TPM24 Takeaways

It was another great year in Long Beach for TPM ’24 this year! The ability to meet and see so many industry acquaintances is truly amazing. We saw old faces and new. My hats off to Peter Tirschwell and the entire S&P Global team.

The Biggest Takeaways From TPM

Customers aren’t talking about rates and are focusing on partnerships.

It’s refreshing to finally see! It seems so many years in the past everyone is concerned where the rates are going. Who’s signing for what… This year, I really didn’t talk about or hear it once from our peers or our customers. It’s clear the industry has matured a lot over the years and is focused on long term partnerships. I heard comments like, “how can I improve the resiliency of our team? We’re focused on shoring up our data and processes.”

Robert Gates was amazing! But also, scary.

The Keynote speaker, Robert Gates, was first class. It was incredible to hear his take. He was a no-nonsense, put it like it is kind of guy. However, he didn’t have anything good to say. I mean, it was a doom and gloom regarding the future state of our industry and geopolitics. “We’ve never entered a period with so much risk in our lifetime” … State actors are pushing out their claims of territory. The right to freedom of passage is diminishing. And all customers need to be prepared and have a plan for if things turn awry.

This is truly one of the best industries I could have chosen.

One question I always like to ask peers and customers. How did you get in this industry? It is always 1 of 2 answers. “My family was in this industry.” Or “I just fell into it!” The remarkable common factor that I see in everyone in this industry. It is an industry of doers. We are an industry that is like the offensive line. Companies don’t function with out us. But when we do our job, no one thinks about us. The reality is, Americans have no clue the level of effort and passion that goes into getting products on the shelves or on their door step. Production teams, quality teams, PO Management, bookings management, Ocean, customs clearance, drayage to the DC, 3PLs, Domestic & Parcel. Everyone who touches the import / export processes were at TPM and they were all collaborating.

Some of the best sessions were a smaller break out room.

I sat in on a few sessions. I found that the meatier discussions were in smaller break out rooms where stakeholders were having a very fruitful discussion on how to solve problems in our industry. One interesting discussion was East Coast Ports: The Battle Between Truck and Rail, discussing how does the East coast approach inland rail moves. It really seems there is some dysfunction getting all parties on one page. However, the discussion was very collaborative. You can tell these speakers were truly interested in TRYING to bring solutions forward to alleviate pain points.

The current state of the market is very fragile.

The fact of the matter is that Demand is extremely INELASTIC. In Econ 101, Demand elasticity refers to how sensitive demand is to price levels. In our industry, when capacity increases and decreases, it causes giant swings in the price point due to the fact that Demand does not increase or reduce significantly when the price of ocean shipping adjusts. Customers still need to import / export their products, regardless of price. The fact that there was excess capacity in the market to absorb a shock such as the suez canal is quite remarkable. However, according to Lars Jensen, we are one additional disruption or disaster away from another Covid-like dysfunction in the market. That’s a bit concerning to be honest. However, we are at the mercy of the environment and at the mercy of the system. We can only control what we can control.

Final Conclusion Drawn From TPM

It’s amazing to visit and see so many people. This TPM further solidifies that what Ardent does is important, and we are doing it really well. Talking with existing customers and speaking with prospective customers, the future is bright for Ardent! But the proof is in the putting. We’re coming home from TPM with our head down and a lot of work to do to continue to grow. We must control what we can control and grow with the market. I’m looking forward to seeing what the market brings us this year in terms of unforeseen challenges and opportunities and look forward to seeing everyone again next year!

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