In two weeks, more than 700 of the world’s most influential supply chain leaders — shippers, carriers, brokers, logistics service providers, analysts and media — will convene in Chicago for Visibility 2023. With representation from more than half of the Fortune 500, FourKites’ annual conference has emerged as one of the supply chain industry’s most consequential gatherings, a place where a global supply chain industry brain trust comes together to literally chart the future of supply chain transformation.
I’m incredibly excited to once again host our community, and to share with you all our theme — and purpose — for this year’s gathering: Connected.
Over the years, I’ve written and spoken often about supply chain visibility as a foundational technology. I’ve talked about it as a critical enabler or as “step one” in value creation. Once you know where that truck (or train, plane or container) is, that’s when things get really interesting. Now you can use the real-time data generated by your visibility platform to take actions that can help you run a more nimble and efficient business.
But there’s another aspect of supply chain modernization and transformation that’s every bit as elemental when it comes to effecting meaningful change: getting connected.
Deloitte put it well in a recent paper:
Improving the resiliency of the global transportation network will likely require players in all sectors to redefine how they connect and collaborate across the ecosystem to thrive in the years ahead.
For our complex supply chain ecosystems, getting connected has many implications worth exploring and redefining. Let’s start with connecting systems.
In the last five or so years, around $48B has been invested in supply chain tech startups. Over the span of a few short months during this year alone, VCs poured hundreds of millions of dollars into startups focused on supply chain ESG compliance, predictive insights, freight management, security, risk management and more.
All of this investment represents yet more technology on top of a supply chain tech stack that was already vast and complex. All of these systems need to be connected, which means we have a great deal of work ahead of us to break down the silos so we can share data between systems and thereby generate insights to identify shocks before they happen, streamline operations and improve the customer experience.
Connected also means tighter and more meaningful global connections. This goes far beyond opening offices and putting feet on the ground in far-flung locales. It means acquiring a deep understanding of how supply chain moves in one country impact suppliers and partners upstream and downstream, from ports to over-the-road and on to final destinations.
The third aspect is connecting ecosystems. Supply chains by nature cannot be operated in a silo. To run your supply chain, you’re dependent on your customers, your vendors, your suppliers, your carriers, and so on and so on. Connecting these ecosystems and facilitating data transfer across all these different parties in a very proactive fashion — with strict data privacy and security and controls in place — is paramount.
‘Connected’ has so many different meanings. At FourKites, we think about connecting our customers’ ecosystems with highly granular data and actionable insights so they can make smarter decisions faster. We think about enabling greater, more seamless collaboration across entire supply chains — bringing together suppliers, carriers and customers into a truly connected, dynamic network.
Getting connected is integral to making progress on some of our industry’s biggest ticket initiatives, from harnessing AI to making meaningful progress on sustainability. None of us can make progress on any of these things without connecting and collaborating with vendors, suppliers, carriers, and partners of every stripe, everywhere in the world.
And so I look forward to seeing everyone in Chicago, where the connections we make — sharing best practices and cautions, collaborating on future platform capabilities, and just getting to know each other’s challenges and aspirations — will fuel our industry’s transformation in the years ahead.