The logistics industry is changing fast. On today’s episode of The Logistics of Logistics Podcast, host Joe Lynch sits down with Courtney Muller. Courney is a Strategic Event Executive and the Chief Corporate Development Officer and President of Manifest at Connectiv, a live event studio based in NYC. Connectiv produces world-class industry leading events that focus on disruptive technology. To learn more about the future of logistics, tune as they give a preview of the topics for their upcoming Manifest conference happening in 2023 like sustainability, connecting the ecosystem, machine learning, and intelligent infrastructure.
The section below is transcribed. Transcription has limitations so there may be grammar and typo issues.
The Future of Logistics with Courtney Muller
Thank you so much for joining us. Our topic is the future of logistics with my friend, Courtney Muller. How’s it going, Courtney?
It’s going great, Joe. How are you?
Please introduce yourself and your company and where you’re calling from.
I’m Courtney Muller. I’m the President of Manifest. Manifest is an event that is focused on the future of logistics technology and how technology is transforming and disrupting the supply chain and how goods are moved around the world. Manifest is owned by a company called Connectiv. We are a private live event studio. We create events basically focused around technology. Now, we’ve got four events in our portfolio and Manifest is one of them.
When is Manifest?
Manifest will be happening on January 31st through February 2nd, 2022 at the Caesar’s Forum in Las Vegas.
Our topic is the future of logistics. By the way, we should also mention Manifest had its first conference in 2022, right?
It was in 2022, end of January. We were in Las Vegas at the Paris hotel. It was terrific. It was awesome. My favorite restaurant in Vegas, Mon Ami Gabi, is at the Paris. I’ve always got to give that little shout-out. Anyway, it was a great event. We had about 1,500 people attend the event. It was two years in the making. We were originally going to have the event in June of 2021, but we all know what happened. We ended up pushing it to January of 2022. The timing was a little challenged with the Omicron variant, but it was okay. We still had a terrific event. We’re sorry you weren’t there and we look forward to having you next, Joe.
I always ask people at the end of my interviews, “What conferences are you going to be at?” People started saying, “Manifest.” I remember writing it down. I was like, “I don’t know what Manifest is,” because normally, you always hear the same ones, whatever ones that are the usual suspects. Afterward, I talked to my friend, Charley Dehoney, and he said, “It’s the best conference I’ve been to.” I was like, “Really?” Our topic is the future of logistics with my friend, Courtney Muller. This is an easy question, Courtney. What is the future of logistics?
Let me get the crystal ball that I’ve got right over here. Joe, this is why events like Manifest are created because so many people are involved in the future of any industry. This industry, in particular where it’s never been talked about more than it is now. We thought we had a good topic for a conference prior to the pandemic, and then the world blew up. Everyone is talking about the supply chain. It’s like, “This has become more important than ever.”
The future is built by people coming together. Smart people and solving problems together. There’s no better place to do that than at a conference. We spent a lot of time scouring the news, learning about all of the companies that are pioneering into the future. They’re either building or piloting or utilizing all the technologies in the space now. Those are the companies that we want to talk to. When you bring together all those smart companies in one place, they move the conversation forward. You ask about the future of logistics. We want to help create it by having an event like Manifest.
I started my show years ago. When it started, it was a lot of discussion about over the road trucking and freight brokerage. It’s such a big dog in this space. There are so many people who want to talk about how can I sell more? I was very interested in that topic and I still am, but everyone was like, “I want to sell more.” All of a sudden, you realize that one of the big challenges back then was differentiating yourself.
Everybody had the same thing. Now, it seems as if the doors are blown off. Now, you’re seeing everybody invest in things that make them different and better. A lot is technology-related. I know we had five themes we wanted to talk about. What is that first theme? I know you’ll have speakers around each one of these themes.
I will. Joe, I have to throw you for a little loop if you don’t mind. I want to brag a little bit about the diversity in our speakers so far because we hear from people and I’m sure you do too. You go to some conferences and it’s a bunch of old white guys, no offense, that are around the table talking and that we need to have diversity on our stages. We all know that the companies that are the most successful have diversity in their leadership. I need to brag a little bit before we go into the themes and say we’ve confirmed almost 100 speakers even though we’ve only announced 50.
Our content team, Pam and Tanzil, who represent a female and minority who are interested in seeing themselves represented on the stage. As I said, we know that we need diversity on the stage. I want to quickly say that 41% of our speakers are either female or minority or both. We’re proud of that and we’re going to continue to represent on our stage only the best but making sure that we have diversity represented.
That’s so important. People are looking for one thing. Also, a lot of these newer companies, that’s where they are growing up from. You don’t have to go out of your way to say, “I’m trying to get female leadership.” There’s a lot of it out there now.
