Navigating Supply Chain Management Trends for 2024
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Blythe Brumleve joins Eric Kimberling on the Transformation Ground Control podcast to discuss supply chain trends for 2024, including the impacts of changing consumer behavior, technology adoption, AI integration, overcoming supply chain challenges, and career opportunities within the industry. She provides insightful perspectives on navigating an ever-evolving landscape.





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Show Transcript

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Blythe Brumleve: 0:05

Welcome to another episode of Everything Is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight. We are proudly presented by SPI. Logistics and I am your host, Blythe Brumleve, and we've got another special episode for you today, this time an appearance on the Transformational Ground Control podcast hosted by Eric Kimberling, who is also the owner of Third Stage Consulting.

Eric Kimberling: 0:27

So in this episode I got to stretch my supply chain knowledge a bit, where, admittedly, I've only recently felt comfortable sharing and actually even developing a somewhat cohesive supply chain knowledge set, if that word salad makes sense, but for fellow logistics professionals who may want to gather some additional knowledge of outside of the logistics sector. This is probably going to be a podcast for you, because when you think about it, logistics feels like a huge segment. But that whole industry, our whole industry, is just one segment of the overall global supply chain. And what impacts the overall global supply chain? Well, geopolitical issues, trade issues, trade lanes, sustainability, weather patterns, procurement, maritime and so much more. In fact, the more I learn about the global supply chain, the more I realize how much more there is left to learn, which is exciting but also makes me feel like I'll run out of time before I can actually learn it all. But let's try to learn it all anyways. And if I'm off base with any of this thinking, if you're an expert in any of these different associations within supply chain, I would love to hear from you so I can learn even more. Drop me a note in the show notes where you can find my contact information and we can set up a conversation to discuss further. So, with all that said, here is my conversation with Eric from the Transformational Ground Control podcast, talking about supply chain trends for 2024.

Speaker 3: 1:59

So I'm excited for our next guest, someone who's been on the show in the past one other time, but it's been a while. It's been about a year. It was about this time last year, I believe that she was on the show to talk about an intro to supply chain management back then. But today we're not going to talk about an intro to supply chain management. We're going to talk about trends for 2024 and beyond as it relates to supply chain management. So joining us here today is Blythe Brumleve, who's the podcast host, or the host of the Everything is Logistics podcast, as well as other business adventures that she's involved with as well. So, Blythe, thank you for being here today.

Eric Kimberling: 2:31

Thank you so much for having me Excited to be here.

Speaker 3: 2:33

Excited to have you. This is your second time on the show. I know last time you were on, which is about a year ago I think it was probably about this time last year we had a really great discussion. We got into a lot of supply chain stuff and I thought it would just be a great time for us to have sort of a checkpoint here. We're late in 2023. Thought it'd be a great opportunity for us to check in and see where things stand in the world of supply chain management, where you see the world headed with supply chain management in 2024 and beyond and all this other good stuff related to trends and just what's happening in the space. But before we get into those questions, tell us a little bit about yourself and your different companies that you manage.

Eric Kimberling: 3:07

Sure, so I am the host of a podcast called Everything is Logistics. So, as you can tell, it covers logistics and supply chain and transportation, mostly focused on the US market. Now we do cover international topics as well, of course, but I started off in the freight industry here in the US, in Jacksonville, florida, working as an executive assistant at a 3PO, which is a third party logistics company, basically working side by side with the executive team, learning how a transportation company operates, and so because of that experience there, I was given the role of marketing and digital media manager, and so I started managing all of the websites and marketing materials for that company and that was sort of my trial by fire into the world of logistics, and that since has evolved into my own company, where the company that I worked for before became my very first customer. That company is Digital Dispatch. It's website management solutions for the logistics industry. So brokers, carriers, shippers, vendors, people like that anybody who essentially small to medium sized businesses who need those kinds of services. But the podcast is really my main focus. That's where I get to have these awesome conversations with people from all over the world, all over different sectors and modes of transportation, so I'm excited to be here. I'm excited to talk about the fascinating world of supply chain, because it really is. We were talking just before we got on air that there's so much to learn within the world of supply chain, from a historical perspective to just recent history, and even where we think geopolitical struggles, alignments, are going to evolve in the near future. It's always evolving, it's always changing and I think that's why I love this industry so much.

Speaker 3: 4:59

Yeah, we were also talking about how it's likely as possible that neither one of us or anyone in the field will ever fully learn and master all there is to master about supply chain management, because it does change so fast.

Eric Kimberling: 5:10

Right, exactly I wish. I wish I could learn it all.

Speaker 3: 5:13

Right, so how would you so you started to touch on this a little bit then and maybe just to set the stage for the conversation here today how would you summarize how the supply chain field has unfolded in 2023 so far, if we sort of look at just the year in review sort of thing? I know it's a little early for that, but just three quarters of the way through what's unfolded here? What are the big trends you've seen?

Eric Kimberling: 5:34

So we're really coming off the downturn of the COVID economy and so specifically here in the United States, there was a lot of stimulus impact. There are a lot of checks that went out to the population within the US. A lot of residents were basically locked inside and couldn't go anywhere and couldn't do anything. So what did they do? They spent their money on consumer goods, and so that had a massive ripple effect throughout the entire global economy, global supply chain. We were we couldn't import fast enough all of the goods that US residents were buying, mainly because they were bored at home, and so now we're starting to see a little bit of that pendulum shift back to where consumers are spending a good amount of their money on all of these consumer goods. That pendulum switched back over the last year or so into experiences. People were traveling more and doing more experiences. But now that pendulum has kind of swung back towards the middle where consumer debt has increased. I think it just crossed $1 trillion here in the United States. So consumers are pulling back on their spending rightfully so, and so what we're seeing is more of a settling in to what this new post-COVID economy sort of looks like in the United States. We're going back to sort of 2018, 2019 levels of purchasing. We're starting to see a bunch of. Especially over the last year, a lot of retailers were dealing with surplus inventory issues. Now those have since balanced out a little bit. So now we're coming up into the holiday season and it's really a wait and see game, with a lot of what the consumers want to do, and the retailers are going to essentially react to what the consumers want. So they're not, they don't have these massive, you know, warehouse space filled with inventories. I mean, even last year, last Christmas season, we were still selling goods that were on container ships that were stuck out on the port of Long Beach and LA, that were stuck on those ships for eight, nine months, and so a lot of those Halloween decorations, those Christmas decorations that were stuck out on the boats in 2021, that inventory was sold off in 2022. And so this has really been the first holiday season where we're going to find out where the true economy is at from a US perspective and then how the rest of the world is going to react as far as spending as well. I think there's a greater fear of recessionary conditions across the entire globe, and so it's kind of a wait and see approach, both on the consumer side and on the retailer side, and that really is what drives a lot of shipments, I guess, separate from you know. Some of them are materials, dry bulk, natural gas, crude oil, things like that. Those shipments are treated very separately from consumer spending and so that's a whole different market. I don't really have the expertise on you know, dry bulk goods and you know crude oil and things like that, but I do know that some geopolitical tensions are affecting those shipments as well. But here at the state side it really is all about the consumer and retailers just waiting and seeing.

