailers will gather at LINK2020 to discover new, innovative strategies, find new solutions to their challenges, and position themselves as leaders in the field.

Automotive Logistics Mexico

Feb. 25-27

Marquis Reforma, Mexico City, Mexico

C-Level execs, directors and managers responsible for all areas of logistics and supply chain strategy for vehicle makers, parts suppliers, government, LSPs, tech providers and start-ups gather to learn the latest industry developments.

3rd Cold Chain Global Forum West Coast .20

Feb. 25-27

San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California

Senior supply chain, logistics, transportation, packaging, quality and operations stakeholders from both large and small pharma West Coast-based companies get a holistic temperature-controlled blueprint that goes from clinical supply chain to commercial supply chain.

AFFI Con 2020

Feb. 29-March 3

Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, Nevada

This is the American Frozen Food Institute’s premier event for frozen food and beverage makers, industry suppliers and logistical partners.

82nd TCA Annual Convention

March 1-3

Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Kissimmee, Florida

The premier networking and education event in the truckload industry features diverse speakers, workshops and an insightful keynote.

TPM 20

March 1-4

Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, California

Among the largest logistics, business and transportation events includes a variety of industry roundtables, workshops and mixers.

Elevate Annual Users Conference

March 2-5

Orlando World Center Marriott, Orlando, Florida

A diverse group of HighJump users, experts and industry leaders and partners discuss Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), 3PL software and Direct Store Delivery (DSD).

MODEX 2020

March 9-12

Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia

The possibilities are endless thanks to 950+ exhibits and 100+ education sessions tailored to help you discover equipment and system solutions for your material handling and supply chain needs. With keynotes, networking, education and product booths, MODEX is where manufacturing and supply chain innovation come to life.