The future is built by people coming together and solving problems together. There’s no better place to do that than at a conference.
There’s a lot of it out there, but there needs to be more.
What is the first theme?
The first theme that we’re hearing about is sustainability. I know that’s not a surprise to you or anyone. Most of the conversations that we’re having, it comes up in some way, shape or form. If it’s not the direct topic of the conversation, it’s a peripheral topic around the conversation. Due to that, we’re going to be featuring a sustainability summit on the pre-conference day of Manifest. That will include five sessions that are going to bleed into the rest of the program. We’ll have a couple of other sessions. We’ll have around 6 to 7 sessions focused purely on sustainability.
A couple of the people that we’ve confirmed so far are J.B. Hunt’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Craig Harper. We’ve already invited PepsiCo’s Director of Fleet Engineering and Sustainability, Adam Buttgenbach. Both of these companies are looking to fleet technologies, including EVs and AVs and a number of other ways to make sure that everything they’re doing is eliminating carbon out of the atmosphere and making sure that they’re as green as they can possibly be heading into the future.
We were talking to Craig Harper and he was saying, “It’s so hard to get the message out,” even about all of the things that they’re doing and making sure that people are paying attention. We’ve got Convoy’s Grant Goodale, who is the CXO and cofounder. It’s awesome. If you go to their website, they put it right out there. They’re about reducing costs for shippers. They’re about improving the lives of carriers and they’re about eliminating carbon waste. They seem to have gotten the memo from investors and customers that this is what you need to care about. You need to have sustainability in your DNA as we head into the future.
When you were looking at what that means, being more sustainable, it starts all the way back at product design and how we design our products, the materials we’re using, the factories we’re using, where it comes from, and packaging, every step of the way.
It comes in so many parts of your business that you have to pay attention to. It takes the whole business being behind it to make it happen.
I say this all the time on my show, but I’m going to say it one more time. It doesn’t matter if you personally say, “I think this is overblown,” because customers are asking for it. It doesn’t matter. I always say I don’t think it’s a political thing anymore. It’s as if customers are asking and the consumers are buying that way, so brands and businesses are now saying, “This is what we want.” Eighty percent of the greenhouse gases come from the supply chain. It’s a matter of time before either those brands ask us to do it or the government says to do it.
There are regulations now that you have to abide by, but you’re right. It’s this younger generation coming up. It’s what they’re all about.
I’m not part of the younger generation by any stretch but you’re closer to it than I am. What’s interesting is I think back in the ‘60s, I tell my kids, this is such a joke, “They started pushing the ecology a lot.” Things have changed so much even since then, but I remember joking. We saw signs that say, “Please don’t litter.” Now, you’re like, “Who in the world litters?” When I go for a walk, I’m always surprised. Who’s throwing litter out of their car over here? Anyway, what’s the next topic?
The next topic is connecting ecosystems. We’ve got Sean Henry, who’s the CEO of STORD. They’re all about cloud supply chain, total visibility across the entire chain and through all of the people’s facilities. They cover both fulfillment and freight logistics. Truly a full service three PL. We’ve also got American Eagle’s Shekar Natarajan. He’s the EVP and Chief Supply Chain Officer. He’ll be talking a lot about collaboration and working with partners to create a seamless, shared ecosystem.
I saw an article, but I sent him a message on LinkedIn. American Eagle has bought up a few fulfillment centers. They’re becoming almost like an Amazon competitor. I don’t know if they would describe it that way. It’s interesting that fulfillment and warehousing are more important with eCommerce. That’s what we’re talking about, connecting the ecosystem. You have companies like STORD and they’re not the only ones. They are consolidating these warehouses with technology. The industry is changing. It used to be that I have one warehouse in Indiana and I can get to 65% of the population one day. Now you’re like, “What are you talking about?” For a while, we have a place in 2 or 3 locations.
Now, we want that inventory close to the consumer because people want it on the same day, next day. Every time I’d say same day, next day, I have to come back to sustainability because we don’t necessarily always need that. I think we’re also going to start to see when you say, “I want this the same day or the next day.” The brands are going to gently nudge us.
“Do you need that?”
There’s an environmental cost to that.
I think people are going to change their tune at that point.
I did talk to Sean Henry on the show. He is a bright young man. STORD is one of those unicorns that we talked about. That’s a billion-dollar startup. That business, which was so staid and so boring for so long, what could be more boring than a warehouse several years ago? Now, look.
They are the coolest things in the world now. Are you kidding me? I agree.
What’s the next theme that you’re going to talk about at Manifest?
