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80% of supply chain not accounted for in current digital decision models

The vast majority of the supply chain environment is uncaptured by supply chain decision makers’ current digital models, resulting in digital trade-off analysis failing to improve outcomes, despite the potentially transformative capabilities of these new tools.

Digital trade-off analysis includes things such as what-if analysis, scenario modeling, or simulations. Digital trade-off analysis offers improvements in analytical power and clarity when processes are adhered to and enabled with high-quality data.

“The ‘digital-to-reality gap’ will continue to hamper supply chain performance objectives unless technology investments are complemented by enabling decision support for local, cross-functional decision makers, who have better visibility into the hidden and often undigitized elements of the supply chain,” said Suzie Petrusic, Senior Director Analyst in Gartner’s Supply Chain Practice.

Gartner’s research, based on an analysis of 600 survey responses of supply chain decision makers received in December 2022, found that current use of digital models to analyze trade-offs made no meaningful impact on the rate of good decision outcomes.

Slightly more bad decisions were made with the use of digital tradeoff analysis than without and marginally increased the percentage of bad decision outcomes. The research defined a “good” decision as one that led to and met the decision maker’s expected supply chain performance and cost outcomes with low decision maker regret (See Figure 1).

Figure 1: Digital Analysis of Trade Offs on CSCO Decision Making

Source: Gartner (September 2023)

“More than half of supply chain leaders reliant on digital technology to make a recent strategic decision (e.g., S&OP decisions, network design decisions, or disruption response decisions) told us that they felt they would have landed on better decision outcomes without the use of their models, and our analysis suggests that they are correct,” said Petrusic.

“The fault is not just with technology itself, but rather with the incomplete picture of the supply chain that these digital tools capture,” added Petrusic. “Up to 80% of the actual, on-the-ground processes that these technology investments are meant to be ‘optimizing’ are not even reflected in current digital models.”

CSCOs are faced with two primary paths forward to improve end-to-end visibility and better decision outcomes: global or local, cross-functional strategies. A global strategy continues down the path of full digitalization including distilling complex end-to-end processes into a fully digital model and achieving a level of process adherence that has thus far eluded supply chain leaders.

A second strategy calls for empowering localized and cross-functional leaders already present throughout an organization’s supply chain with decision rights. These decision makers, who benefit from visibility unavailable to their global counterparts and can make use of the technology already available to them, have been shown to make good decisions 11% more often than global, end-to-end decision makers. By augmenting this human visibility through digital trade-off analysis technology, these local decision makers are 83% more likely to make a good decision than a bad one.

“A shift to relying more on a localized approach does not mean that CSCOs’ digital or globalization playbooks need to be reinvented, but it does suggest that some adjustments can be made where localized, bottom-up processes can provide both a more realistic picture on the ground and a better basis for digitizing process segments that would otherwise elude a top-down, global approach,” said Petrusic.

For CSCOs concerned with improving strategic decision-making and digital ROI, Petrusic recommends:

  1. Localizing more strategic decisions to a cross-functional level
  2. Digitizing the human element of local, cross-functional decision models
  3. Accelerating the digitization of supply chain’s end-to-end processes

Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay

Where are brands applying innovation to supply chain and logistics operations?

The turbulence of the past two years has shown senior management the importance of supply chains and logistics. Within this business landscape, the need for retailers to innovate to adapt their supply chain and logistics operations to meet the challenging market conditions has never been more important.

While every company’s challenges and opportunities are unique, it has also become important to establish whether there are any common technology innovation themes across organisations.

With that in mind, Descartes, in conjunction with SAPIO Research, surveyed 1,000 supply chain and logistics executives’ opinions in the UK, Europe and North America to determine where organisations are placing their innovation emphasis and technology deployment focus. Some of the results will be surprising, while others show how market hype distorts innovation realities – further, what can retailers learn from these findings?  Chris Jones, EVP, Descartes reveals all and shares some of the key findings and insights from this study…

Digitisation Initiatives

Digitisation efforts are closely aligned with supply chain and logistics innovation, because they’re about transforming company performance in ways that allow customers to see the positive difference. Supply chain and logistics operations are very extensive, so it’s highly unlikely that companies would have digitisation programs that address the entirety of their operations. The study identified the top digitisation initiatives companies have focused on as order fulfilment (47%), customer experience (45%) and transportation processes (44%). Notice that these initiatives are largely “customer facing” as opposed to back-office operations.

