What We Saw At Manifest: Insight, Innovation, and Ingenuity

NMFTA - February 15, 2024

The business of transporting freight will always present intense challenges with high stakes. That’s never more apparent than when you gather 4,200 professionals in the industry to spend three days together.

Manifest: The Future of Supply Chain & Logistics is the world’s largest supply chain technology event in the world. The 2024 edition took place from February 5-7 in Las Vegas, and we had the pleasure of attending. The Caesars Forum expo hall was teeming with supply chain professionals and ideas. Attendees united by a quest: optimizing the supply chain through efficiency, security, and cost-effectiveness.

Here are some of the most important things the NMFTA staff noticed:

Cybersecurity is on everyone’s mind. NMFTA’s panel discussion on cybersecurity came towards the end of the conference, but the topic was a recurring one. From carriers to tech providers to logistics partners, the threat of ransomware attacks, phishing, denial-of-service attacks and overall digital vulnerability was front-and-center. We heard people discussing it at their booths. It came up in individual presentations. And of course, the members of our cybersecurity team got asked about it constantly.

We’re glad to see the industry take this seriously and it’s all the more reason you’ll want to download our report on what to expect with trucking cybersecurity trends in 2024.

Digitization is speeding up. From warehouse operations to payment systems to driver logs, the industry is trying to harmonize and simplify its process by running as many functions as possible on digital platforms that align with each other. One exhibitor had a fascinating animated display that showed how it eliminated the time spent logging information upon a warehouse arrival, kept track of goods and even prevented trucks from creating rippling problems by parking in the wrong spot.

There was a clear consensus at Manifest that the industry needs these innovations. The issue is how to make them secure, affordable and aligned with existing systems, if possible.

World events have the industry’s attention. The disruptions in the Red Sea affect the cost and operations of shipping all across the globe. During one of the keynote presentations, we learned that shipping from the Far East to the U.S. West Coast is being heavily impacted by the re-routing of container ships from the Red Sea to the Cape of Good Hope. Why? Simply because the inefficient allocation of assets makes everything more expensive, and strains capacity throughout the world.

The same is true of shipping in the Black Sea because of the war in Ukraine, where threats against ocean liners are a fact of life during the conflict and impact the transport of goods such as grains and metals.

Economic and operational efficiencies have never mattered more than during a time of such disruptions.

Ports are critical to the industry’s strength. It is all-too-fresh in the minds of shippers and carriers – goods waiting on container ships for days or weeks just to make it into ports, while drayage providers incurred demurrage fees because they couldn’t get their containers out of the ports in a timely manner. The breakdown at the ports hit the industry hard but it also inspired a lot of innovation we heard about at Manifest. Industry leaders are finding new ways to combine visibility with digital efficiencies to make sure the port problems of the recent past never happen again.

The industry is EV-curious but also EV-wary. Discussion of electric vehicles (EV) was everywhere at Manifest. One presenter made an impassioned case that it makes sense for the industry to get ahead of demand because regulations and mandates will make the predominance of EVs inevitable. Indeed, the requirements in California alone present peril for fleets running diesel vehicles, which just about all fleets still are. But the industry also knows the infrastructure for EVs is lacking, and there is a lot of concern about the cost of EV batteries and the availability of raw materials to make them in large quantities. Everyone recognizes the benefits of lower emissions but freight carriers can’t afford to deal with range limits. And whatever the drawbacks of diesel engines, drivers know how to plan for the time they’ll need filling up and getting back on the road. For all the promise of electric vehicles, the industry needs more certainty before it goes all-in on EVs.

Service still matters. Technology is great but as one logistics firm told us, shippers will rebel if technology simply becomes a way of making them do everything for themselves. For all the good that comes from tech innovations, shippers still want someone they can get on the phone to track down a delivery or solve a problem if that becomes necessary. The carriers and 3PLs who are striking the right balance between technology and service seem likely to emerge as the choice for much of the industry.

This is an industry that will not stop pursuing great ideas. Trucking will always be critical because we will never stop needing things. So those who choose to invest in improvements and innovations will always find a receptive audience in our industry. It’s astonishing to us how many tech innovators were present at Manifest. Yet it makes all the sense in the world. What industry is more ready for the innovations? What industry will make better use of them?

It was exhilarating to see the vibrance of our industry at Manifest. Too bad we didn’t win the Super Bowl tickets, but Las Vegas gave us plenty during the three days we were there.

To connect with a member of NMFTA’s cybersecurity team, contact cyber@nmfta.org.

Watch the full panel discussion recording from Manifest below:

NMFTA
NMFTA

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association promotes, advances, and improves the welfare and interests of the motor carrier industry and less than truckload carriers operating in commerce, both domestically and/or internationally.

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