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  First Thoughts

    Dan Gilmore


    Supply Chain Digest

Oct. 1, 2021

Trip Report: CSCMP Edge 2021 Part 2

Best of the 2021 Breakout Sessions

I am now a week-plus from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' (CSCMP) Edge 2021 annual conference, held in-person at the World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta, next to CNN and across the street from Centennial Park.

Here are links to last week's CSCMP Edge 2021 Trip Report and also my video review and comments on CSCMP Day 1 and Day 2.

As I mentioned last week, hats off to CSCMP in pulling together a solid program, under what must have been a tough climate given the on-going COVID situation that surely prevented some if not many from committing to presenting in Atlanta.

Gilmore Says....

On learning and development, to what should be no one’s surprise Hilti found the effort was highly variable by manager or supervisor.

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After reviewing the conference overall and the two keynote presentations last week, this week I'm going to highlight a few of the breakout/educational sessions I attended last week.


By my count, there were 115 educational sessions, on par if not more than previous years, across 19 tracks, which ranged from emerging trends to warehousing. There were 5 additional tracks that were sponsored (i.e., pay to present), and those sessions are included in the total of 115 I cited above.

In passing, I will note that paid access is hardly unusual - it was there at the Parcel Forum I attended the week before CSCMP, and has become a standard practice at the Gartner Supply Chain conference, just to cite a couple of other examples.


I will start with the first session of the first day, following the Monday morning general session and keynote


It is a session held almost every year, positioned as a panel of carrier C-level execs. Repeating this year from 2019 if not longer back it featured Derek Leathers, CEO of carrier Werner Enterprises, and Darren Hawkins, CEO of Yellow Freight, plus I believe a first timer, Ryan Kelly, a VP at FedEx.

Leathers is an entertaining and straight talking figure, sometimes controversial and always worth the price of admission. Hawkins has an appealing folksy style, and Kelly also did a nice job. Here are some highlights:

The panel noted that truck trailers are turning out right now to be as large a constraint as is the lack of drivers. Hawkins, for example, said Yellow had planned to acquire 5000 trailers in 2021, but will be lucky to get 3000, and even that partially due to a bit of luck.

In this tight market, Leathers said the truckload industry could pick up 3-4% of effective capacity if more shippers would be concerned about turning the trailers quickly and not holding them. Both Hawkins and Leathers said they paid by shippers for trailer detention, but it's not business they want to be in - they want the trailers on the road moving freight.

Leathers also said new tractor builds are way down. The beginning of the year expectation were for about 350,000 class 8 trucks to be built in the US in 2021, but that the actual number will be about 100,000 lower than that, due to the chip shortage and other constraints.

All panelists are in favor of the proposed US infrastructure bill - still hanging in Congress as I write this, even if it is also filled with lots of junk they may not be in favor of.

The question as always: how to pay for it? Leathers argued hard for increases in the gas/diesel tax, which many others, such as the American Trucking Associations, are also in favor of, but Leathers said some in Washington are worried reliance on fuel taxes can't last due to the impact of electric trucks and cars.

Leathers said we can worry about that when it's time , but right now, gas taxes operate at a 99.5% yield (actual funds raised after overhead), obviously highly efficient, whereas alternatives like a vehicle miles tax (VMT) may have overhead or 30 to 50%. I will note that a few years ago the America Transportation Research Institute said it would take an "IRS-level" bureaucracy to operate and enforce a VMT.

On the recent COVID vaccine mandate, Hawkins and Leathers are against it for business, saying it's not business' role to enforce, and expressing concern that truck drivers may leave large carriers for smaller fleets with under 100 employees and thus not covered by the mandate.

The next best session I saw was from tool maker Hilti on its program to revolutionize the way it treats DC workers, across more than a dozen facilities in the US.


The catalyst? The same kind of labor challenges everyone is facing

The project is led by Hilti's head of warehousing Peter Clark, and his partner on the HR side director Shannon Peterson.

The effort began with a survey of DC workers - there's a good idea to start with. Hilti learned a lot from that about what workers really want and how they are thinking.

Greatly simplifying, the result was a program based on four key pillars: (1) recruitment and total compensation; (2) work experience; (3) learning and development opportunities; and (4) culture and giving back.

Hilti made significant changes in all four areas, now 8+ months into the program. For example, it moved much what was incentive pay into the base wage, and tied most of the remaining incentive to overall company and logistics performance.


Hilti also found most workers weren't using many benefits available to them. Many/most companies wouldn't care - instead, Hilti started an outreach program on that, and began a Spanish speaking HR benefits line to support its many Hispanic workers.

On the work experience vector, Hilti added information displays in its DCs with all kinds of information, from Hilti news to employee anniversaries and more. It also added processes to better regulate temperatures in the facilities, which was no doubt well received. Where it could, it added more natural light into the buildings, and is moving down path of reaching “well building” status. (Need to learn more about this.)

On learning and development, to what should be no one's surprise Hilti found the effort was highly variable by manager or supervisor, so it is standardizing processes and using new software to track and manage the execution.

For the culture and giving back dimension, Hilti is doing more to brand warehouse operations and people as being part of Hilti family, from adding signage to new uniforms for all. Hilti is also proactively reminding DC workers they each get 2 paid days off per year for volunteering.

It's too early to know the impact, but this is a really bold program by Hilti, and I sure hope it pays off. Is this the future of DC labor management?

I went to more sessions but am out of space. May do one more shot of CSCMP 2021 coverage next week.

Any reaction to this CSMP 2021 review part 2, or the details of the two breakout sessions covered ? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button or section below.

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