Supply Chain and Logistics Applications

The answers to three questions paint a picture of where companies believe they’re most innovative in their supply chain and logistics operations, where they have the greatest need for innovation and where they will focus innovation for the next two years. In general, no one application area dominated the results for the state of innovation today and future focus.

The degree of application innovation in a given area is also a function of its importance to the organisation and past innovation focus. In some cases, supplychain and logistics applications, such as warehouse management systems (WMS), simultaneously topped the list for most innovative part of the business and the list of those applications having the greatest need for innovation.

Application Innovation Requirements Explained

This is further elaborated on by considering application innovation according to three categories: most innovative; most in need of innovation; and the innovation focus over the next two years.

Most innovative

Over a quarter of respondents feel their companies are most innovative with their WMS (28%) and transportation tracking (26%). Transportation management systems (TMS) were third (25%); however, this figure rose to 28% for those who said senior management believe supply chain and logistics innovation is very important and declined to 18% for those who said senior management believe it less important.

Most in need of innovation

WMS (24%) was also cited as the top area with the greatest need for innovation, followed closely by inventory management (22%). While inventory management is second, it’s fairly low, which is surprising given how many problems companies have experienced either with having excess inventory or not enough of the products that customers want.

Innovation focus next two years

The top focus areas for innovation for the next two years are customer experience (25%), TMS (24%) and WMS (23%). Customer experience was the highest priority for manufacturers, retailers and distributors, but the fourth highest priority for carriers and logistics services providers. TMS was the highest priority for carriers and logistics services providers, but the fourth highest priority for manufacturers, retailers and distributors.

Advanced Computing Technologies

Advanced computing technology has been touted as the next wave of supply chainand logistics innovation, but it’s still early stage for most companies, including retailers. When looking at full deployments, with the exception of data analytics (40%), most advanced computing technologies such as machine learning (20%), artificial intelligence – non machine learning (17%) and robotic process automation (16%) are still in the early stages of full production use. For pilots or partial deployments, however, there is a lot of advanced computing technology activity in supply chain and logistics operations: robotic process automation (52%), machine learning (52%), data analytics (50%) and artificial intelligence – non machine learning (47%).

Conclusion: Momentum Exists, But There’s Work To Do in Retail

The last several years have been an accelerator of supply chain and logistics innovation with almost two-thirds (65%) of the study’s respondents indicating they’re increasing IT innovation funding. Given the scale and scope of supply chain and logistics, companies are focusing on transforming customer-facing processes and operations. No single supply chain or logistics application stands out as the dominant way to innovate, which speaks to the diversity of challenges and opportunities companies – such as retailers – face, and the need for a wide array of solutions.

For many companies, they’re early in their advanced computing technology journeys, but the next two years could prove interesting as pilots and partial deployments come to fruition. What technologies will your retail organisation use to innovate its supply chain and logistics operations?  

82% of shoppers experience out-of-stocks as supply chain issues persist

With retailers facing continued supply chain disruption – from the long shadow of covid-19 to Russia’s war on Ukraine and climate change – shoppers are reporting increased levels of out-of-stock products.

That’s according to the latest data from Retail Insight, which polled over 1,000 UK shoppers revealing that 82% have experienced out-of-stock products in-store in the past 12months, up +11 percentage points year-on-year, while 60% have experienced the same issue online, an increase of +6% since 2022.

Seven in ten (71%) say product availability has become more of a problem since the pandemic, with three quarters of shoppers (75%) now experiencing more out-of-stocks since the start of the cost-of-living crisis.  Sixty (60%) of customers reported that their favourite brands have been less available in-store across the last 12months, while 45% had noticed more items are missing from their online grocery orders.