The next theme is autonomous and robotics. This is coming up a lot as a result of sustainability. Both Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi are going to be joined on our stage. Anheuser-Busch’s Adriano Negrao is the Global VP of Supply Chain Transformation. Pepsi’s Adam Buttgenbach is the Director of Fleet Engineering Sustainability. They are both looking to use fleet technologies, including autonomous and robotics. We’re looking forward to hearing their stories.
Are they using this over the road or in warehouses, or is that both?
Every once in a while, somebody will say to me, “Autonomous is coming. Probably not in our lifetime, but it’s coming.”
Autonomous isn’t happening yet over the road, as we know. It’s the electric vehicles I think that is going to be first, but there’s no question it’s coming.
I can say this from my interview with the guys over at Kodiak. They’re not the only ones who have over the road trucking that has gone over 1 million miles with autonomous. They still have drivers in those cars. When you also speak about autonomous for timeout inside of warehouses, you don’t want people to have to walk 10 miles a day.
I can have some robots and autonomous vehicles that make my life a little easier. By the way, we’re struggling to hire people. You’re not going to be able to hire people for that job. I always say, “If your son or daughter wanted to go into this business and you said, ‘You’re working at some crappy old warehouse?’ go back to school.’”
If you’re in a warehouse, it is high tech and they’re part of the supply chain and feeling like they’re part of the supply chain using cool tech and their life isn’t miserable where they’re doing a lot of heavy lifting, that’s a great job. That’s a start. We’ve talked about sustainability. That’s the first theme. The second one is connecting the ecosystem. What you mean by that is all that warehousing and fulfillment and over the road. In the third, we talked about autonomous robotics. What’s the next theme that you be talking about?
We’re hearing a lot about AI and machine learning. Another unicorn on Transfix, Lily Shan, the CEO and President of Transfix, will be talking to us. They are advanced AI-enabled technology. They have data science expertise. Apparently, the software is very easy to use. I don’t know, Joe.
I did talk to Drew McElroy, who is the Founder of Transfix. What a cool interview.
AI, to me, is one of the most interesting things in the world. It’s mind-blowing.
Investors and customers need to care about having sustainability in their DNA as we head into the future.
AI comes up a lot on my show. It’s funny, a few years ago, it was every once in a while. Every time someone was on before, I said, “Please, explain what that does,” but now, it seems to be everywhere. I will say getting used to this idea of AI and ML, when you’ve put it to work to see patterns, it sees things differently than we ever would. It takes more inputs than my little brain can.
Slightly scary, but obviously, we need it.
What’s the fifth theme that we’re going to talk about?
The fifth theme is intelligent infrastructure. It’s a topic that keeps coming up. In fact, we’re going to do a pre-day, half-day on intelligent infrastructure. It’ll be 4 to 5 sessions like we’re doing with sustainability. One of our speakers is Jeff DeCoux. He is the CEO of the Autonomy Institute. Joe, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Autonomy Institute, but they’re working on creating an ecosystem of government, academia and private companies that will work together to create this framework. This foundation, if you will, can power the future of mobility, electric vehicles, broadband for all, a more resilient power grid and intelligent cities that have improved safety.
If you bounce around the Autonomy Institute website, you will be amazed at what’s going on and what we’re trying to create in terms of infrastructure in this country and worldwide but let’s focus on the US first. He’ll be talking to us. We’ve also excited to have Trevor Pawl, who is the Chief Mobility Officer of the State of Michigan. They’re building out a corridor to test autonomous solutions, which is cool. We’ve also got a company that is helping build the future corridors. Cavnue’s Mark de la Vergne, their VP of Product Development, will join us. That intelligent infrastructure conversation is going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to that.
I should mention this because I’ve had a few conversations about it. We have the best rail system in the world, in the United States, that is privately owned. I had Ian Jefferies from the Association of American Railroads. There are companies working on autonomous rail, which is a little easier because they own that. Autonomous electric rail is already much more sustainable than trucking. It’s funny when I think of the railroad, I think of bygone days. It is our original internet before the internet. Before the expressways, we had railroads.
I think that we can keep going further, getting back to that infrastructure, if you start to say that the infrastructure is also smart. Maybe it’s nothing more than having the ability to say, “We’re going to get tighter on our mapping.” Whatever it is, I love its idea because we can only do as well as the infrastructure we drive over.
I’m in Michigan, so I can say this. We have the weather and the heavy truck traffic that makes our roads probably one of the worst in the country. It drives us crazy. Smart infrastructure for us would be having roads that didn’t have massive holes in it. I’m curious to talk about the guy who’s in that corridor. It’s interesting that corridor your friend is working on. I’d be very interested to know more about that.