Speaker 3: 8:45

Hmm, interesting. So are retailers in general and is the supply chain in general struggling less with excess inventory and sort of that lumpiness of the supply chain that we've had in recent years?

Eric Kimberling: 8:59

Yeah, they're definitely so. They have the re a lot of the major retailers so the Walmart, the Target, costco's, even of the world they have that warehouse space now secured, and so they're essentially what they're doing is they're just waiting to see what the consumer is going to do. I mentioned earlier about the consumer debt that has been increasing. What is another factor that really impacted consumer spending is student loan repayments. For those who are viewing internationally, us has a very, I guess, a big issue with student loan payments for their college degrees, for their college education. Those payments were put on hold since COVID and now, with that delay being removed, you're going to have an extra added expense and so things are getting much more expensive for the US consumer, much more than you know traditionally have been, and so you have all of these additional bills that are coming down the pipeline. So we kind of expect to have consumers are going to spend a little bit less this holiday season, but we just don't know yet, because we don't know if they're going to continue to rack up credit card debt, but less likely so because of all of those external factors that are now going to be playing a role as far as consumer spending is concerned. And then you have on the carrier and the broker side of things, which is the trucking companies and the companies that are trying to arrange the shipments from the customers to the people who are actually making the goods, the manufacturers. So you have those added components of they're also dealing with an enormous amount of fraud that's going on. And so anytime you see, you know, consumers kind of interesting, you know, from a global perspective when you see the rise in consumer debt People not having access to a lot of excess funds to be able to go and shop Then you have a rise in crime, especially cargo crime related activities that are also affecting a lot of brokers, a lot of carriers, and it's becoming the cost of doing business is becoming very, very expensive, and so you have all of these factors sort of colliding in at once. But the economy is still especially the US based economy, is still doing relatively okay. There are some media companies, freight waves in particular. They have their sonar platform which predicts and analyzes, you know, tender inbound rejection shipments, things like that. They analyze all of that data and they kind of predict that by Q2 of 2024 that we're essentially going to be out of any kind of recession. There are some experts that think that we're going to be done with any kind of recession fears by the summer. But spring to summertime is looking like when you know we're going to kind of be back to those pre pandemic levels and the recession concerns are going to be over. So hopefully that leads to consumer confidence increasing and then retailers confidence increasing, and then you know that has a ripple effect throughout all of shipping, whether it's the big cargo ships that you see out in the ocean or if it's the down to the trucks, to the Amazon delivery packages that you're getting on your doorstep, all of that has a ripple effect.

Speaker 3: 12:04

Right right, that's super interesting. That's an interesting prediction for for next year and when, when things might start to settle down a bit there. So that's, that's super interesting. So what other trends do you see developing then for 2024 and beyond? You talked about? You know what, what people are predicting for Q2 and into the summer of next year? What other sort of big trends or predictions do you have for supply chain management in the next year?

Eric Kimberling: 12:31

Well, I think I mean we made it a hold 12 minutes without mentioning AI. So AI is just dominating, I think, every part of the conversation in every industry, especially when it comes to the logistics industry and just global transportation as a whole there. So, to put things in perspective for the audience there, the supply chain industry as a whole has been really slow to adopt new technology. They made major investments in the 90s, in the mid 90s, early 2000s, into what's called these massive transportation management software, warehouse management software, fleet management software. They made all of those investments in the 90s and what happens is, with a lot of those different platforms they're big, all in one platforms designed to handle everything, all of your data, from accounting to tracking loads, to getting your products from point A to B, rate negotiations all of those things were happening in one platform. Now you can imagine that that is so much data. It is so much to filter through, and so for a lot of the smarter companies here in the freight space, a lot of them have started to implement different machine learning technologies. They're implementing those into their already established tech stacks. Now what we're seeing, especially that started this year, is that some of those systems that were developed in the late 90s, the early 2000s. They're becoming a little clunky. They're becoming a little, I guess, abrasive to further integrations outside integrations with different other technology providers. Some of them are doing a good job of incorporating those different technologies into those massive tech stacks, but it's really started to happen over the last year where you're starting to get these not small players, but these niche players who focus on one thing Driver tracking, truck parking, you know a maritime shipping, you know that the amount of time that you're waiting off of the coast in order to, you know, get your call into the port in order to be unloaded, measuring gas and measuring fuel not gas fuel truckers will kill me if I say gas measuring fuel If you know, from point A to B, how much speed you should be doing on the highway, how much of your speed you should be doing on the ocean, all of these different niche technology players are now starting to come into the fold and they're starting to be integrated into these bigger systems, and so I think a major trend for 2024 is going to be the further adoption of a I Trying to filter through all of those different data points to help save their customers money, to help save themselves. The logistics providers help them save some money anywhere they can, because, just to give you a perspective, any good that you have, any kind of goods that you have in your house building materials, things like that up to 50% of that products goods are transportation related costs. So any small savings that you can make on any part of the transportation process has a massive ripple effect. And so I think that we're going to see more a I adoption. We're going to see more machine learning and we're going to see more of these niche players and hopefully break down some of these technological silos that exist within all throughout supply chain, where you don't have just intermodal out on an island by themselves, you don't have maritime out on an island by themselves, you don't trucking or you know even the variety of different trucks that are being used. You don't have all of these different silos. They can play together and integrate much more. We're going to see much more of that, not just in 2024, but in 2023 as well. These are when companies are starting to make those investments, and make their budgets is right now.