With retailers still reporting covid-related disruption to supply chains, supermarkets have also come under pressure from climate challenges, political unrest and macroeconomic forces.  From the ‘salad crop shortage’, which saw shelves stripped of fresh produce due to unseasonably cold weather, to soaring energy prices and avian flu hitting poultry farmers and prompting egg shortages, retailers have faced a myriad of supply chain challenges.

While macroeconomic factors impacting product availability hit the headlines, UK shoppers polled by Retail Insight blamed poor product availability on the cost-of-living, with 57% citing the growing cost of food production and a further 56% pointing to inflation as the biggest factors impacting stock levels.  Meanwhile, 43% said the increased costs of logistics were liable for the problem of rising out-of-stocks, and a further 40% blamed Brexit.

Paul Boyle, CEO of Retail Insight, said: “Regardless of the causes – of which there are many and, rather unjustly, a great number of which remain outside of a retailer’s direct control – poor product availability doesn’t just impact customer experience at the shelf edge.  It can cost retailers lost sales and, even more detrimentally, long-term loyalty.”

Over a quarter (27%) of UK consumers would question their loyalty to a grocer if out-of-stocks became a regular occurrence and a further 21% would abandon their shopping mission and leave the store without buying other items in their basket if they experienced a gap on shelf.  Meanwhile, 27% would switch their allegiance to a competitor supermarket.

“While the figure varies from grocer to grocer and from category to category, the accuracy of availability of product on the shelf can vary significantly, with inventory records usually only 50-60% accurate,” Boyle continued.  “When items are unavailable, hidden or damaged, the resulting lost sales can be as much as 8% of revenue – an opportunity retailers can ill-afford to leave on the table.  By leveraging ‘live’ data, retailers can build a more accurate picture to ensure better product availability, putting the right product on the right shelf at the right time to keep their customers happy and encourage shopper loyalty.”

Image by Adrian from Pixabay

Volatile transport costs impacting logistics throughout August

Data from the TEG Road Transport Price Index reveals that road transport prices fell 2.13% during July, with haulage prices dropping just under 4%.

However, prices have been relatively stable so far this year, marching slowly upwards since February. The combined haulage and courier index had risen by less than 8 points up to July. And the courier price-per-mile has remained almost unchanged since April 2023 – a continuing trend with no change from June 2023 to July 2023.

But now, with the HGV levy back and ULEZ in force later in August, operators will face higher costs and may have to raise their prices.

At the same time, with the Tories winning the Uxbridge and South Ruislip byelection on an anti-ULEZ ticket, the government has started rethinking its green vehicles policy and has turned back to fossil fuels. This may mean electric vehicle investment suddenly becomes less necessary – as will road transport price hikes.

ULEZ frustrations – and knock-on effects

The price Index asserts that the High Court’s decision to rubber-stamp the ULEZ expansion was met with dismay in some quarters.

Most diesel vans registered before September 2015 will have to pay the charge, as well as most petrol vans produced before January 2006. Transport for London estimates that more than 200,000 drivers of non-compliant vehicles will be affected. Greater London and the surrounding counties are home to a collective 33% of the UK’s vans.

It says those least able to adapt, such as small businesses, will bear the brunt of this change – and the returning HGV levy.

Green policy u-turns

In its finding, the Index says that encouraged by their success in winning the Uxbridge and South Ruislip byelection by campaigning against ULEZ, the Tories have since announced plans to revisit their environmental policies.

Rishi Sunak has just confirmed he’ll seek to ‘max out’ the UK fossil fuel reserves, while Downing Street previously said the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car production is being reexamined.

Now, many in the road transport industry are questioning whether the government will actually ban production of new small diesel trucks (by 2035) and new 26-tonne-plus trucks (by 2040).

This means uncertainty for operators considering switching to an electric fleet – and those who’ve made the switch in the hope of infrastructure improvements.

Some hauliers and couriers might follow the example of Royal Mail and PepsiCo, who’ve introduced hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) as an alternative fuel. It’s a less expensive and time-consuming switch than going to EVs, and every HVO mile creates 80% less greenhouse gases than diesel.

