ICON 2023 is Blue Yonder’s annual customer conference and premier supply chain event, where practitioners and decision-makers exchange insights about their transformation journeys. If you are in the logistics field, why should you attend this year’s event? I spoke with Blue Yonder’s Chirag Modi, CVP, Industry Strategy, during a recent Blue Yonder Live session where he shared the top logistics opportunities and challenges, what to expect this year from ICON 2023, and some of the key highlights for logistics sessions.

Terence: What are the top current issues facing the logistics industries?

Chirag: Over the last three years there have been plenty of challenges in the industry, but more importantly, I think things are starting to settle down a little bit with respect to the maturity in the marketplace for solving problems. But more importantly, the sustainability challenges are beginning to pop up. We have had a lot of start and stop motions on sustainability topics ever since 2008. More and more companies are now beginning to pick up steam on those initiatives. That is number one.

Number two, we see visibility as continued challenges. We still not seeing the end of it, and it likely will not be anytime soon. On the visibility topic, directly connecting with the carriers or directly having visibility into the inventory will still continue to be top of mind for both retailers and manufacturers, as well as their service providers, i.e., the logistics service providers, the 3PLs.

And last but not the least, the last-mile topic has still not waned. It is still going to be one of the biggest challenges the logistics industry is going to face from the cost competitiveness standpoint. These three topics were front and center at both Manifest and ProMat, which I attended recently.

Terence: Thank you for these insights. With regards to labor, how important is this topic going forward?

Chirag: Labor is horizontal. It will never be enough to discuss the topic of labor market sustainability. The market continues to change significantly year-over-year. There are constantly new statistics around it, but the human capital element will continue to be at the forefront of anything and everything we do within the logistics industry, both for retail and manufacturing. More importantly, sustainability of labor is a bigger challenge waiting for us as a solution provider to help solve.

Terence: What should logistics companies be doing to overcome these challenges?

Chirag: There are several things I have seen talked about in the C-suite and the board of directors, as well as with us as a solutions provider. Number one, the automation piece has been talked about at length. Automation is here to stay. You will continue to find more and more companies investing in automation, but that needs to coexist with humans that need to coexist with robots. There is definitely a space for both to coexist.

Number two is the technology piece. The process automation exists even outside of the warehouse or transportation sector. It exists in your offices, how we function as individuals, and how we as consumers behave. Automation exists everywhere and will get more acceleration. And you will see more and more companies continue to invest on the technology side for automation acceleration.

Terence: Why should logistics companies attend ICON? What are the things they will learn?

Chirag: The biggest piece is around networking, meeting with like-minded individuals, professionals who are solving similar challenges. At ICON you will meet people who you may or may not even share the same warehouse or transportation solutions, but you may share similar interests or the types of problems you are trying to solve. The second piece is the benefit of learning from best practices. The customer-driven sessions will help you learn from those solving similar challenges – and you see some creative ways people are doing that!

Terence: To add to that, there are more than 30 Special Interest Groups (SIGs) on solutions or industry-specific topics. We really encourage participation to voice your opinion on our solutions and industry topics, like sustainability or cost-to-serve. You mentioned the customer-driven sessions, are there ones you would like to highlight that logistics service providers should attend at ICON?

Chirag: There are three customer-driven sessions that I would encourage you to attend. And there are three product–centric sessions. The three customer sessions are:

  1. McDonald’s. They went through a workforce management solution implementation with us. It is fascinating what a company the scale of McDonald’s is able to do with our workforce management solution, which helps with labor planning, scheduling, and employee engagement.
  2. Kimberly-Clark. When they started their technology innovation journey, moving towards the digital age, they were converting a lot of their portfolio of solution assets to the cloud. It is fascinating what a company of that size is having to go through, how challenging it is just to keep everything moving and still be able to make the changes.
  3. Penske. They are running our Yard Management solution, which comes with innovative Panasonic cameras. Penske is going to share their success story.

The three product or the solution-driven innovation sessions are:

  1. Carrier collaboration. More and more of the visibility aspect within your transportation journey is connecting directly to carriers rather than going through different channels. The carrier collaboration solution is Blue Yonder’s Logistics Network.
  2. Adaptive fulfillment and warehousing solution. This solution serves many use cases, ranging from a less complex operation on the store front fulfillment store, pick fulfillment from store, ship from store, all the way up to manufacturing plant shipments flow through DCs and micro fulfillment centers. The solution is targeting all of those markets.
  3. Yard Management solution. This solution monitors the movement of trailers in yard facilities, leveraging the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning

Terence: Are there other aspects about ICON that  you would like to share?

Chirag: We’ve all been through so much change in the last three years. And how better prepared are we now than we were three years ago? And that’s the journey that we are seeing our customers go through. And I would love for everyone to join us at ICON and share their journeys.

To learn more about ICON 2023 and to register visit blueyonder.com/ICON

To watch the Blue Yonder Live session click here.