How technology is disrupting the supply chain in Kansas City

KC Smart Port’s “Disrupt – The Supply Chain” panel consisted of Mark Heinrich, Microsoft; Jeff Risley, Bartlett & West; Mitch Free, Cloud DDM; Dan Pinkham, Compass Minerals; and Andrew Ehlers, Zebra Technologies. Photo Credit: Kansas City Area Development Council.

KC Smart Port’s “Disrupt – The Supply Chain” panel consisted of Mark Heinrich, Microsoft; Jeff Risley, Bartlett & West; Mitch Free, Cloud DDM; Dan Pinkham, Compass Minerals; and Andrew Ehlers, Zebra Technologies. Photo Credit: Kansas City Area Development Council.

Technology is changing the way businesses across the world produce and distribute their products, and to showcase how this phenomenon is playing out in Kansas City, KC Smart Port hosted a panel of industry experts last week to discuss.

“The Kansas City region is recognized nationally for innovative approaches to community planning and development,” KC Smart Port President Chris Gutierrez said. “Our region will receive significant federal funding to implement Smart Transportation in partnership with Google, and Cisco has picked KC to be one of the world’s first Smart Cities. We are proud to carry that innovative thinking into discussions around making our regional supply chain companies more successful in today’s global marketplace.”

The annual industry briefing, Disrupt – The Supply Chain, was led by remarks from Mark Heinrich, GM of Strategic Sourcing and Supply Chain Management for Microsoft.

“When you talk about logistics and the technology revolution going on, logistics is the new manufacturing,” said Heinrich. “This is especially true in Kansas City where you can reach nearly the entire U.S. population within 48 hours by truck. The thing that is amazing to see is how this is changing the face of the workforce in Kansas City.”

KC Smart Port President Chris Gutierrez addresses a crowd of more than 550 logistics, real estate and economic development professionals at KC SmartPort’s annual industry briefing, Disrupt – The Supply Chain. Photo Credit: Kansas City Area Development Council

KC Smart Port President Chris Gutierrez addresses a crowd of more than 550 logistics, real estate and economic development professionals at KC SmartPort’s annual industry briefing, Disrupt – The Supply Chain. Photo Credit: Kansas City Area Development Council

Other panelists represented a number of national experts on innovations like wearable technologies, drones, the Internet of Things, 3D printing and cloud computing that are disrupting how the supply chain industry does business. The roster included Jeff Risley, business development leader for Bartlett & West; Mitch Free, founder and CEO of Cloud DDM; Dan Pinkham, director of operational excellence for Compass Minerals; and Andrew Ehlers, vice president channel sales, NA Central US and Canada for Zebra Technologies.

The conversation also covered topics like the value of “small data,” and how the digitization of things is creating new commodities that will impact how products are delivered.

“Data utilization is about making small, real-time actionable decisions,” said Ehlers. “With the accelerated rate of adoption today around hardware, data is the new device. Hardware really goes into the background.”

“We are entering an era where [physical] things have gone digital … you can ‘fax’ a product from one place to another and have it produced on site rather than producing a product then shipping it all over the world. The fact that it is commoditized is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs,” said Free.

KC SmartPort is the freight based economic development organization affiliated with the Kansas City Area Development Council. KC SmartPort is actively involved in driving thought leadership around supply chain issues like those related to innovation and technology.