Lyall Cresswell, CEO at Transport Exchange Group and new platform Integra, says: “While it could feel like a reprieve for some, the government’s u-turn on green policy will leave many road transport firms disappointed. Those who’ve invested in electric fleets might feel they’ve been left high and dry. They may now have doubts about whether any improvements in EV infrastructure will be forthcoming.

“For years, the government has been encouraging operators to go electric. And, of course, the most effective way to encourage EV adoption is the upcoming ban on new diesel vehicles. If the government scraps that ban, years of planning could go out of the window for some companies.

“HVO fuel will now play an even more important role in helping the road freight industry decarbonise much of its activity, before true net zero is feasible for many companies. The good news — particularly for smaller firms – is that HVO fuel is cheaper and quicker to introduce, allowing companies to become greener sooner.”

Kirsten Tisdale, Director of Logistics Consultants Aricia Limited and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, says: “The Bank of England has just put the rate of interest up for the fourteenth time to continue to fight inflation. However, the Courier element of the TEG Road Transport Index is deflationary for the first time in over 30 months and the haulage element has been showing year-on-year deflation for fourteen months. The price of fuel has come down from its high a while back, and there’s a bit less pressure for many on the staffing side at the moment, although that pressure will change as we approach peak. But I can’t be the only one asking: is that interest rate increase one too many?”

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay

Road freight prices stable, despite inflationary pressures

The latest data from the TEG Road Transport Price Index shows that year-on-year haulage and courier prices remain stable, despite inflation pushing prices up elsewhere. However, the reintroduction of the HGV levy and staff shortages on the horizon means that stability might not last long.

The overall price-per-mile in June 2022 was 121.9 and is now 122.3 – a marginal 0.3% change. In the last month, courier prices rose 1.2%, while haulage prices increased by over 3%.

But if some economic forecasts are to be believed, even small increments like these could soon be behind us.  By the end of the year, the Bank of England is widely expected to raise interest rates to a 19-year-high of 6.25%. This might then lead to recession, reducing road transport demand and prices.

In the past few years, UK logistics companies have been focusing on cutting the well-publicised driver shortage. One tactic in this fight is tempting people into becoming drivers with greatly increased salaries and signing-on bonuses.

This led many HGV mechanics to make the switch to driving jobs, which means hauliers have traded one skill gap for another. Over half of the businesses surveyed by Logistics UK have struggled with hiring enough fitters, technicians and mechanics.

Unfortunately, the end result here could be out-of-action vehicles impacting a supply chain just re-finding its feet.

From August 2020, HGV operators benefitted from the suspension of the HGV levy as they recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, the levy is set to return on 31 July, with a new focus on emissions, weight and time spent in the UK.

Even as diesel prices have fallen to a quarter of July 2022 prices, the reinstatement of the levy will be a challenge to many operators. It’s another factor that may cause some to reevaluate their pricing strategy.

Lyall Cresswell, CEO of Integra, said: “It is, perhaps, surprising that prices have remained so stable given the multiple challenges facing the industry right now. In addition to ongoing inflation, they now have to contend with the return of the HGV levy and mechanic shortages.

“The problem for the industry is that many operators have paid mechanics higher salaries to become drivers and they’ll now struggle to attract new mechanics – particularly if they can’t afford those high salaries.

“All told, it might be difficult for logistics companies to keep absorbing costs, particularly if demand is affected by slow economic growth.

“However, the silver lining right now is significantly lower diesel prices. The industry has long been calling for lower prices and now they’ve finally come, which will at least help with everyday business costs.”

Kirsten Tisdale, Director of Logistics Consultants Aricia Limited and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, added: “I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: there’s no greedflation in road transport. Yes, both the indices for spot haulage and courier have risen compared to last month, but haulage continues to show year-on-year deflation and courier is only at 0.8% inflation.

“Of course, diesel prices have come down. But until fairly recently, even though the price was coming down, diesel was still inflationary when comparing it with a year previously: because of the speed with which it rose.”

