From the climate crisis to AI, here are the top 5 trends we see shaping the supply chain landscape in 2024.

Supply chains are the lifeblood of the global economy, and they have rarely been under greater strain. From the worsening climate crisis to economic downturns in multiple markets, supply chains are facing an increasingly hostile environment. 

New technologies may play a role in alleviating these pain points. Automation and artificial intelligence promise to combat labour shortages, increase efficiency, and improve resilience. However, adopting new technologies invites complexity, cost, and new forms of risk. Some experts believe that soft skills and a more human, collaborative and localised supply chain is the answer to challenging times.

From automation to collaboration, here are the five trends we see affecting supply chains in 2024. 

1. Disruption 

Organisations around the world hoped that 2024 would mark a return to the stability of the pre-COVID era. It seems, however, as if those simple times may never return. 

From the Suez and Panama Canals to US anti-Chinese legislation in the EV market, the new normal for supply chains is disruption. This turbulence is coming from both the supply side, where rising costs for material, labour, and shipping, and from the demand side, where consumer behaviour is becoming harder to predict. 

2. Artificial Intelligence

In an increasingly challenging landscape, AI adoption is making strides as supply chain managers seek to unlock immediate gains in efficiency. AI promises to deliver real benefits in intelligent sourcing, inventory management, and logistical route planning. Machine learning, a subset of AI enabling computers to learn autonomously, is also poised to revolutionise several elements of the supply chain, from demand forecasting to quality control. The technology has even been floated as a way to develop new products through predictive analysis and decision-making. 

3. Automation 

The supply chain industry, like many others, is undergoing a skills shortage as the complexity and volume of work eclipses available labour supply. At least, supply at the wages operators are willing to pay. In response, automation is being heavily leveraged to increase efficiency and plug gaps in organisational structures. 

On the software side, a KPMG report notes that “Most supply chain tasks can be fully or partly automated through low-code platforms, which use a wide range of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and pre-packaged integrations to link previously separate systems.” When it comes to physical tasks like warehousing, many operators have turned to using collaborative robots, or cobots. This technology is revolutionising warehouse operations by enhancing efficiency in tasks like picking, packing, and heavy lifting.

4. Scope 3 Emissions Visibility 

Supply chains can account for as much as 90% of an organisation’s environmental impact. Regulatory and public scrutiny of companies with inadequate ESG reforms is mounting. As a result, many supply chain organisations have set ambitious goals to become carbon neutral or achieve net-zero waste objectives. 

This is the year when those promises will start being put to the test. We will see some supply chains start to make real progress on the decarbonisation of their value chain. Others will be exposed for the consummate greenwashers they are.   

5. Collaboration 

While technology undoubtedly offers efficiency gains and other strategic wins, a more collaborative and communicative supply chain can create lasting, more meaningful value. 
“There’s no way to eliminate risk and volatility from your supply chain entirely, but improving information sharing and collaboration across stakeholders can go a long way to help control the fallout,” notes Fraser Robinson, co-founder and CEO of Beacon, in a recent interview.

  • Collaboration & Optimization
  • Digital Supply Chain

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