Speaker 3: 16:18

That's super interesting. We're here with Blythe Brumleve talking about supply chain management trends in 2024 and beyond. We've got a lot more to cover. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with more transformation, ground control.

Blythe Brumleve: 16:30

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Speaker 3: 17:19

Hello, welcome back to transformation ground control, episode number one hundred and thirty nine. My name is Eric Kimberly, here with Kyler Sheetham. You can find new episodes of the show every Wednesday at transformation ground control dot com. You can also go to YouTube, linkedin, facebook and Twitter, where it streams every week, as well as audio podcast platforms throughout the world. But the easiest way is just to go to transformation ground control dot com and you can find all the platforms that were on there. So be sure to check out some of the past episodes you may have missed as well. We're here in the midst of a conversation with life Brim leave talking about supply chain management trends in twenty twenty four and beyond. Let's jump back into the conversation and here's a follow up question. I'm going to get to you up. I'll put it on the screen. I'll read in a moment. Before I do, though, just one quick note for those of you that are watching on LinkedIn. Apparently, there's a problem with the LinkedIn chat feature. If you're on the, if you're on the desktop, I don't think that chat is working, or at least we're not seeing him here. So if you, you can either go to the mobile LinkedIn interface or you can go to YouTube if you want to ask questions. So I'm not ignoring you. If you're trying to ask a question on LinkedIn, just try the mobile app on LinkedIn or YouTube if you, if you want to engage with us here. But thank you for all the questions that are coming in so far. This one's from YouTube, from Andreas on YouTube, and you sort of answered this, but I'm curious to maybe dive into this a little bit more. But is AI just a buzzword, or do you already see real-life use cases that really get used? You sort of rattle off a bunch of ways AI could help supply chain managers and supply chains in general. How often are you actually seeing those use cases, or how much is it emerging, would you say now, and what do you expect to see in the future?

Eric Kimberling: 18:50

I do not think it's just a buzzword. I think it's going to be absolutely crucial, not just to at the top company line level, but down to the workers that are in the trenches. Ai can really help a lot of those different processes and decision making that is going on from the top down to the bottom. We're seeing massive adoption happening from the accounting perspective. We're also seeing it from the sales and marketing perspective. I think that that's where the bigger use cases are right now. There are other transportation companies I'll use one, for example that they are taking the weather data that's available to anyone in the United States or really anyone globally. You can take that weather data and overlay it on top of the shipments that you already have within your system. Now the brokers who are sitting at the phones and they're calling the truck drivers, they're calling their customers, they're trying to get these shipments moved from point A to B. They can now see those weather patterns days in advance so they can plan their equipment around that, say, a major hurricane is going to be coming through, say, the southeastern part of the United States. You likely do not want your shipments or your trucks or your equipment in those areas that are going to be heavily impacted unless you're going to be staging them for recovery relief. So there's lots of different use cases of how AI where you could take that broker that person that's sitting at the phone making those decisions is now able to take big pieces of that decision making process and use AI as a filter. On top of those decision making really high impact, revenue impacting decisions. They're using these different tools and these different ways to sort through it massive amounts of data, and that's really what AI is is taking all of your data and making it actionable. And I think that that's where you know a lot of folks when they hear maybe is you know AI a buzzword or maybe is AI just a fad? Ai has been around for a while, but in the sense of what we were talking about with AI today, it's essentially taking large data sets, large data sets of things already within your organization and then figuring out how you can use intelligence and your employees to use that data to make decisions faster. So it's one of those things that is going to make the entire role evolve, where you're using AI as almost like a co pilot in your day to day work. So it's not just a platform you're going to go to, like aicom and you know it buy the tool and then implement it into your systems. It's going to be a core part of every part of your job to help you make decisions faster. So I think, from that perspective, we are only scratching the surface when it comes to transportation data, because when you think of transportation data and just global logistics supply chain, it really tells the story of consumer behavior all over the globe. What people are purchasing, what people are buying, tells us about what their future investments are going to be, and we simply just can't sort through all of that data by ourselves. We do need the help from these other technology players in order to make those decisions faster, but it also matters if you have good data, because if you have bad data, you're not going to be able to make those decisions that are going to help your customers get their products delivered from source to porch much more quickly and much more efficiently, which is what every customer, every manufacturer, wants in the world is they want cheaper transportation costs, and that's really going to be the only way to increase productivity from a logistics provider perspective.

Speaker 3: 22:29

Yeah, that's. That's super interesting. It's almost like there's a like, an integration or a coming together of different types of technology. Here you've got, you know, ai, internet of Things, I mean predictive analytics, just data management, all this stuff that's sort of been buzzing around in the background for a while now seems like it's sort of a perfect storm of opportunity. Now, technology with all these different emerging tax, especially with AI, ai sort of like the capstone, that sort of takes all that other stuff and now makes it possible to make smarter decisions and not just have the data but now figure out what you're going to do with it and make better decisions. Now, kind of along those lines this is from Kyler on LinkedIn along those lines of how technology will improve supply chains and effects of supply chain management going forward. Her question is how are artificial intelligence technologies being applied to optimize supply chain and logistics operations and what benefits do they offer? You know what I'm so? Sorry, that is not the question I'm meant to ask. That is a good question. I'm going to come back to it. Sorry for the last. I just told you 180 here. The one I meant to ask. That was related to the last one was also from Kyler. But this is can you talk more about the need for best of breed solutions and supply chain management? Sound like niche options, have great potential, but how to influence the core ERP solution? So you talk about AI and you talk about these different technologies that are becoming more mainstream and more of an opportunity to help improve supply chain management. What does that mean in terms of like your back office ERP systems and or your traditional supply chain management systems? Are these going to be sort of standalone systems or technologies that you're talking about, or do you think it eventually gets embedded within ERP and supply chain management solutions themselves?

