When Jim Bowes established the National Logistics & Distribution Conference 10 years ago his aim was to provide a small, non-sales oriented conference for senior supply chain executives. Bowes discusses how NLDC has evolved and what he thinks the future holds.
“With the NLDC Conference, we wanted to create an atmosphere that was collegial, safe and transparent for senior supply chain executives to come and connect with peers and build long-lasting relationships, so they could pick up the phone later to discuss a new initiative or challenge they’re facing,” says Bowes, ho also is president of Peach State Integrated Technologies.
At the time, he says, there were many conferences for mid-level supply chain managers but very few for vice presidents and up. “We wanted to tailor our content for that level of executive,” he says.
One of the major changes during the past 10 years has been the impact of mobile and internet technology, says Bowes. “The digital consumer has changed everything for supply chain executives. They want to be able to order what they want 24/7, have it delivered wherever they are going, and make returns with no hassles.”
The driver shortage that has emerged in recent years will continue to grow, he says, and will drive development of driverless trucks. “By 2025 we may see caravans of trucks where only the lead one has a human driver,” says Bowes.
Driverless and robotic technology also will proliferate in the warehouse, he predicts. “Automatic guided vehicles run 24/7 x 365, never miss work, never make mistakes, always go to the right place, and the technology is very reliable.”
Another interesting and related issue for the future is what will happen to shopping malls when ecommerce is 30 percent or 40 percent of all retail sales, says Bowes. “How will we re-purpose these pieces of real estate? They could become town centers around which you can build condos and communities.” As the U.S. population continues to grow and to migrate toward cities, the whole idea of the last-mile delivery becomes more complex, he says.
All of these changes, says Bowes, promise to make the future of logistics “interesting and fun.”