Steve RotterChief Marketing Officer, FourKites

You’d never know it from the headlines, but when it comes to our global supply chains, the news isn’t all bad. Yes, it’s been a nonstop year of disruption. Again. But in spite of it all, I’m feeling really optimistic about the future of our global supply chains. Let me tell you why.

Just a few short weeks ago, we wrapped up Visibility 2021 – that’s FourKites’ annual customer conference – and I’m still buzzing from the energy, passion, optimism and “can-do spirit” that permeated this tremendous gathering, from the thought-provoking opening remarks to the inspiring keynote speaker to the enlightening best practice sharing sessions.

 

It was a fantastic conclave, brimming with innovative and actionable ideas about the future of supply chain management. A future where automated, interconnected and collaborative global supply chains — spanning transportation, warehouses, stores, trucks, you name it — are powered and optimized by real-time visibility data and machine learning. In fact, that future is already materializing, day by day, thanks in large part to the folks who attended Visibility 2021.

A few more fun facts about this amazing conference:

  • 1,500 attendees joined from over 40 countries, making this the largest virtual conference for supply chain leaders ever held
  • 30+ powerful speakers represented the world’s biggest brands — I’m talking AB InBev, Best Buy, Bayer, Cardinal Health, Dow and many more — and shared their best practices
  • The event took place across two time zones, and we held our first dedicated event just for our European customers

Beyond these impressive stats, I had a unique perspective as the emcee of the event, watching the conference and theme unfold as each speaker took the stage and shared their story.

Without recapping every session, I’d like to share the three themes that really stood out to me — and I’m including as many of our customers’ voices as possible, because they make the points far better than I can.

VISION. We kicked off the conference with three powerful sessions that shared an incredibly compelling vision for the future of supply chains. FourKites founder and CEO Matt Elenjickal underscored the foundation for the progress we’ve made and for the future innovations we’ve yet to envision: open and widespread collaboration based on real-time data. And applying it to all modes, all nodes, and all signals.

Partners like Paige Cox,  Global VP & Head of Digital Supply Chain Networks at SAP put a fine point on it: “Having real-time data from different partners such as FourKites is how you understand the power of data and give control back. Supply chain processes are fragmented, which means that visibility data and the quality of such data is really important.”

In a separate session, FourKites’ strategic investors — Qualcomm Ventures, Zebra Technologies and Volvo Group Venture Capital — shared their vision for how our various complementary technologies can come together to accelerate our progress.

Complexity and speed of execution are dramatically increasing in the front line operations of our customers. As the complexity and velocity of our customers’ operations continues to increase, the margin for error in dealing with issues is shrinking, and that’s why we believe it’s critical to more seamlessly integrate our visibility and execution solutions, primarily oriented for inside the four walls, with FourKites’ best-in-class outside-the-four-walls visibility solutions.

– Michael Cho, Chief Strategy Officer, Zebra Technologies

We’re constantly looking to what’s possible. How do we go for the next generation of technologies? We see FourKites as a world leader in supply chain visibility and we wanted to work together to make IOT more ubiquitous, more robust and drive efficiencies across the board.

– Carlos Kokron, Vice President, Qualcomm Technologies Inc. and Managing Director at Qualcomm Ventures

Get started now. Plan, budget and implement new technology solutions. Innovation in supply chain is not slowing down, it’s only increasing. Technology solutions will make supply chains more efficient and solve for the customer needs that you have.

– Dan Tram, Investment Director, Volvo Group Venture Capital

The second big theme that really jumped out to me was OPTIMISM.

Despite all the disruptions and challenges facing supply chain professionals, they are leaning in and optimistic about the future. Don’t take my word for it — here’s what they had to say:

There is an ample amount of additional growth that we can have with our visibility project. We’re just getting started!

– Crystal Feasby, Haworth

I challenge this group to be more courageous. Challenge yourself and your company to solve supply chain opportunities versus pointing fingers at each other. Coca-Cola and Meijer are a great example of supply chain partners working together to optimize our supply chains. Together, we’ve been able to improve our on-time rates, improve in-stocks and overall just maximizing efficiencies.

– Paul Thompson, Meijer

So what’s next in the future of visibility for Ace Hardware? There are three key areas that we’re looking at in the near future. Near term is inbound freight. Next would be enhancing the messaging that we’re getting to our end online consumer. And then third is integrating FourKites tracking into our wholesale subsidiary’s customer portal, just like we were able to do with our own intranet.

– Karen Helton, Ace Hardware

And the third big theme that impressed me was COLLABORATION.

At FourKites, we’re honored, and humbled, to have the most collaborative — and most inspirational — customer community in the world. Every day, our virtual community shares feedback, best practices and product ideas. And that spirit of collaboration was evident in full force throughout the conference.

Each year at Visibility, we ask attendees to vote their preference between 10 enhancements or new products we’re considering, and we commit to delivering the audience favorite. In 2020, supply chain leaders voted for an ETA Confidence metric – and we listened! We combined our precise data, machine learning algorithms and historical performance into one, easy-to-understand number that allows customers to have the utmost confidence for when their loads will arrive. With this metric, customers are able to act quickly, confidently and accurately, achieving operational efficiencies and improved customer satisfaction. We also delivered new dashboards that allow for deeper views and greater customizability based on customers’ unique workflows.

We came out of Visibility 2021 with similarly invaluable feedback that will drive another year of what I am confident will be boundary-busting innovations. So I’d like to offer a sincere thank you to our customers, our partners and our special guests who made this year’s conference the best yet. Our theme was “Go Beyond: Pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in today’s supply chain,” and you literally brought this theme to life.

Thank you to our customers and our community for your energy, your passion and your continued inspiration. Thank you for making this year’s event so special and so impactful. We’re thrilled to embark on another year of collaboration and exciting innovations. So we’ll see you on site. We’ll see you on the road. We’ll see you in the FourKites IdeaExchange and Partner Innovation Program. We’ll see you anywhere we need to come together, in order to keep “going beyond.”

And special congratulations are in order for our Golden Kite award winners: Armada, Kimberly-Clark, Ingredion, T-Mobile and GlobalTranz, who have continued to raise the bar in how they’re applying real-time visibility to get the most out of their operations.

 

With that, I’ll sign off for now with — what else? — just a few more of the thousands of customer voices that inspire us to keep going beyond, together.

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