Eric Kimberling: 24:06

There are definitely some players that are going to be integrated into some of these ERP solutions. Now it remains to be seen, because there are also there's an underlying current that has happened within the, I would say, the past five years, where what's called these digital freight brokerages, which is might be a little in the weeds for, you know, supply chain management nerds out there that I am one to, so I use that term affectionately. Now they have tried to implement technology into a system that is mostly relationship based. So for a lot of folks if you don't, I guess, maybe understand the, I guess, the intricacies of the US freight market the US freight market is in, I imagine this works all over the globe because relationships matter, and so for a lot of these folks, they have a direct relationship with the customer that's arranging the shipments. Now these customers have had a whirlwind of three years of nobody even knowing what a supply chain manager role was. They were not invited into the C suite, they were not invited into budget planning or things like that, and they and they should have been, you know, supply chain managers should have had a seat at the table, because transportation costs affect the product in good costs so much up to 50%, like I just said, and so for a lot of these companies, they have avoided that, that issue and that role of a supply chain manager. Now the supply chain manager and a lot of companies has a seat at the C suite table. They're in the weekly meetings and they're talking about the increased role and their increased productivity or trying to get to an increased productivity within their role, but they're also these are people who are handling tons and tons of brokers and shipments and relationships and they really just are frankly tired. They are essentially, you know one very small teams, one to five people that are in charge of supply chain for global companies. So they're overworked, but they also want to focus on their go to relationships. So supply chain is very much and always will be, a very people first business, but they are getting pressure from the top, from their investors, from partner companies, that they need to start making these tech, these tech investments, and so that's where the tech investments are almost being pushed off to this, not the smaller players, but the people lower in. So you have the supply chain manager, you have the logistic service providers, you have your warehouse operators, you have your procurement directors, you have all of these people that are now responsible for all of these different factors, and so you have to think about it from the lens of what technology is going to help that supply, that small supply team, supply chain manager team, be able to work more effectively, be able to be more productive. And a lot of those folks are scared to make those large tech investments right now because of the fact that A lot of these companies have focused on the digital side of things, the digital movement of goods. They've kind of forgot a little bit about the relationship aspect that you have to build between customer and broker and shipper and driver. All of these relationships matter, and so for a lot of these digital freight brokerages, for example, a lot of them focused on we're going to remove the person, we're going to remove the truck driver, we're going to remove these people from the decision making process and just digitally match a customer to a truck. What's been lost over the last five years, and what companies are starting to realize, is that you need both. You need the tech advancement, you need the tech integrations, but you also cannot remove the human from the equation, and so there's a lot of companies that are struggling right now on how do we make tech investments without removing the human? Because we've already been burned over the last five years for making these large tech investments and that hasn't resulted in ROI. So now it's the pendulum. We kind of talked earlier about the pendulum swinging. The pendulum is swinging back to the folks who focus on relationships and that they can build out customized transportation really transportation, I would say solutions for these different customers, based on their specific needs. And that's where technology can come into play to help develop those custom solutions, where the person and the people are still at the forefront of making those business decisions. So then, that way, the people who are working in the trenches, who are often forgotten about, those are the people that are actually using the software. Those are the people that are actually using these different tech integrations and trying to find where else they can make those slight improvements from not having to make 40 calls a day, 100 calls a day, in order to see where freight is. So now they're trying to figure out what. What does that balance look like? And so I think for a lot of companies, especially in supply chain, they've been burned a little bit in the past and now they're trying to figure out where do we make the investments from a technology perspective that we can get these incremental improvements from a productivity perspective and then still really focus on the people side of things, which I think has been largely forgotten, mostly because we've all been running around like chickens with our heads cut off over the last few years and now things are starting to kind of settle into what we think is the new normal, and that's where companies can now catch the breath, supply chain managers can catch the breath and everybody that works underneath them could kind of have a way to say OK, what did we learn? Where can we make these investments and where are we not going to waste a lot of time and energy? Because I, you know, I don't have to explain this to you Like you know a lot of these companies, the senior VP that maybe makes a fly by night decision where that software sounds great, we're going to use it, and then they never talk to the people who actually use the software. They never talk to the people that it actually directly affects, and so I think that that's where it's almost like very much coming back to reality for a lot of these companies is that you probably overinvested in technology solutions that didn't have a huge ROI at the end of the day. And then now you have to reinvest back into AI. There's a new sort of tech thing that you got to learn, but incorporating AI into different functions of the product to increase productivity of your job will then help the people relationship side of things, to help make decisions faster so they can focus on the things that they're best at, and that's developing and further developing those relationships with their customers.

Speaker 3: 30:37

Yeah. Yeah, that's super interesting. We're here with Blythe Brumleve talking about supply chain management trends in 2024 and beyond. We've got a lot more to cover. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with more transformation, ground control.

Speaker 4: 30:55

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Speaker 3: 31:52

Hello, welcome back to transformation ground control, episode number 139. My name is Eric Kimberling, here with Kyler Cheatham. You can find new episodes of the show every Wednesday at transformationgroundcontrolcom. You can also go to YouTube, linkedin, facebook and Twitter where it streams every week, as well as audio podcast platforms throughout the world. But the easiest way is just to go to transformationgroundcontrolcom and you can find all the platforms that were on there, so be sure to check out some of the past episodes you may have missed as well. We're here in the midst of a conversation with Blythe Brumleve of talking about supply chain management trends in 2024 and beyond. Let's jump back into the conversation and it's an interesting perspective because you're talking about not only changing technologies or leveraging technology in a different way, but it's also a cultural and mindset shift, I would imagine, to where it's affecting us as all these humans in supply chain management. How are you seeing the front line reaction to that Like? Are you seeing the average entry level or the front line person that's doing a lot of the work in supply chain management? How do you see their jobs being affected? Or how are they adapting to this? Or do you know or are you seeing enough of that front line behavior?

