Supply chain connectivity, sustainability and customer experience will be topical in 2024. Competitive businesses must invest in digitalisation to optimise agility, traceability and order fulfilment and to execute strategies like personalisation. ‘Green logistics’ is high on the agenda as warehouse and T&L managers strive to reduce their carbon footprint and emissions efficiently. Data automation, collaborative automation and digital capability will help overcome challenges, including labour shortages, and achieve real-time end-to-end visibility. In this article, we explore five supply chain trends shaping the 2024 logistics landscape.
Data automation, collaborative automation and digital capability will help overcome challenges, including labour shortages, and achieve real-time end-to-end visibility.
By 2030, 75% of the workforce will be millennials. These ‘digital natives’ expect provision of intuitive technology, including voice recognition, virtual assistant and augmented and virtual reality1 . Employers need to invest in a technology-rich environment to attract and retain talent, and collaborative automation will be key. Empowering humans with technology encompasses robotics and automation, and technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables. Combining next-generation voice technology with data capture methods, such as scanning and RFID, facilitates hands-free working for optimum picking speed and performance. Collaborative warehouse technology ensures workers can focus on value-added tasks, rather than wasting effort on non-productive or repetitive activities. Future-focused warehouses are harnessing the movement capabilities of AMRs: EU member states installed almost 72,000 industrial robots in 2022, up by 6% year-on-year2 .
The smart factory is at the heart of Industry 4.0, the digitalisation of manufacturing. By 2025, 80 to 100% of manufacturing could be using IoT applications; machines, sensors and other manufacturing devices connected and communicating through the internet3. This real-time connection between the supply chain and the production line is essential to meet challenging customer demands for quality, authenticity, speed and customisation. Increasing operational efficiency, capacity optimisation productivity and reducing bottlenecks in 2024 and beyond will be achieved through digital technologies at every touchpoint, from goods receiving, to packaging execution, to shipping verification. Eliminating paper-based processes, using advanced analytics and equipping workers with connected devices will enable real-time supply chain visibility, traceability, collaboration and issue resolution.
Manufacturers face mounting pressure from regulatory bodies and customers to optimise traceability at a granular level throughout a product’s entire lifecycle. Europol revealed that the trade in falsified pharmaceuticals is continuing to grow, and that counterfeit and falsified drugs continue to pose a substantial threat to the patient health and safety4. Anti-counterfeit measures, ESG targets, product recall management and the EU DPP (digital product passport) are driving the need for product marking/labelling, serialisation, palletisation and information capture technologies. The DPP, coming into play around 2026, serves to improve traceability of products along the value chain and facilitate the verification of product compliance. Traceability is also key for the circular economy, tracking and tracing raw materials and products from source to end of life including recycling. Big data is a critical component, enhanced by AI to identify patterns and trends in huge volumes. Therefore, data integrity and standardisation will be objectives for 2024.
Track and trace is a growing trend, facilitating operational efficiencies, inventory management and minimising waste. Real-time location systems can pinpoint an asset on its journey throughout the supply chain, whether in a factory, DC/warehouse, in transit or at its destination, and monitor conditions such as temperature. Each asset in the pool is fitted with technologies to be scanned at touchpoints, including smart labels, 1D and 2D barcodes and RFID tags. Tracking at crate or pallet level is important for valuable assets that are reusable/recyclable and those requiring planned maintenance or washing. It also enables damaged assets to be located and repaired and to mitigate disputes. Next-generation solutions amalgamate and centralise real-time data, enhancing digitalisation and driving performance and accountability throughout the supply chain.
Initiatives such as the EU’s circular action plan (for a cleaner and more competitive Europe) and the European Green Deal are driving sustainability. 35% of retailers are aiming to remove miles from their supplier chains to lower operating costs5. Whilst greenhouse gas emissions are falling in EU sectors, transport has seen a surge. Data suggests that “fuel efficiency has not improved substantially enough to offset the increase in transport volume”6 and global companies such as Nike, Heineken and PepsiCo, are calling on the EU to increase climate targets for trucks7 . Digitisation is necessary to accelerate sustainability, enabling real-time control, visibility and traceability and reducing paper usage. Managing product recall through traceability technologies can help reduce the impact of a recall by 50-95%8, intercepting before products are written off as waste. Last mile optimisation is also a priority since this stage of the supply chain has the highest environmental impact. Technology solutions include electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) to improve last mile efficiency, flexibility and performance. Route and vehicle utilisation optimisation will reduce emissions, empty miles and repeat deliveries.
Improving sustainability and performance are focal points in 2024, bringing both business and environmental benefits. For these priorities to be realised, digitalisation, connectivity and real-time collaboration are key. Competitive organisations working with a technology partner will achieve agility in the complex supply chain, generating intelligence, risk mitigation and innovation.
1Forrester, cited by Zetes
8 International Trade Centre