Transplace Virtual Shipper Symposium 2020: Smarter is Better

Like almost all conferences scheduled after February of this year, Transplace’s Shipper Symposium (originally scheduled for May) was held last week as a virtual conference. It was a half-day event with six sessions, four of them just 30 minutes long. To paraphrase Goldilocks, it wasn’t too long, it wasn’t too short, it was just right — with half the sessions focused on the state of the transportation market and an excellent customer panel discussion with executives from Walmart, Campbell Soup Company, Emerald Kalama Chemical, and The Clorox Company.

“Today we look forward to discussing key pain points that we’re all seeing in the market, like price inflation, demand volatility, and capacity and have created an agenda that informs in these areas,” said Transplace CEO Frank McGuigan in his opening comments. The agenda certainly delivered, with very informative presentations by Matt Harding (SVP, Data Insights & Engineering) and Ben Cubitt (SVP, Network Services & Consulting) from Transplace, Bob Costello (Chief Economist at American Trucking Association), and Alan Beaulieu (President, ITR Economics). 

I don’t have the time or space to review all of the conference sessions (I’ll share some additional highlights in future posts), but here are some takeaways from the opening session and the customer panel.

Transplace’s State of the Business

“If Transplace were a public company, we would be #699 on the Fortune 1,000 list,” said McGuigan as he discussed the company’s financial strength and growth. Here are some other stats that he shared:

  • 13%: 5-year Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of Net Revenue 
  • 11%: 5-year CAGR of Adjusted EBITDA
  • 38%: 5-year CAGR of Freight Under Management (expected to reach $11 billion in 2020)
  • 17%: 5-year CAGR in technology investments, with continued focus on expansion into new geographies, supply chain visibility, centralized integration across modes, improved usability and design, and advanced network collaboration
  • Transplace Network: $11 billion FUM, 350 million transactions annually, 30K carriers under contract, $23 billion planned continuous moves, $2 billion parcel freight under management
  • Over $500 million in year-to-date savings identified for clients via continuous improvement projects 
  • Three strategic acquisitions in 2020: Lanehub, ScanData, and LeanCor
  • Global expansion, with new offices in Europe and Mexico

Underscoring the growing role of technology in the logistics service provider industry, McGuigan stated, “Bigger is not better; bigger and smarter is better, which is why we invest so heavily in the engineering and IT side of our business.”

Leigh Robinson, Transplace’s CHRO, wrapped up the session talking about the company’s employees and its partnership with Feeding America. For more details on this partnership, I encourage you to watch the Talking Logistics episode we aired earlier this year, which featured Robinson and Blake Thompson, Chief Supply Chain Officer at Feeding America: Making A Difference: Feeding America & Transplace.

Achieving a High Level of Supply Chain Performance in a COVID-19 Environment

The best part of the conference was the customer panel discussion, which featured the following executives:

  • Greg Smith, EVP, Supply Chain, Walmart
  • Kelly Porter, VP, Logistics, Campbell Soup Company
  • Dana Lukens, Director of Global Order Fulfillment, Emerald Kalama Chemical
  • Matt Connolly, VP of Global Logistics, The Clorox Company

The session was moderated by Tracy Rosser (EVP, Operations) and Mollie Bailey (VP, International) from Transplace.

Not surprising, the panelists talked about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic and e-commerce are having on their supply chains. One panelist, for example, commented that the growth of e-commerce over the past six months is what they had expected for the next 3-5 years. This explosive growth in e-commerce is accelerating omni-channel initiatives, like fulfilling orders from stores, and it’s creating a greater need for agility and speed. 

Another panelist commented that it’s really become clear that the flow of data is becoming almost as important as the flow of goods. It’s this need for precision that has focused the supply chain profession on having greater visibility to eliminate data latency.

Demand sensing and data sharing across all stakeholders is becoming more important due to all of the uncertainty and volatility in the market. In the past, companies could leverage inventory and safety stock to manage volatility, either from the demand side or the supply side, but they don’t have that luxury now. Therefore, going forward, demand sensing is going to play a much bigger role than it has in the past. What’s important now is having the ability to flex quickly in response to customer behavior.

The panelists also talked about how collaboration, both internally across all stakeholders and externally with suppliers and customers, is becoming more important. Understanding where the constraints are in your supply chain, which could be with your suppliers’ suppliers, is more critical than ever.

Internally, there is greater focus and collaboration around integrated business planning and S&OP. One panelist mentioned that they have shifted their integrated business planning process from a monthly cadence to a weekly cadence, with participation from all stakeholders, because supply chain is so critical and product availability is the priority. Another added that the robustness of the discussions they’re having as part of their S&OP process, and the frequency of those discussions, has increased dramatically this year. This includes collaborating more closely with their 3PLs to get information faster in order to understand what is happening across the supply chain down to the consumer level and respond as quickly as we can.

There were many more great insights from the conversation, too many to cover here. But the key takeaway is that “the way we’ve always done things” in supply chain and logistics won’t work any more moving forward. Speed, flexibility, agility, precision: enabling these attributes will be critical for success, and it involves breaking down the silos that still exist between functional groups and business partners (and the IT systems they use ), as well as “walking the talk” on collaboration.