Search By Topic The Green Supply Chain Distribution Digest
Supply Chain Digest Logo

  First Thoughts

    Dan Gilmore


    Supply Chain Digest


Oct. 6, 2023

Trip Report: CSCMP Edge Conference in Orlando

Solid Event, with at Last some Changes in Structure

I am fresh back from almost two days at the 2023 Edge Conference in Orlando at the magnificent Gaylord Palms hotel and convention center, which is only sightly less confusing to navigate from point A to point B than the original Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, where I was three weeks ago for the Parcel Forum.

Due to personal reasons, I did not for a long while believe I would be able to attend this year’s conference – which would have been a shame as I have a streak of 20+ years going (including the virtual only event in the pandemic year of 2020).

But my situation changed a few weeks ago, but I could really only attend Monday and half a day on Tuesday, so my trip report will be somewhat abbreviated from the usual, but I think I have enough to make a worthwhile post.


Gilmore Says....

I have a lot more, but as noted will be back with part 2 next week. All told, a fine effort by CSCMP. I will certainly be there again in Nashville for Edge 2024.

What do you say?

Click here to send us your comments

Attendance at Edge was said to be in the range of 2500, maybe down a little from the 2022 event in Nashville but well above the sparce crowd for the still Covid-impacted event in 2021.

This seems to be the level the CSCMP conference has settled into, dating back to pre-Covid years.

That said, the convention center seemed crowded enough, and there was a slight “buzz” to the whole event, which is good. The tradeshow-like exhibit hall was very large and well-populated with vendors – and appeared to have a lot of traffic, at least at the Monday evening cocktail hour.

Combine the large number of exhibitor booths sold, the solid attendance number, and a growing number of other sold sponsorships, and I am confident that the show will turn out to be a financial success for CSCMP after all the bills are paid - important, as the show generates a significant percent of CSCMP’s annual buget.

This is the third Edge conference under the leadership of my friend Mark Baxa, ex-of Monsanto and a long active CSCMP member, who took over in early 2021 when longtime CEO Rick Blasgen unexpectedly departed. I saw Rick at this show and he continues to support the organization, with some formal roles at the year’s event.

For several years I have been using the on-line pages of SCDigest and private conversations with Baxa to argue that the very long-time structure of the 2.5-day Edge conference was getting stale and needed a (potentially significant) refresh.

And I am happy to say while not a total refresh, there were some impactful changes to this year’s event. That included, based CSCMP says on attendee feedback from recent conferences, the addition of keynotes/general sessions.

So Monday and Tuesday, after general sessions in the morning, we all re-assembled for more two mid-to-late afternoon main stage sessions, with smaller breakout sessions and lunch in between.
In general, I support this move. However, there is a cost, and that would be a reduction in the number of breakout sessions, which occupied just two slots (multiple sessions per slot) on both Monday and Tuesday, or four in total. That’s not many, but obviously the day is only so long.

So, by my count, we went from three keynote type presentations in recent years to seven here at Edge 2022. The two afternoon general sessions on Monday were excellent, and looked promising on Tuesday after I had to head the airport.

At the same time, the number of breakout sessions went from more than 100 across many tracks to about 55 this year across just seven tracks.

I think I would find a way to add a third breakout each day, perhaps by cutting the time for each to 45 minutes from an hour this year. With more breakouts, that would probably support having a few more tracks, which needed to be pared down versus 20+ not long ago, but perhaps too limited at seven.

There were some other changes, including a number of “Ask the expert” QA sessions on the exhibit hall floor. I did not get a chance to check attendance or delivery of these sessions, but it sounds like something worth trying.

The always challenging last day was also somewhat revamped, adding an additional main stage speaker, and sequencing the two start-of-the-morning topical “megasessions,” rather than as competing sessions as in previous years. On the last day, there still was as usual also a motivational-type speaker.

All those changes I believe are for the better.

I am going to briefly summarize a few of the mainstage presentations, with more detail on those and some of the breakouts I attended provided next week.

After the usual CSCMP business to start Monday off, we got Mark Baum of the Food Marketing Institute doing a Q&A session with Gretchen McCarthy, chief supply chain officer at Target.

The conversation was at a really high level, but some interesting nuggets include this: with a supply chain built to optimally support the “guest,” Target makes the connection to distribution center and store fulfillment associates between each carton going through the facility and the guest experience. The message – your work really matters. That’s good.

Target of course has been a leader in store fulfillment, with something like 80% of on-line orders fulfilled in-store in various ways. That process continues to evolve. That includes recent additions to its drive-up service, which now can also be used to handle returns – and order and receive a cup of Starbucks along with your merchandise pick-up.

After the opening session there was a break, followed by a panel discussion on supply chain issues from five women supply chain executives, a concept back for a second year. Being frank, there was a big fall off of attendees from the opening session, but the conversation was interesting enough.

Sowmya Gottipti of Este’ Lauder said that her company is building a “digital core” for the supply chain, which includes a single view of inventory across the company’s extended network, along with work synchronizing all the many demand signals coming at its supply chain.

Angie Freeman of 3PL CH Robinson said that despite all the progress, real-time global visibility remains the largest pain point for shippers, while noting “resilience planning” is now being baked right into the strategic decision-making process, at a deeper level than typical “scenario planning,” which usually is usually handled more like a separate exercise.

But my favorite session in the two days I was there was on the US labor market by economist Marianne Wanamaker of George Mason University and several government roles, among many other accomplishments.

Wanamaker made this core point: US economic growth is driven by just two factors: the rise in worker productivity, and the growth of the labor force.

Here is the problem: for reasons unclear, US productivity growth has fallen to about 0.75% annually, versus 1.5% not long ago and even more prior to that. Meanwhile, US population growth is basically flat, and dependent on immigrant labor, which we have capped legally at about 1 million per year. That as US native population growth is falling, as is the labor participation rate.

Add it all up, and it makes it very difficult to reach 2% economic growth, let alone the 3% growth the US used to see regularly. There are few answers, unfortunately.

All told, a good show again by CSCMP. As a goofy side note, this was the best food CSCMP has ordered up in some time, which for a while seemed to get skimpier every year. That said, I despair that getting back diet Cokes and similar fare during various “beverage breaks” will remain elusive in favor of coffee only. So I bring my own.

I have a lot more, but as noted will be back with part 2 next week. All told, a fine effort by CSCMP. I will certainly be there again in Nashville for Edge 2024.

Your Comments/Feedback




Follow Us

Supply Chain Digest news is available via RSS
RSS facebook twitter youtube
bloglines my yahoo
news gator


Subscribe to our insightful weekly newsletter. Get immediate access to premium contents. Its's easy and free
Enter your email below to subscribe:
Join the thousands of supply chain, logistics, technology and marketing professionals who rely on Supply Chain Digest for the best in insight, news, tools, opinion, education and solution.
Home | Subscribe | Advertise | Contact Us | Sitemap | Privacy Policy
© Supply Chain Digest 2006-2023 - All rights reserved