Could the market for automated warehouse storage & retrieval systems hit $15bn by 2030?

Investment in warehouse automation and management systems continues to rise as supply chains look to resolve exposed weaknesses and create greater resilience to macroeconomic headwinds.

According to ABI Research, Automated Storage & Retrieval System (AS/RS) revenues are expected to surpass $15 billion globally by 2030, and Warehouse Management System (WMS) revenues are expected to exceed $10 billion by the same period.

Ryan Wiggin, Supply Chain Management & Logistics Industry Analyst at ABI Research, said: “Global supply chain challenges over the last three years have highlighted the need for digitalisation and a deeper restructuring of inventory management. Labor constraints, geopolitical trade shifts, and inventory gluts continue to pressure warehouse operations, and the most impacted organisations continue to be those with lower focus on digital transformations.”

AS/RS vendors, including AutoStore, Ocado, and Swisslog, as well as Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) vendors such as inVia Robotics, Locus Robotics, and Vecna Robotics, are leading the structural automation charge, while established and emerging WMS vendors such as Blue Yonder, Manhattan Associates, and Snapfulfil continue to add new functionalities to orchestrate and optimize both the manual and automated workflows.

In addition to the growth in automation and management systems, high investment in hardware and devices is expected to increase worker productivity, as manual worker involvement remains necessary alongside the adoption of automated equipment. Global shipments of handheld devices for warehouse workers will grow at a CAGR of 20% to 2030, led by market leaders such as Zebra and Honeywell.

New warehouse building is expected to drop by as much as 35% in 2023 compared to 2022. It is creating an even greater incentive to invest in the automation of current facilities to ease operational constraints. Disruption to new developments will be short-lived, with steady growth in warehouse construction expected to 2030, led by a much greater CAGR in global e-commerce fulfillment center development at 18%.

“Successful deployments by Tier One organizations continue to spur the adoption of technologies within small-medium enterprises. Solutions providers must continue to offer accessible adoption through as-a-service models and scalable structures, and exploring partnerships with complementary technology will be key to deploying market-leading end-to-end solutions,” concluded Wiggin.

These findings are from ABI Research’s Smart Warehousing market data report.

Image by falco from Pixabay

Quarter of supply chain C-Suite roles filled by women

Women have made a strong comeback to the supply chain workforce in 2023, with gains at nearly every level of leadership, but particularly prominent at the C-Suite and executive level, where 26% of those roles (CSCO, SVP, EVP, CPO) are now filled by women, an all-time high and up from 19% in 2022.

Gartner’s eighth annual Women in Supply Chain Survey was conducted from February to March of 2023 and surveyed 225 supply chain leaders. The survey showed that women now make up 41% of the supply chain workforce, up from 39% in 2022 (See Figure 1). However, frontline representation continues to lag, with women filling just 31% of these roles.

“It’s particularly encouraging to see women make gains at the senior executive level, as we know that when a woman holds the top supply chain position this has a positive correlation with more women in leadership and in all roles through that organization,” said Caroline Chumakov, Director Analyst in the Gartner Supply Chain Practice.

An increase in organizational goals around gender equality since 2020, as well as growth in the number of supply chain owned initiatives are clearly having a measurably positive impact on women in supply chain. The data suggests a virtuous cycle is possible as more women reach top leadership roles in their supply chain organizations, with a clear finding this year that a woman in the senior-most role leads to more women in leadership and all roles within the organization.

“This connection between female leaders and the effect on women in the workforce has positive implications for how supply chain leaders can better design their efforts to improve representation of women in supply chain,” said Chumakov.

Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) routinely report challenges with attrition broadly at frontline roles in manufacturing and logistics, particularly when compared to roles at desk-based jobs. The ability to attract more women to frontline roles—and especially in leadership roles in the physical operations ranks—could form a material competitive advantage over those who are unable to do so.

Providing flexibility was the most effective initiative in attracting and retaining women to frontline roles, significantly outperforming other areas such as benefits, employee engagement programs and even a focus on pay equity. However, only 41% of supply chain leaders had implemented an initiative dedicated to workplace flexibility at their organizations.

