Coronavirus closures hit logistics industry trade show calendar

Dozens of supply chain conferences canceled or postponed as additional states issue work-from-home orders.

Coronavirus mitigation measures like statewide business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders have caused many of the logistics industry’s annual trade shows to cancel or postpone their events, a trend that may impact the sector in more subtle ways than the bare grocery shelves and toilet paper shortages visible to consumers.

Logistics professionals attend those shows in order to gain education, network with colleagues, generate sales leads, and cut business deals. So the cancelation of most of the spring season’s logistics conferences could change the way in which information is exchanged throughout the material handling, logistics, and supply chain economies.

Despite the potential loss in business communication—and in revenues collected by the show organizers and conference venues that host the events—nearly all organizations quickly made the decision to cancel, once the World Health Organization (WHO) declared on March 11 that the Covid-19 disease had leaped across international borders and become a global pandemic.

Many people in the industry got a stark reminder of why the cancellations were needed when MHI, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based industry group that organizes large conferences, said Friday that two people who had attended its Modex show in Atlanta from March 9-12 had tested positive for Covid-19. In an era when public health leaders are asking people to practice “social distancing” and to avoid congregating in groups of 10 or more, that news means the virus could easily have spread to many more people, since an estimated 30,000 visitors crowded into the show’s massive exhibition halls. MHI has quickly shared that information, and recommended that participants who attended the Modex show this year monitor their health closely for up to 14 days after their final day at the event.

Faced with those challenges, organizations throughout the industry have canceled events. Large logistics conferences originally scheduled for dates between March and May that have now been canceled, postponed, or changed to “virtual” online shows include: IWLA, Health & Personal Care Logistics Conference, Ecommerce Operations Summit, Dynamic Distribution Disruption (D3) Retail Supply Chain Summit, MHI Spring Meeting, National Private Truck Council, Institute for Supply Management (ISM), NASSTRAC Spring Mtg, Knapp Move, MHEDA, WERC, and Tompkins Supply Chain Leadership Forum.

In addition, many industry-wide events have also been shifted. For example, the National Safety Council says it will postpone Distracted Driving Awareness Month to a later date, while the Maritime Association of New York and New Jersey has rescheduled its annual International Maritime Hall of Fame Dinner from May to September. These lists are not exhaustive, and dates and details about the impact of the coronavirus disruption change daily, so be sure check with each organization about individual events.

As an alternative to attending trade shows in person, many supply chain groups have turned to online platforms to hold conference calls or take online classes. Likewise, many companies have turned to cloud-based versions of their software programs in order to sustain business continuity while telecommuting or honoring work-from-home policies.


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