Eric Kimberling: 33:01

The smart ones are adopting it. Now there is obviously with any kind of new technology, there's a little bit of apprehension I would say a lot of apprehension, depending on the segment that you ask. Truck drivers in particular are very apprehensive to new technology. They are arguably the mode of transportation and logistics that are the most impacted by technology. They have autonomous trucks, the promise of removing the driver sort of promise to them, and so it's become a career that they've almost had to fight back against. Technology coming more and more into the truck. Autonomous trucks probably doesn't look like it's going to be a thing that's going to be a long term solution, especially for long haul freight. There's a lot of debate that's going on around that sector. But then, from the trucker's perspective, they have ELD mandates, these electronic log devices that have been installed in every one of their trucks, monitoring how far they're driving their speed. They're going that, basically outfitting a semi truck with all of these electrical components that makes the job of driving a truck it's supposed to for a lot of drivers. Their sentiment is I can drive my truck better than this tool can tell me how to drive it. Now there's even more technology starting to come in with cameras that are inside the truck, that are facing them, and you have to think about it from the lens of the driver. A lot of times these are their homes, these is where they're sleeping in, where they're undressing in, where they're eating in, where they're enjoying their off time in, and so for a lot of drivers they're very hesitant to adopt this new technology, whereas the office workers it's almost very much the same kind of apprehension to adopting technology because they see it as this is going to take my job. And we also see it in warehouse workers as well. With the adoption of more robotics, more automation coming into the warehouse, there are actual companies that have to train their employees to see the robot as a helper. From a psychological perspective, they have to introduce this kind of training to say you have to see this robot as a helper, not something that's going to take your job. And so there's this psychological component with adopting more technology into the fields, into various different silos within the entire supply chain. But then you have some of the people who are taking these tools. They are taking chat, gpt and Claude and you know, I guess, bard to an extent, but Bard is kind of an afterthought, I think, for most folks who use these large language model type tools. What we're starting to see, more especially at the enterprise level for a lot of logistics companies, is that they are adopting their own personal LL large language models to learn off of their own data sets for fears that their data could. You know, privacy concerns things like that with using some of these open source models and some of these other, you know, microsoft powered models, things like that. So you kind of have an apprehension. I've seen it with a lot of marketers and sales folks as well. Much less so on the sales side of things. It's much more on the marketing side of things. They really fear that their jobs are going to be taken. The way I see it is that these jobs are evolving in that you know, using these tools, you're going to be able to increase your productivity so much more, so much faster, because you're able to sift through data so much more quickly. Everything is recorded. Conversations like this are recorded, meetings are recorded. You can't possibly filter through all of that data and be able to learn something from it, to turn it into something Actionable, and so that's why I say the smart ones are starting to use these tools in every aspect of their work, from email to quoting to, you know, rfps, to customer communications, to Reducing the amount of phone calls that someone has to make to the shipper, to the broker, and so we're having a lot of these tech, tech advancements, but they're very much as that other side that is very resistant to it. I would say drivers are the most resistant to it, but rightfully so. Where it's going to impact more Along the lines of supply chain is going to be those in-office workers, the accounting, the marketing, the sales teams and also the folks that that are doing a lot of pricing, a lot of quoting Different trade lanes all throughout the globe. What do those rates look like? Who's the carrier? There's all of these different data points. Weather is another one, geopolitical issues All of these different data points have to be pulled into consideration and it would be impossible to make Educated guesses or educated decisions if you're not working with those different data sets and using technology on top of those data sets.

Speaker 3: 37:53

Yeah, especially when you talk about the disparate data sets, the the stuff that's not internal, it's not data that you've accumulated it or ordered over decades in your own internal systems. This is, you know, the geopolitical stuff, weather related stuff, economic data. All that stuff is third-party that you. You've got to figure out a way to Tie it all together with the internal stuff that you have and a lot of these folks.

Eric Kimberling: 38:13

They don't have the conversations with those workers with it, the, the brokers that are making a hundred phone calls a day, or the drivers that are driving hundreds of miles a day. They aren't being consulted first for a lot of these, these tech investments. And so when it comes down the pipeline, hey, you got to start using this tool. They don't want to use it. And then they figure out really quickly oh, we just wasted a very large chunk of money on this investment Because we didn't actually talk to the people who are going to be using the tool. So that is that it sounds like such an easy thing. But I think for the last you know handful of years a lot of folks within supply chain have been. It's almost like the the shiny shiny object syndrome, where they see the new tech tools and they are. They want to just go ahead and just buy them without realizing how it's going to fit into their already established processes and then also from the lens of the workers who are actually going to use it. So that's why, you know, I say right now is that there's a little bit of apprehension To invest in technology solutions unless you can prove that you can provide an ROI or solve a very specific Problem, which sort of brings it back to where a lot of the niche players we talked about earlier in the conversation where they're going to play a really strong role. I mentioned it kind of briefly earlier that it you know, a large aspect of what's going on in this industry right now Is fraud and prevention of fraud, cargo crimes, things you know it's smuggling across borders, smuggling into different ports. A lot of these things are, you know it's on an uptick and so you're. What you're starting to see more and that has a direct impact on bottom line in ROI Is that a lot of these companies are starting to invest in tracking software and it goes back to the drivers. Do the drivers want to be tracked? You know there's different elements with where you're shipping goods. I I just talked to an insurance provider on the podcast the other day that that mentioned that for his Drivers in Mexico they are only allowed to drive during the day. They're not allowed to drive at night because that's where their statistics are showing them that a majority of cargo crime is Happening is at night. So when they do drive on the road, they drive during the day and they do not stop. So a lot of these different factors, a lot of these different data points are going to they should be impacting your decisions. But what are those niche players? What are they? What kind of solutions are they offering for the problems that exist? Right now? That is directly impacting revenue. Fraud and cargo crime is a huge one, especially stateside and, I would imagine, across the globe, but that is one that is the more investment is starting to come into that mix and and more of a stronger focus on trying to prevent these issues, because we talk about all of just the general Normal supply chain issues, but then you layer in the fact of cargo crime on top of it and that it directly impacts pricing. It directly impacts consumer spending, the costs of goods. It impacts a lot. So that that's a big factor of what's going on in supply chain right now. That is Trying to be combative with technology and with different insurance solutions, tracking things like that. But are the drivers going to use it? Are the broker is going to use it? That still remains to be seen.