I’m going to summarize these five themes and then get your final thoughts on it. These are all things we’ll be talking about in Manifest. We talked about sustainability, connecting the ecosystem, autonomous and robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and intelligent infrastructure. You’ll have speakers on each one of these. Final thoughts on your big event coming up in Vegas.
We’ve talked a lot about the content. Now, I want to bring up some of the fun things that will be happening on the expo floor, which will be a bit larger, and not to focus too much on beverages, but why not? We’re going to have a rosé all day. We’re going to have a beer garden. We’re going to have a coffee and espresso bar. We’re going to have a mocktail bar. Our puppies are back. The puppy lounge is back, Joe. GEODIS Puppy Lounge bought the sponsorship again. It was one of the biggest hits at the show. Needless to say, the puppies will be back.
My friend, Blythe Brumleve, posted a picture of her with all these puppies. I was like, “What is this? What is going on here?” I was like, “That’s the event I kept hearing about.” What else is going on?
I’m happy to say that we’re going to have some events under the stars again. The weather in Vegas in January can be quite nice. We will probably have our opening reception somewhere outdoors. On our final night, we haven’t sourced the talent yet, but I promise you, we’re working on someone amazing. It’ll be another fantastic concert to close out the show.
Who did you have in 2021?
We had Ludacris. When you’re talking about an event for a few thousand people, it’s a nice small concert. It feels very up close and personal. Let me tell you something, Joe. I was so impressed by the dance moves I saw by people in this industry. They were partying and dancing.
We talked about this and we talked about these themes. We talked about your conference. Final thoughts before we wrap this bad boy up.
I have to say, Joe, I am so happy to be in this industry at this time when it’s taken on such importance in all of our lives. I’ll say that even my daughter is in this industry. She works for a 3PL. To end up together with my daughter in an industry that’s so top of mind and important has been a great Mother’s Day present for me.
It is so true because this was an industry that seemed like the land that time forgot in some regards. Not that people weren’t working hard at having great solutions but now, the VC money and the private equity, the tech. To see, all of a sudden, we went from a few billion-dollar companies to like 50 unicorns like that.
We have thirteen unicorns confirmed for our stage.
Courtney, thank you very much for coming on and talking about your upcoming event. I’m looking forward to it.
Joe, we’re looking forward to having you and I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.
Thank all of you so much for reading. Your support is very much appreciated. Until next time, onward and upward.
- Sean Henry – Past episode
- Kodiak – Past episode
- Drew McElroy – Past episode
- Ian Jefferies – Past episode
- Manifest – The Future of Logistics is Here (The LoL discount)
About Courtney Muller
I currently work as Chief Corporate Development Officer and President, Manifest at Connectiv. Connectiv is a live event studio based in NYC. Connectiv produces world-class industry leading events that focus on disruptive technology.
As part of our mission to further enable the transformation taking place in supply chain and logistics, I will be spearheading the team building the global gathering that is Manifest. The 2023 event will take place Jan. 30-Feb. 1 in Las Vegas.
In addition to leading the Manifest team, in my role with Connectiv I am helping the CEO and broader Connectiv team to grow the organization in a number of ways including to attract new talent, work on acquisitions, build the culture, launch new events and build Connectiv into a leading U.S. event producer.
I have 31 years of trade show experience which includes a 20 year career at Reed Exhibitions where I rose to the role of Senior Vice President overseeing a portfolio of 10 industry leading events in five sectors, including multiple Trade Show 200 events (Global Gaming Expo Las Vegas and Macau, The Vision Expos, Interphex and BookExpo America as well as New York Restaurant, Florida Restaurant & Lodging and California Restaurant events). I also oversaw the sponsorship revenue team as well as the conference teams.
Recently, I helped build the North American division of Clarion Events into a major U.S. event organizer with a diverse portfolio of events, including two events that Clarion acquired from Connectiv, Mobile Apps Unlocked and InsureTech Connect.
I have been recognized for building strong relationships with partners and customers. My creative approaches to growing business are further exemplified by my strong leadership and team building skills.
I was named as a “Great Woman in Gaming” by Casino Enterprise Mag. and was featured on the cover of Trade Show Executive in 2012. In 2018 BizBash magazine named me as one of the 500 most important people in events. I have worked as the International Committee Chair for IAEE and am currently a board member of SISO (Society of Independent Show Organizers). I am also the past Chair of SISO Women, and a current ambassador of CEOX, helping to elevate women into CEO and board roles.
I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I enjoy gardening and cooking and adore the natural beauty of our island home in North Carolina. My husband and I and our dog live on the Topsail Island Sound, only steps from the beach! We have three grown children and two grandsons.