“There remains a mismatch between employers’ fears of chaos and instability as a result of workplace flexibility policies and the realities of what we see in our research and case studies of successful supply chain organizations. What we see in our research is that flexibility is benefiting both the organization and their female employees,” said Chumakov.

In addition to baseline data about the number of women at all levels of supply chain roles, Gartner asked questions about representation of women from underrepresented races and ethnicities, practices that increase the success of women in supply chain roles, pay equity and transparency, frontline engagement practices for women in on-site roles and attrition challenges specific to women.

Gartner partnered on the survey with AWESOME, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization focused on advancing women’s supply chain leadership and boom!, a U.K.-based global community formed to support and link women in the supply chain profession.

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

The transformative impact of AI on the logistics and supply chain sectors

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionising industries worldwide, and its impact on the logistics and supply chain sectors cannot be overstated. From streamlining operations to enhancing efficiency, AI-powered technologies are transforming how goods are transported, stored, and delivered.

This article explores the ways in which AI is impacting the logistics and supply chain sectors, revolutionising the way businesses manage their operations…

  1. Demand Forecasting and Inventory Management

AI algorithms are improving demand forecasting accuracy, enabling businesses to optimise their inventory management. By analysing historical sales data, market trends, and external factors, AI systems can predict future demand patterns with greater precision. This enables businesses to adjust inventory levels, reduce stockouts, minimise excess inventory, and improve supply chain efficiency.

  1. Route Optimisation and Fleet Management

AI-powered logistics systems are enhancing route planning and optimization, improving efficiency and reducing costs. These systems analyse factors such as traffic conditions, weather patterns, and delivery constraints to identify the most efficient routes. AI algorithms can also optimize fleet management by considering factors like vehicle capacity, fuel consumption, and driver availability, ensuring optimal resource utilisation.

  1. Warehouse Automation and Robotics

AI-driven automation and robotics are revolutionising warehouse operations. Autonomous robots equipped with AI algorithms can handle tasks such as inventory picking, packing, and sorting with speed and precision. AI-powered warehouse management systems optimise storage space, monitor inventory levels, and facilitate efficient order fulfillment. This automation improves accuracy, reduces labor costs, and enhances overall productivity in the supply chain.

  1. Supply Chain Visibility and Transparency

AI technologies provide real-time visibility and transparency across the supply chain. Through the integration of data from various sources, such as GPS trackers, sensors, and RFID tags, AI systems can track shipments, monitor conditions, and provide accurate delivery estimates. This visibility enables proactive issue resolution, better customer service, and improved decision-making throughout the supply chain.

  1. Risk Management and Mitigation

AI algorithms help identify potential risks and mitigate disruptions in the logistics and supply chain sectors. By analysing data from multiple sources, such as weather forecasts, social media feeds, and historical patterns, AI systems can predict and proactively address potential risks. This allows businesses to take preventive measures, adjust logistics plans, and minimize the impact of unforeseen events on supply chain operations.

  1. Enhanced Customer Experience

AI-powered technologies enhance the overall customer experience in logistics and supply chain operations. Personalized recommendations, real-time tracking, and delivery notifications improve customer satisfaction. AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants provide prompt and accurate customer support, enhancing engagement and resolving queries efficiently. These technologies contribute to building customer loyalty and driving business growth.

The impact of AI on the logistics and supply chain sectors is transformative, revolutionizing traditional practices and improving operational efficiency. From demand forecasting and inventory management to route optimization, warehouse automation, and supply chain visibility, AI technologies offer unprecedented opportunities for businesses to streamline operations, reduce costs, and enhance customer satisfaction.

As AI continues to evolve, we can expect further advancements in the logistics and supply chain sectors, shaping a future where efficiency, speed, and reliability become the hallmarks of successful operations. Embracing AI-powered solutions will be crucial for businesses aiming to thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of logistics and supply chain management.

Consumers want retailers to have sustainable home delivery services

43% of consumers feel retailers are doing a good job of using sustainable delivery practices, while more than 60% indicate they are quite/very interested in environmentally friendly delivery methods.