Speaker 3: 41:21

So you're you're touching on a lot of stuff here, like related to technology trends, human adoption you talked earlier about the dust settling from from Covid and supply chains just sort of resuming back to their 2018 Normalcy, if there is such a thing. So there's a lot. There's a lot going on here, right. There's a lot of different things. You're talking about what. What do you see with all these supply chain managers that you talk to every day and interview on your podcast and whatnot? What are the biggest things that are keeping them up at night? You know, of all these things that are going on, sounds like they might be spread. Then they've got a lot to a lot of balls in here. What's keeping them? What's keeping them up at night? What worries them most when it relates to supply chain management? Some of these trends you're talking about?

Eric Kimberling: 42:01

I would say definitely. It's almost a sentiment of don't rock the boat right now. Where they have, you know, we kind of talked about, you know, the the tech Investments that they've made over the last five years didn't really come to fruition, hasn't really had a strong ROI, and so for a lot of folks and especially what I'm hearing, what, anecdotally, what I'm seeing is that for a lot of these businesses it's a wait-and-see approach. It's a wait-and-see on how consumers are going to be spending, how retailers are going to respond to that spending if spending Happens at all. And then from the investment side of things, margins are so thin right now. There was a huge boom during COVID where people were buying stuff like crazy and shipments, and you know, I think pallets went from like a hundred dollars a piece to two thousand dollars a piece, and so a lot of these fluctuations that were massive pendulum shifts and the economy have started to settle back in, and so we, I Think there is a almost a desperation to find out what is the new normal, what does that look like? So there's a hesitancy to make those big investments right now and then to have kind of a wait-and-see Approach on where they want to move that those chess pieces on their chessboard. And so I think for a lot of these folks, they just they don't want to make the wrong investment, because the wrong investment could Dramatically impact the bottom line and when margins are already thin, that wrong investment could lead to a lot of people getting laid off. And so I think for a lot of folks it very much as a wait-and-see approach Don't rock the boat.

Speaker 3: 43:30

We're here with Blythe Brumleve talking about supply chain management trends in 2024 and beyond. We've got a lot more to cover. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with more of Transformation Ground Control. Hello, welcome back to Transformation Ground Control, episode number 139. My name is Eric Kimberling, here with Kyler Cheatham. You can find new episodes of the show every Wednesday at transformationgroundcontrolcom. You can also go to YouTube, linkedin, facebook and Twitter where it streams every week, as well as audio podcast platforms throughout the world. But the easiest way is just to go to transformationgroundcontrolcom and you can find all the platforms that were on there. So be sure to check out some of the past episodes you may have missed as well. We're here in the midst of a conversation with Blythe Brumleve talking about supply chain management trends in 2024 and beyond. Let's jump back into the conversation. How are supply chain technology solution providers responding to that concern? Do you see them sort of get more aggressive or finding different angles to sell their technologies to these supply chain managers?

Eric Kimberling: 44:23

given that mindset, I mean for a lot of them. They're facing a hard reality. It's a reality for a lot of software providers, especially ones that were VC backed, the VCs and the venture capital funds. They want to see an ROI, they want to see that there's light at the end of the tunnel and for a lot of these technology solutions that haven't come to fruition, a lot of those companies are laying people off and a lot of that funding is drying up. It's not so easy to get access to this funding to continue building up a business to gain market share. Now it's all about profitability and, yeah, I mean for a lot of small business owners, especially medium sized business owners, that should be like a dub moment that yes, your business has to make money. And so far, I think a lot of these software providers are really starting to have their come to Jesus moment where it's like you got to make some tough decisions, you have to figure out that path to profitability and what that looks like. You have to communicate that to your funding partners and then, from the funding partner perspective, they don't really have a lot of patience and so they want to see that ROI, and if they don't see it, then you're going to be forced to, unfortunately, make a lot of layoffs. A lot of freight tech companies in our space have dramatically laid off a lot of their staff. Hundreds of people just in the last month have been laid off from a lot of these more tech focused freight tech companies and so for. And it's not just tech companies but also the brokerages that invested in a lot of those technology solutions, thinking that technology was going to solve all of their problems, and they forgot the people aspect. They forgot that it's not going to be this sort of Scrooge McDuck situation where you're just going to dive in a pile of money every single year, that COVID spending habits are over and now you have to be a real business, you have to be profitable. You can't really wait any longer, or otherwise a lot of people are going to suffer, and so you have to write the ship and you have to do it now, and that's where a lot of companies are starting to set themselves up for that 2024. Hopefully, success is by trimming the fat now, and unfortunately that's the crude way of saying that when it comes to employee jobs and things like that, because ultimately they're the ones that burn or get the brunt end of it when upper management makes bad decisions and bad investment decisions. But that's the thing with the supply chain is that it's always evolving. It's one that's always going to be invested in, and so the thing with supply chain roles is that, unfortunately, if you are laid off in one area, then there's probably several other areas that you could make the leap and make the jump, career-wise and from an AI perspective. If you are one of those folks that were laid off and you're not focusing on just AI operations as a whole, I feel like that is one area that is a glaring mistake, but it also could be a great opportunity, because that's what every single one of these companies are wanting to do right now. They're wanting to be more productive and they want to cut costs, and AI can help in both of those areas, and so for a lot of those folks a lot of these software companies that built up they had a really high body counts inside their offices a lot of these brokerages as well Now it's about who can rise to the top, who can use these solutions in order to be more productive and to enhance their career, but also enhance the bottom line of a lot of these companies, because that's really the only solution I see right now for a lot of these tech companies that are forced to really look at the bottom line and look at their revenue, look at their P&Ls and see where they stand. And you got to make smart decisions, you got to get leaner and that's where I think for a lot of folks, it's the process mapping. It's the boring stuff the process mapping the software investments and how you're going to put AI and automation where it makes sense that the people can still be at the forefront of those building those relationships, and then use this as almost like they're super power that nobody else sees.

Speaker 3: 48:27

I'm going to have to disagree with you on one thing, and that process mapping is boring. I totally disagree with you. I think process mapping is really fun.

Eric Kimberling: 48:34

It's really challenging too.

