23 May Riding the Wave at Transparency19
We felt the incredible energy from the moment we walked into the Transparency19 conference center. It’s hard to describe, but even though the energy was intense, the members of the FreightWaves team, many of whom we met before breakfast, were loose and laid back. It was a good beginning to a great conference.
We hustled to the meeting room on Day 1 because we wanted good seats for the Gary V show. Gary Vaynerchuk is a great speaker. Open with his opinion, he makes sure the audience knows that while they might not like what he has to say, it’s reality from where he’s sitting. It was a great Q & A because it wasn’t rehearsed or “canned.” He’s a big proponent on holding yourself accountable and not waiting to act. Perfection is always the enemy. He talked on a wide variety of subjects, but I found his thoughts on college debt to be most interesting. Gary V sees the entire college system as broken beyond repair and thinks it needs to be blown up. We’ll see what the future holds and how prescient his opinion is.
Day 2 began with Bradley Jacobs, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at XPO Logistics, and it’s possible his talk was even better than Gary V’s. Let me explain. He also used a Q & A style of presentation, but he took live questions from the audience which was cool. He is a great communicator who touched on a variety of subjects including: ROT (Return on Time) which Jacobs admitted isn’t the best of all acronyms, robots in warehouses, one of his favorite books, The Singularity is Near, by Ray Kurzweil, as well as the importance of information, data science, and the need for massive technology investment.
Technology expert and former editor at Wired UK, David Rowan gave a great talk on technology. I am still thinking about his excitement for small companies that are putting their product to work without large rounds of funding. He explained that companies making the biggest impact are using technology to eliminate friction at all points, and lots of them are simply accessing data that already existed. They’re just using new tools to get it.
We love new technology here at AM Transport, so I was excited to see the demos. I like the Transparency 7 minute demos because they aren’t drawn out. The most impressive technology I saw had to do with companies using AI/ML to route LTL drivers. Because LTL pickups change throughout the day, they’re difficult to re-route. These companies are using technologies that take into account traffic patterns, weather, historical data, and ELD info to “shuffle the deck” every time a change comes in.
I really enjoyed the talk between Shelley Simpson, Executive Vice President at J.B. Hunt and George Abernathy, President of FreightWaves. She discussed how they started their brokerage and the internal push back some of the team experienced. She counted on the full support from senior management who understood the importance of the endeavor. Today, the J.B. Hunt brokerage is doing a billion in business. Wow–this is a large asset provider with a huge intermodal piece of the pie with an added brokerage now looking to increase the size of their offerings on the brokerage side and not the assets. Interesting.
When Shelley is working with the team, she wants them to ask this question, “What is the best way to move freight for our customers? Whether we move their freight on our assets or someone else’s assets we just want to bring the best value to our customers.” Everyone is going to know price so focus on the experience.
MiniTab or Tableau vs Microsoft Excel
FreightWaves Transparency19 was a great conference. Solid content geared to tech-forward logistics professionals working to be at the forefront of the tech explosion. In my opinion, lots of conferences are stuck in the past, focused on yesterday’s topics. Here’s how I would explain it.
Other conferences are like Microsoft Excel–it’s a great product and will keep you on a solid path, but it’s manual. Transparency is MiniTab, Tableau, or PowerBi–more advanced and likely to push you to edge if not beyond your comfort zone. But if you can ride the wave, you might rapidly accelerate the time needed to reach your destination.