On September 24-27, the annual conference of the Council of Logistics Management Professionals (CSCMP) was held in Atlanta. The conference, now called CSCMP Edge, has grown from what was strictly an educational symposium to a much larger event, still heavy on education, but now including an exhibition of the products of equipment, software, solutions, and logistics service suppliers. This year, there were 135 exhibitors, as well as 30 hours of educational sessions covering the important supply chain subjects and developments. Whatever the interest of the attendees, there was plenty to learn and observe.

For the 22nd year, one of the highlights of the conference was the release of the annual Third-Party Logistics Study, presented by Infosys Consulting, Penske, Korn Ferry, and Penn State. The 2018 report indicated there is a continuing positive relationship between logistics service providers and their users. 73% of the responding users, and 92% of the providers felt that LSPs provide innovative ways to improve logistics effectiveness; and 81% of the users and 98% of the providers believe that the use of LSPs has contributed to improved customer service. The services outsourced were the same as last year, with domestic transportation, warehousing, international transportation, customs brokerage, and freight forwarding as the top five at 83,66,63,46, and 46% (of respondents), respectively.

As everyone in this industry is aware, technology is becoming increasingly important, and the percentage of respondents outsourcing technology was 27%, up from 17% last year. It is clear that users are turning more to their providers to furnish technology services. At the same time, the so-called “IT Gap” has widened. The percentage of respondents pleased with the IT outsourcing experience has dropped to 56%, down from 65% last year. This means that users are looking for more and improved technology services from their providers.

At every conference, there is one subject that seems to come up more often than others. This year it was “blockchain”. There has been a lot written on this subject during the past year, and it was covered in several educational tracks at the conference. The most often asked question was. “What is it?” The answer is somewhat complicated, but essentially, it can increase visibility in the supply chain (as well as other functions) by breaking each movement down into a block and documenting the transactions every time a shipment changes hands. Linking the blocks together creates a record of the details of each movement, and every party to the transaction has access to the information.

An independent third-party records and validates the information, and no party can amend anything without validation by the other members of the chain. As the third-party study indicated, “The goal is to create one version of the truth, link information, and create transparency. As far as respondents to the third-party study were concerned, 67% of the users and 62% of the providers said they did not know enough about it at the time. In my opinion, we will hear much more about blockchain and its adaptation to the supply chain.

I thought the conference was excellent, and this year’s third-party study was particularly good. For a copy contact Dr. John Langley at; and for a good discussion of blockchain, see the September 1 issue of Fortune.

Written By: Clifford F. Lynch