SMC3 keynoter Walsh provides baseline of today’s changing technologies with an eye on the future

While this week’s SMC3 Connections conference in Palm Beach, Florida primarily focused on all things supply chain, freight transportation and logistics, the opening keynote of the event given by Mike Walsh, CEO of Tomorrow, a global consultancy, offered up a bit of a different perspective, with themes largely applicable to the business and commerce world we live in on a daily basis.

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While this week’s SMC3 Connections conference in Palm Beach, Florida primarily focused on all things supply chain, freight transportation and logistics, the opening keynote of the event given by Mike Walsh, CEO of Tomorrow, a global consultancy, offered up a bit of a different perspective, with themes largely applicable to the business and commerce world we live in on a daily basis.

At his company, Walsh’s main objective is to help companies, of varying sizes, succeed at a time when there is a high level of “disruptive technological change.”

Kicking off his speech, Walsh noted that the omnipresent advent of new technologies is not necessarily what is driving the high level of innovation occurring in both personal and business technologies. Instead, he said, it has more to do with how we, as people, are changing our behavior, and, to a further extent, how human society is changing which, in turn, helps push along digital disruption.

And that does not apply to just start-ups that become hugely successful like Uber and Airbnb, he explained, noting that it relies on a sharp focus of doing things differently.

This also applies to supply chain and logistics, with Walsh raising the point of how technology impacts and evolves decision-making processes in order to survive and thrive.

“One thing for certain we can say is that if you want to understand in the world of business what the next big transformative shift is in the way the world works, I absolutely believe it will be shaped by these Cloud-enabled AI (artificial intelligence) data experiences that are occurring and becoming the new baseline for expectations for younger people,” he said. “It has to do with how companies expect companies to deal with them as consumers, how they expect to work with organizations, and how they expect you to deal with them as clients.”

He took that a step further by noting that some type of machine sits between a person and every experience in the world, through things like sharing a photo or watching Netflix as two examples.

“Nobody has a common experience anymore,” he said. “It is all highly individualized for you and your devices, he said.

This has led to various changes and expectations people have in which companies and brands should know what people want before they do. And like many things in today’s supply chain and logistics world that comes back to Amazon and how it is shifting the entire consumer experience and how they buy things.

It is not just Amazon’s retail strategy and how it is driving innovation, it is also how its fulfillment centers work, too. Walsh said this is shown through Amazon’s usage of 45,000 robots through its 20 fulfillment centers, as well as its free shipping pledge.

Walsh said that the consumer of tomorrow will have a very different relationship with devices, noting how it is already happening interactively through Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa and other things like sensors in sneakers that provide navigational directions.

“Tomorrow’s consumer is going to get used to a layer of data that will always be with them like automated reality, aural reality, or virtual reality,” he said. “There is a new reality that every object in a new consumer’s life should make them smarter. As consumers get faster, smarter, and more demanding of personalized or data-driven experiences…it will lead to rethinking and reimagining and present a wonderful opportunity in the next five-to-ten years.”

Tying that back to logistics, Walsh noted that it leads to a question of what happens when automation meets knowledge.

Going back several years, he pointed to how elevator operators were eventually replaced by advances in technology. Looking to the future, he pointed to how the same thing may happen one day with truck drivers being replaces by autonomous vehicles.

“It is not the only issue we should be thinking about,” he said. “A much bigger issue than who is going to lose their job in the logistics industry is how will our jobs need to change and what are the new types of problems we are going to have to worry about?”

The fact that technology is literally changing everything on a daily basis should not surprise anyone at this point. Walsh only highlighted that fact while providing a window into the future, with an acute focus on how changing consumer patterns, behaviors, and needs will continue to change the logistics execution playbook going forward. 


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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