That’s according to Descartes’ 2023 Home Delivery Sustainability Report: Consumers Expect More! survey, which examined consumer sentiment of retailers’ sustainability practices around their delivery operations.

Additionally, 59% said they are willing to act if they’re not satisfied with retailers’ sustainable delivery efforts.

The study of 8,000 consumers across nine European countries, Canada and the United States provides retailers and logistics organisations with insights into the importance of sustainability in consumer purchase and delivery decisions and how perspectives vary by age and geography.

“Compared to our 2022 study, consumers are much more interested in the environmental delivery practices of retailers. They’re influenced by these factors when making purchasing decisions and willing to take eco-friendly home delivery options, which are often also lower cost delivery methods for retailers,” said Chris Jones (pictured, above), EVP, Industry at Descartes. “Retailers need to heed these important trends as they provide more ways to differentiate, grow revenue, create greater customer loyalty and reduce delivery costs.”

The study analyses consumer sentiment around the sustainability of retailers’ delivery operations, how this is impacting purchasing decisions, how consumers evaluate retailer efforts in sustainable delivery, which goods are most impacted by sustainable delivery performance and how consumers want to receive goods.

In addition, it delves into the changes in purchasing and delivery decisions that consumers are willing to make to help the environment.

Lastly, it provides insight into how the importance of sustainable delivery varies by geodemographic factors, the influence of geodemographics on buyer behaviour, the delivery decisions consumers are making, and consumer expectations of retailers’ sustainable delivery efforts for the future.

Supply chain productivity declines ‘cannot be solved by technology alone’

New technologies ranging from smart robotics to actionable AI have the potential to transform the supply chain function, but they will fail to lift historically low levels of labor productivity unless utilised as part of a broader strategy.

Gartner experts shared those findings during the opening keynote presentation at the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo EMEA, which took place this week.

“There is legitimate excitement today around new technologies that hold out the promise of vastly enhanced organizational productivity,” said Thomas Pocock, Senior Director, Advisory, in Gartner’s Supply Chain Practice. “Supply chain leaders must remember that these new technologies require the partnership of an engaged and productive workforce for these gains to be realized. Unfortunately, the data tells a discouraging story on this front.”

Pocock highlighted data from Gartner’s Global Labor Market Survey from 1Q23 when 2,613 supply chain employees were surveyed to show the extent of supply chain’s labor productivity challenges:

  • Only 25% of the supply chain workforce is fully engaged.
  • Turnover is 33% higher in the supply chain function than pre-pandemic.
  • Only 16% of the supply chain workforce is willing to go “above and beyond” in their roles.

“Introducing new technologies, especially of the magnitude of AI or smart robots, would come with implementation challenges at any time,” said Pocock. “Any new technology introduced in this environment is likely to be met with elevated levels of mistrust and change fatigue. It’s clear there needs to be a new strategy to make such integrations work for all sides.”

Pocock noted that technology is just one of a series of strategies that need to be reinvented to reverse supply chain’s labor productivity slide. He recommended Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) reexamine their approaches in three key areas:

Integrating technology and people strategies: The introduction of new workplace technologies should be designed with the human-technology relationship front and center. Organizations must also create opportunities for reciprocal learning, or the opportunity for employees to safely make sense of new technology and see how technology is incorporating human input. New technology investments must be made side-by-side with equivalent investments in workforce training, skills development and knowledge curation.

Individual talent management: High-demand skills are often already available in supply chain organizations but are too often trapped by the rigid nature of job descriptions. CSCOs can unlock more skills and flexibly deploy talent where it is needed by breaking down projects into component tasks and seeking skills needed for those tasks across the entire organization and even beyond it.

Organizational design: Organizations can leverage crisis situations and market opportunities as a reason to breakdown silos and find new, more efficient organizational structures. Spontaneous redesign of decision-making processes happened at many companies during the initial disruptions of the COVID era. They can be productively harnessed to build resiliency in the face of new challenges, such as persistent inflationary conditions or changing geopolitical considerations.