Supply Chain and Logistics Conferences to Attend in 2016

Take a look at your budget for 2016, which is probably finalized by now. Does it contain a line item for supply chain talent and leadership development? Is the dollar amount allocated enough?

Unfortunately, as I’ve written in the past, many companies still underinvest in talent and leadership development, and it’s among the first budget items they cut when cost pressures arise. As the Director of Global Logistics and Distribution at a leading packaging company told me a couple of years ago:

“The key challenge in any year is defending the [talent development] spend throughout the year…Since a budget is a forecast, and a forecast is always wrong, leadership development and education are an easy target for cost reductions.The return-on-investment (ROI) is immeasurable — or at best, difficult to consistently measure — and businesses tend to frown on leaps of faith.”

InvestingInEmployeesFor leading companies, however, talent development is not a leap of faith — it’s a strategic investment. “Contrary to what many people believe, investing in employees is not dilutive to a company’s financial results and shareholder value — it’s actually accretive,” said Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, at the 2015 Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Annual Conference. Starbucks and other industry leaders subscribe to the philosophy expressed by the CEO in this popular quote making the rounds on social media:

CFO asks CEO “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”

CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

Supply chain professionals often cite peer-to-peer learning and networking as the most valuable investment of talent development time and money. “Who better to give me practical knowledge and advice about a problem or opportunity I’m working on,” they say, “than other executives who have already been down that road?” Conferences are a great example of peer-to-peer learning in action, but with so many supply chain and logistics conferences available, how do you decide which ones to attend? As I’ve shared in the past, here are three questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Does the conference agenda align with the key initiatives I’m working on? Simply put, give priority to events where you will walk away with knowledge and information that you can immediately apply at your company to get your job done better and faster. And if you require the support of your technology and 3PL partners to accomplish your initiatives, then you should attend their user conferences and schedule meetings with their senior executives to let them know what’s working well and what improvements they can make to better serve you.
  1. Will I learn something new, particularly in an area that I don’t know much about today but is critically important for my career and leadership development? If you’re a transportation professional, for example, and all you know is transportation, your opportunities for advancement are limited compared to someone who has a broader supply chain perspective. So, go ahead, attend a session on Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP), supply chain risk management, business intelligence and analytics, or other area outside your comfort zone to brighten your horizon.
  1. Does the event promote peer-to-peer learning and networking or will I spend most of my time sitting through numerous PowerPoint presentations? In my experience, events that enable attendees to share knowledge and advice with each other (via small breakout sessions, for example) instead of just sitting through an endless stream of PowerPoint presentations, provide the greatest learning value.

Below is a short list of the supply chain and logistics conferences scheduled for 2016. I’ve attended many of them in previous years, often as a speaker, and I’ve always walked away with some great insights and new business connections. Here are some posts I wrote this year sharing my takeaways from various conferences:

Simply put, before 2015 comes to a close, take another look at your budget for next year and make sure you’re not skimping on talent and leadership development. What happens if you don’t invest in your people and they stay? I believe we all know the answer to that question, and it’s not a situation any CEO or supply chain leader wants to find themselves in next year.

I hope to see many of you at one or more of the following conferences this coming year. Happy learning and networking in 2016!

Note: Most of the conferences below are in the US, although some listed are in Europe and Asia. Many of the leading ERP and supply chain software vendors have customer events in various countries around the world. You can check their websites for information regarding dates and locations. Also, if you have a favorite industry conference that you attend not included on the list, please post in the comments.

Vendor Conferences (alphabetical order)
Industry Conferences (chronological order)