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Takeaways and Questions from Transparency19

 

Last week, I was lucky to travel to Atlanta in order to attend Transparency19, the freight industry and technology conference put on every spring by FreightWaves. Sure, the phrase industry conference is often yawn-inducing, but Transparency19 felt more like a high-energy technology meetup crossed with a rock concert than the regular outdated, stuffy industry networking event.

I heard topnotch speakers–keynotes by Bradley Jacobs (CEO of XPO Logistics), Gary Vaynerchuk (entrepreneur, digital marketing guru), Brad Stone (author of The Everything Store), and David Rowan (futurist and founding editor at Wired, UK). I saw advanced technologies aimed at alleviating pain points and automating processes. And I enjoyed some top-tier barbecue (seriously good) courtesy of our friends at TriumphPay.

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Most importantly, I connected with peers. I’m talking about the people online with whom I’ve been discussing logistics and tech for months now. It was great to meet in person, and I made some new friends in the process. I even got thrown around in a screaming Porsche 911 Targa driven by a professional on Tuesday. I liked it so much that I immediately did it again.

 

I spend a lot of time examining the blinding speed of technological innovation and its effect on our traditionally opaque/hidebound industry, but still it’s striking to see the sheer amount of new technology designed to solve inefficiencies we’ve previously considered “part of the process.” The long-term effects will be both wide-ranging and expansive.

How will the role of the low-skilled white collar worker grow, evolve, remain relevant as our industry automates? How do we maintain the dignity of drivers when they are increasingly afraid of being reduced to data points, or worse yet, rendered entirely obsolete? Given their reputation for disintermediation, what will Amazon’s entry into the freight business mean for 3PLs?

 

No matter what happens, it’s clear that things are changing. Technology is going to transform the way we do things if we want to stay relevant. It might seem frightening, but I believe the technological disruption of our industry can be ridden out by market participants willing and able to deploy the tools now at their disposal in new, interesting, and creative ways.

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