Declaring “the elephant in everyone's room is the economy,” David Wangler, president & CEO of TMW Systems, a leading provider of enterprise software to trucking and logistics firms, urged attendees of the company’s TransForum 2008 user meeting this week in Orlando to innovate in the face of adversity.
“While we're in the midst of an economic slowdown, it's important to remember that these economic slowdowns are times of change and correction,” said Wangler. “They're also times when old ways of doing things stop being sustainable and when newer and better solutions emerge. Uncertainty is often a harbinger of better things. When we're not sure how best to proceed, it's most often this uncertainty that spurs innovation.”
He pointed out that the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) estimates that nearly 5% of the trucking capacity in place on January 1st of this year has since left the market. “This realignment of supply and demand has been very painful for many of us, but the experts tell us this reduction in available capacity will enable some significant rate increases as you move into 2009,” stated Wangler.
“Federal bailouts [of Wall Street] notwithstanding - which all of us taxpayers will be funding – this situation will affect the markets we all serve, even if only by making credit much harder to come by,” he continued. “The present economic challenge is felt in other areas, too. The auto industry has been hit very hard… and it is so large that it affects almost every other industry - and it certainly impacts many of ours.”
While a proponent of information technology as a driving force for innovation, Wangler cautioned that a “great equalizing effect will come into play” even as information becomes more integrated across web-based platforms. “It won't be long before everyone has access to pretty much the same technology, the same information, the same set of business tools,” he said. “We've already moved quite a ways in that direction, with the dominance of the PC-based desktop and the growing ‘commoditization’ of basic business and desktop applications. Simply by virtue of everyone having access to the Web, we also have access to common sets of business information.
“But some people are simply better prepared to make use of information and technology than others,” Wangler argued. “They know what kind of information they're looking for. They know who they want to connect with. They have a plan for what they will do when they find what they're looking for. And that's our real lesson-- the value of technology is not in what it can do, but in the vision and the problem-solving that you apply it to.”
Wangler pointed as an example to the “deceptively simple task” of vehicle maintenance. “Today, enterprising companies aren't just finding ways to reduce the costs associated with maintenance operations, they're finding ways to make their assets last longer and be more reliable, to turn cost centers in to revenue generators.
“Technology helps,” he concluded, “but it's your strategic thinking, your thoughtful application and your commitment to continuous improvement that will make technology a powerful tool for you.”
TMW Systems’ TransForum 2008 user conference drew more than 1,300 trucking and transportation services professionals representing over 430 TMW customers based in North America and Europe. According to the company, TransForum is one of the largest events “dedicated to helping trucking companies, logistics service providers and other fleet operators harness the power of information and technology for greater profitability.”
The next TMW conference is scheduled for September 19-23, 2009, at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. For more information, go to www.tmwsystems.com.