Speaker 3: 48:36

It is. So do you think shifting gears a little bit here into supply chain management careers which is a lot of questions we get on social media is related to how do I get into supply chain management? What area of supply chain management should I focus on? Is it a good area to focus on? What do you see here in terms of just general career opportunities? Is it going to be more on the consulting side, sort of the outside third parties that are going to be more opportunity? Do you think it's the internal types of people that can add value internally? Is it a combination of both? What do you see as a trend in terms of careers in supply chain management?

Eric Kimberling: 49:11

As terms of careers I think I feel like I'm beating a dead horse when I'm going to say this but AI operations that is going to be the bread and butter of a variety of different roles within all of supply chain. I mentioned from account. This is from a US based perspective, but we have a shortage of accountants. We have a shortage of CPAs. In the United States. Accounting is one of the largest departments at a supply, at a logistics company, at a supply chain company, the accounting department is some of the largest. We have a shortage of those types of people. We need software to come in and help alleviate a lot of the overworked individuals who are already in those roles and they really don't have sort of a reprieve or a relief to come in and help them. Besides, these different AI adoption technologies we're probably going to see, especially from a career perspective, as somebody who is fluent in process mapping, someone that is fluent in also AI operations, where can AI fit in? How can we standardize our data so that it is good for these different large language models, these private ones that should be in deployment, that should be being built or at least looked into from a tech perspective or a company perspective just in general, I think, the role of AI operations and having someone that has a general overview of that process, mapping and then seeing where AI plays a role, I think there's an incredible opportunity in order to be able to be that main focal point, to be that main person who is focused on where can we implement AI, where is it going to make sense? Having someone that is a chief AI officer or someone who is their title is AI operations, I think is going to be a massive play and really solidify a little bit of a guarantee for a career in the near future where a lot of these other traditional roles are being a lot of the, I would imagine, the duties within those traditional roles. Think about the folks that are in the white collar work, the research analyst, a pricing analyst A lot of those different roles are directly going to be impacted by AI, where you might have had six people performing that job whereas you might only need like two or three. Now, if you use the tools like AI, if you're in supply chain management or if you're looking to be in a supply chain kind of career or adjacent, I would get it on the ground floor. I would talk to the people that are in the trenches that are doing the work and then become the person who is the go-to AI person within the company, that you can look at those different process maps. You can look at the different tech or tech stacks that you have right now, the tech advancements that you could be making in the future, or in addition to the AI responsibilities, and how you can figure out where it's going to play a role in different departments all across the company, because it really is going to have a direct impact on revenue and productivity. If you can be that person, be that person, dive in, bookmark these tools, figure out how you can use them in every aspect of your job. It's going to help you get there a little bit faster. It's not the end result. I have to put that caveat out there that it's not as simple as write me a sales email to a new customer and chat GPT. It's not that simple. You do have to have a level of expertise. That's where the higher thinking, the more of the strategic thinking individuals who can see where it makes sense for these AI automation, machine learning tools to come into play. That's where it's going to really just almost put gasoline on the fire for a lot of these folks who are looking for a career that's going to have a little bit more longevity, whereas some of these other careers are a little bit more in the balance of things of what trajectory they're going to go, because AI is just impacting every single role at a variety of different levels.

Speaker 3: 53:17

That's super interesting Now is that movement to AI and being maybe you're not going to be an entry level chief AI officer necessarily, although that could be a longer term career path for you. I'm the sort of ties into a question from from Kyler here on LinkedIn About breaking into the supply chain management industry and what do you recommend to people that want to get into logistics and supply chain management. Obviously, ai is one area that you know. If you know supply chain management and you know AI, I think what you're saying and I think what we're re on is that that's a great, that that could be a great entry point. Are there other ways or other tactics or strategies or areas of focus that you think are going to be more important for people that are entering supply chain management right now and in addition to AI?

Eric Kimberling: 53:58

I mean they're not going to like this, but you got it. You got to get it on the ground level with some of these, a lot of transportation and logistics professionals. They are in the field that it's more blue collar. It's hard work Getting into that aspect of it. So maybe like a forklift driver, maybe warehouse operations, you could also go work for a big brokerage. They're always, always hiring and when I say brokerage I mean freight brokerage, the people that are kind of like the middleman who are arranging the truck drivers and the warehouse operators and the customers and the manufacturers. So being that middleman will really give you a breath of knowledge in all areas of the supply chain and then you can take that role and you can turn it into something that's AI operations. You could figure out where technology plays a larger role, but you can't know that until you do some of this work. That's in the trenches. Even if you're a software player, I would encourage you to go to some of these operations of where you're building that software and seeing how they're using the software. You know I was just talking to a company, the other a couple months ago that they have their development team, their warehouse manager. They have a warehouse management software system. They went to one of their customers and they sat in with their customer for a full week and just watch, watch how they use their tool, watch how they use the mobile app. They gained so much more insight from watching the in the trenches workers that they were able to turn around and make improvements to their product and be able to sell that use case to other companies. Now, when you have that kind of experience from maybe a software vendor perspective or you're actually the one doing the work in the trenches, you can then flip that into that supply chain manager role within a customer role. So, say, a target, say a Walmart, a Costco, you know building into not Sephora but maybe a Sephora some make up brands a consumer packaged goods you know beverages you can, once you learn the end the trenches knowledge, you can take that knowledge and you can go to one of these bigger companies and become the worker on the other side where you're the one calling the, not having to worry about calling the truck drivers and calling the warehouse operations and making appointments and things like that. So you could parlay that role into something where you're a supply chain manager manager role, into more on the customer side of things. So there is that evolution. But if you want, if you're young and if you're hungry and you want to get it on the ground level, I would. I would go to the nearest warehouse, I would go to the nearest freight brokerage and I would get in and I would learn everything about the most important thing the modes that there are shipments that they're using, the equipment that they're using, the commodities that they're shipping. And then, once you learn just the basics, you don't even really need to go to college for this, and that's what is the best part is that you can learn some supply chain management Key tools, things like that, of course, in college. But a lot of the learning, a lot of that happens while you're working at the companies. You learn how the, how the sausage is made, you learn all the intricacies and then you can parlay that into other areas that have more longevity and have more opportunity for maybe what you want to do, such as AI operations role or a supply chain manager role. But getting in on the ground level and the in the trenches work is key to understanding where those problems exist, because no matter if you maybe are an executive level role we kind of hinted this earlier, earlier in the show. You know they are making these bad tech investments because they're not talking to those folks who are in the trenches working. So if you're talking to those in the trenches employees, or if you're doing the work yourself, you have a much better idea of where these tech solutions make sense. And then you can parlay that experience into maybe a freight tech role, a logistics tech role or on the other side of things, where you go and actually work at the, at the customer level, at the manufacturer level, and then you manage the shipments on that side of things as well and you manage the entire supply chain, the source of the source for your products, things like that. So I would advise, get in on the trenches, learn it there first, and then you have a much better idea of where technology and other roles what will have a greater impact, especially while we're trying to still figure out what the hell is going on post COVID Right.

