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High-profile supply chain conference returns to the road in 2021

CSCMP’s EDGE event set for in-person venue in September, group says

The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) said Tuesday it plans to hold its annual global conference in person next September, becoming one of the first supply chain management organizations to restore a conference to its traditional setting for 2021.

The conference, known as EDGE, will be held Sept. 19-22, 2021, in Atlanta. The 2020 conference, originally scheduled for Orlando, Florida, was scrubbed in favor of a virtual platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CSCMP CEO Rick Blasgen said in an e-mail Tuesday that next year’s plans are as “firm as they can be at the moment” due to the continued uncertainty surrounding the pandemic’s progression. The scheduled September dates are late enough in the year for the group to feel comfortable holding the event in person, Blasgen said, noting that part of the conference will still be conducted virtually.

CSCMP, one of the most prominent groups in the field, has held an annual conference since 1968, five years after its founding. Its event draws professionals and students from all over the world and is considered a must-attend for many in the trade.

As more Americans get vaccinated in the coming months, it is believed the country can slowly return to normal and business can be conducted in a fashion similar to what existed before the novel coronavirus struck the U.S. in February. Still, no one expects the country to effectively flip a switch and immediately revert to prior business and living patterns. Rather, the effect is expected to be analogous to a “dimmer switch” that will slowly fade the virus into oblivion.

Businesses and trade associations that shifted their conferences to virtual platforms discovered they could reach exponentially more people, and save substantial money on travel and entertainment, by avoiding the expenses of paying for a typical in-person event. Yet executives accustomed to getting on the road and engaging in face-to-face interaction found the virtual approach to be suboptimal, especially as many groups produced clunky events while struggling to migrate almost overnight to an unfamiliar format. The future of supply chain trade shows may resemble a hybrid with big-name events held in person and less high-profile shows conducted virtually.

In-person events will be dicey propositions in 2021. For example, SMC3, which develops information technology tools for the less-than-truckload industry, has said its annual Connections summertime conference, scheduled for Seattle in June, will be conducted virtually. 

Tom Swinson, director of industry and education services for Peachtree City, Georgia-based SMC3, said the group is holding its annual winter event next month on a virtual platform and that there isn’t enough time to pivot to an in-person setting for the June conference.

FreightWaves is considering the possibility of returning to in-person events with its FreightWaves LIVE! conference in the fall, according to Craig Fuller, FreightWaves’ co-founder and CEO. No venue has been determined.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.