Blog | February 9, 2024

The top 5 most impactful supply chain trends going into 2024

Applications of AI, automation and sustainability are expected to have the greatest influence on supply chain management

What makes a top trend?

In our evaluation, we’ve looked at trends in terms of impact and timeliness. Impact tells us how much the trend is expected to affect supply chain strategy and operations. Timeliness tells us when to expect the full impact of a trend.

In this article, take a closer look at the top 5 most impactful trends in logistics and supply chain management as we start 2024.

Most impactful trends in logistics and supply chain management

1. Generative AI

Generative AI are artificial intelligence programs that can be used to create content like written text, images, audio or computer programs. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2027, 15% of new applications will be created by generative AI without the involvement of human programmers.

Businesses should be prepared for the first disruptive business models using generative AI. However, especially large language models (LLMs) are still facing trust issues given the inconsistent quality of the results they generate.

Decision makers now need to identify use cases to benefit from the technology while still ensuring data confidentiality and high quality of results.

This trend is expected to reach its full impact for supply chains in the next two to three years.

2. Supply chain automation

Developments in AI make it possible to reach new levels of productivity with robotic systems and automation. Labor-intensive warehouse operations can be automated by autonomous robots for storage and picking that are orchestrated via a central platform. Unmanned vehicles and drones are being tested for tasks like last-mile delivery.

Gartner predicts that by 2028, 50% of large enterprises will have adopted some form of intralogistics smart robots in warehousing or production.

Especially with regards to the labor shortage, businesses should re-evaluate the degree of automation of their logistics tasks.

We expect to see the full impact of this trend in the next three to five years.

3. AI analytics and predictions

AI analytics and predictions can be used where traditional calculation methods reach their limits. Methods like machine learning and deep learning can discover patterns and correlations in large data sets that are too complex for humans to see. AI-based forecasting or big data analytics can unlock new potential for optimization.

According to a McKinsey study, AI forecasts in supply chain management can reduce errors by 20-50%.

Businesses that have data science competence should evaluate where these methods can be used to improve their results or unlock new use cases.

This trend is expected to reach its full impact in the next two to three years.

4. Environmental sustainability

Driven by customer demand and government regulations, businesses continue to implement environmentally friendly practices to decarbonize their supply chains. With process optimization as the biggest lever to reduce both costs and emissions, different solutions are being tested and implemented. These range from sustainable fuel to carbon offset solutions for facilities – all to reach the industry’s goal to become greener and more sustainable.

Although transportation volumes are increasing, many major manufacturers and LSPs report progress in reducing logistics emissions. To reach net-zero targets, the transportation industry still needs to reduce its emissions by 20% by 2030.

Businesses should make use of incentives and regulations for green and sustainable supply chains. Aim to find the right balance between securing stable energy sources for the long term while increasing environmental sustainability.

This trend is expected to reach its full impact for supply chains in the next three to five years.

5. Autonomous driving

AI makes way for autonomous robots and vehicles for use in manufacturing and freight transportation. The technology has immense potential to reduce costs while increasing productivity and safety. A recent study by MAN Truck and Bus, Deutsche Bahn, Hochschule Fresenius and Göttig KG showed that autonomous trucks could increase cargo handling volumes at terminals by up to 40%.

However, there are still regulatory and liability issues to overcome before autonomous driving will be present on public roads.

Technological and regulatory developments need to be closely monitored. LSPs with owned assets need to know when to engage in this trend, while other businesses in supply chain need to understand the consequences that changing service levels and costs yield for their business models.

This trend is projected to achieve its full impact in the next five years or even beyond.

Questions or comments about these trends? Get in touch with us.

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Wendelin Gross

Head of
4flow research



Gero Holzheid

Supply Chain Scientist
4flow research