Speaker 3: 58:11

And it gives you a lot more credibility. You know, if you want to move up the food chain and become a supply chain manager or a COO or whatever, you know, whatever future aspirations you might have, having that credibility at the ground level is going to be a lot more so. Especially great example you gave on the tech investments, the bad tech investments. Part of that could be that maybe these are guys and gals that are too far removed from the front lines either. They do not know, yeah, yeah. Yeah, and I'd say you know, the college, the university and college route is probably good. I guess if you want to be, you know, consultant, certainly that can help. But back to your point, you don't have that hands on credibility necessarily just from having the college degree or the university degree.

Eric Kimberling: 58:53

That's those curriculum. They just frankly can't keep up, and that's you know we've covered a lot and you know there's the short time talking, but there's been so much that has happened that has impacted every aspect of the supply chain journey for all of your products, all of your goods, and it's just happened within the last three years. So everything we thought, we knew, you know, prior to that has just been upended. And so for a lot of these colleges, their curriculum just frankly can't keep up, and so the best way to get that, you know, sort of trial by fire knowledge is to just go work for these companies.

Speaker 3: 59:25

Right, great, great advice. Now, speaking of advice just sort of a capstone question here what, what advice would you give to organizations? They're still trying to chat, they're still trying to navigate some of these supply chain challenges today, and I think what we're saying, and what if we say, is that these challenges are not going to go away. They're going to continue to evolve and change, but they're not going to go away. So what do you, what do you recommend to an organization or a team that might just be struggling in general and they're not really sure where to where to start or what to do? To kind of look to 2024, beyond.

Eric Kimberling: 59:54

I think you have to look internally. You have to look at the business we've been providing. You know there's an opportunity that has to come with the people from within. Where are the opportunities that you have workers within your organization that want to do something else, that want to do something more other industry and so forth? I think it starts from within. It starts with the not the boring stuff, the exciting stuff, the process mapping. So it starts from within looking at your people, looking at your tech stack, looking at your processes and then figuring out where those investments make the most sense. Do you need more bodies in the office making sales calls or do you need that software solution that's going to come into play, that's going to be able to help you combat fraud? I was just talking to a company the other day that I was surprised that this didn't already exist, but it's essentially a credit score and rating for brokers and shippers, and so, from a customer, a shipper perspective, they really have an outside of Google reviews and a couple of different sort of legacy software systems. They really have no idea who is hauling their freight, who is hauling their goods, and so the greater transparency, greater visibility into who is hauling all of your goods, who is involved in this processes, and so that company. What they do is they provide almost a credit score for a lot of these brokers and carriers. So then that way they can make these benchmark decisions on what is the most profitable trade lane. Which ones can we focus more on? Which carriers are the most profitable, they're most on time, they're most reliable within those different trade lanes, and so, having all of that additional data points, it just makes a ton of sense for a lot of companies to be able to say let's slow down, the economy is slowed down. So you have this extra time to be able to look at these things more in depth. You can kind of catch your breath a little bit and look at where the investments that not only you're going to make right now, but possibly in the near future and you can't make those predictions, you can't make those investments unless you're working with the people within your company. You're talking to your customers. That's one thing that I haven't mentioned yet. It is so vital, it's so important regularly having meetings with your customers to figure out what's going on with them, and then that way you can plan your operations appropriately, depending on how technology is being integrated and adopted within your own organization. If you have people that are slow to adopt technology but you want to make technologies investments, it's going. You're going to have a little bit of a more challenging time, so it's talking to your people, figuring out what the pulse of your own internal workers are at, where you can make some shifts and adjustments, and then figuring out what those processes look like and then adopting AI, automation, machine learning on top of that in order to help you become more profitable. And then, if you're more profitable, then your customers are going to be more profitable and it just has a ripple effect for everybody else in society. I mean, that's really how Supply Chain works. Is that you can save your customers a little bit of money. Then they're going to save their customers a little bit of money. Ideally, that's the way it's supposed to work, but that's a whole other conversation. You know we probably don't have time to get into all that.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:03:12

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Everything is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight, telling the stories behind how your favorite stuff and people get from point A to B. Subscribe to the show, sign up for our newsletter and follow our socials over at EverythingIsLogisticscom. And in addition to the podcast, I also wanted to let y'all know about another company I operate and that's Digital Dispatch, where we help you build a better website. Now, a lot of the times, we hand this task of building a new website or refreshing a current one off to a co-worker's child, a neighbor down the street or a stranger around the world, where you probably spend more time explaining the freight industry than it takes to actually build the dang website. Well, that doesn't happen at Digital Dispatch. We've been building online since 2009, but we're also early adopters of AI, automation and other website tactics that help your company to be a central place to pull in all of your social media posts, recruit new employees and give potential customers a glimpse into how you operate your business. Our new website builds start as low as $1,500, along with ongoing website management, maintenance and updates starting at $90 a month, plus some bonus, freight marketing and sales content similar to what you hear on the podcast. You can watch a quick explainer video over on digitaldispatchio. Just check out the pricing page once you arrive and you can see how we can build your digital ecosystem on a strong foundation. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I'll see you all real soon and go Jags administratio.

About the Author

Blythe Brumleve
Blythe Brumleve
Creative entrepreneur in freight. Founder of Digital Dispatch and host of Everything is Logistics. Co-Founder at Jax Podcasters Unite. Board member of Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. Freightwaves on-air personality. Annoying Jaguars fan. test

To read more about Blythe, check out her full bio here.