A large portion of the conference was future-driven and therefore fairly conceptual. Sessions of this kind covered everything from how 3D printing will affect manufacturing and MRO to the future of supply chain automation including forecasting and mitigating real-world disruptions that may be caused by weather, natural disasters, or even social unrest. Naturally, the other common buzz topics we're used to hearing about were heavily covered which include such topics as Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and advanced robotics in manufacturing. It was refreshing, however, to hear about these topics within the focused context of Supply Chain and Procurement and to hear ideas about how we can expect them to evolve and find their way into commonality across industries. Even more, according to those presenting, the pace of this technological evolution and the pace at which adoption is moving was stunning.
Many of the other sessions were more practical and revolved around solving more contemporary Supply Chain and Procurement challenges. There was an excellent session on negotiating software agreements where many of the underlying concepts transcended the category. Some of the others included data driven approaches to managing transportation and travel, as well as leveraging technology platforms for spend analysis and e-Sourcing. All of these are themes we are all familiar with and helped to ground the rest of the technology and future focused sessions.
The most interesting part of conferences like ISM Tech is hearing about what challenges others are facing in their respective industries, and how they're approaching them or how they've resolved them. It's also extremely beneficial to see how the trends presented in the conference actually fit into what's going on within most companies. In this case, much of the more futuristic content of the conference was still fairly conceptual for most with not clear vision of how it fits into their road map but a common understanding of its imminence and therefore a need to be prepared. Even more than being prepared, conferences like ISM Tech call attendees to action as technology is moving more swiftly than businesses' ability to react. Clearly, maintaining an awareness of the evolution of the technologies with which we have become familiar (analytics, robotics, etc.) is imperative in order for companies to merely survive. In order to maintain a competitive edge, though, companies need to become experts at constantly searching out and applying emerging and new technologies. Being current is the new falling behind, and being behind is no longer an option -once you fall behind, you will never catch up.