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Blue Yonder research: supply chain executives turn to technology amid prolonged challenges

Survey finds 78% of respondents are leveraging AI/ML in their supply chains in the last year. Additionally, warehouse management system (WMS) software continues as a top supply chain technology investment area.

Blue Yonder, a leading supply chain software provider, has released the results of its 2023 Supply Chain Executives Survey, which polled U.S.-based supply chain executives on their businesses’ experience with supply chain and logistics planning. Overall, the vast majority (87%) of businesses report experiencing supply chain disruptions within the last year, with over half (52%) citing customer delays as the most frequent outcome. Despite prolonged logistics challenges, however, most respondents (62%) indicated their supply chains were reliable enough to withstand the pressure.

“Business leaders have come to expect the unexpected,” said Chirag Modi, corporate vice president, Industry Strategy – Supply Chain Execution at Blue Yonder. “After the initial supply chain shock in 2021, organizations sprang into action and invested in tools and technology that would help them preempt and weather the storm. More than half (52%) of respondents have increased their supply chain investments in the last year, with 38% reporting investments of at least $10 million. Most (56%) of these investments are going toward technology.”

Strategic Technology Investments 

Inflation remains top-of-mind for supply chain leaders, with 43% reporting increased costs of raw materials as a result. Inventory (15%), transportation (14%), and labor (14%) have also become more expensive due to prolonged inflation. Nearly half (48%) of respondents reported shrinking profit margins over the past 6 months.

In response, supply chain executives have sought avenues for strategic investment to bolster their preparedness for and responsiveness to inevitable logistics disruptions. Most of these investments (56%) are in technology, including warehouse management systems (44%), order management systems (39%), supply chain visibility tools (36%), and transportation management (30%). The continued pouring of resources into these systems suggests that the widespread shift toward omni-channel commerce and fulfillment has not yet reached its conclusion. Business leaders still see ample opportunity to improve their processes and deliver superior experiences for customers.

These strategic investments in technology have proven to be successful thus far, with over half (54%) reporting improved efficiencies, 42% reporting fewer disruptions, and 39% reporting revenue growth.

Growing and Retaining Talent 

Organizations remain laser-focused on attracting and retaining talent, with 42% reporting increased investments in their workforce, up from 40% in 2022. A staggering 87% of organizations have implemented new initiatives to stay competitive in today’s tight labor market, with 51% offering more competitive pay and bonus structures and 40% creating more flexible scheduling options.

Nearly half (47%) of executives plan to address the tight labor market in the next 12 months by investing in workforce management technology and another 47% plan to enhance workforce training procedures. A third of executives (32%) plan to increase automation investment across supply chain networks (i.e., robots).

“Today’s labor market and the substantial skills gap in supply chain management have pushed organizations to double down on training and overall employee experience,” said Hong Mo Yang, senior vice president, Industry Strategy – Manufacturing at Blue Yonder. “Modern supply chains are grounded in cutting-edge technology. To take full advantage of industry-leading data-intensive tools, business leaders must pull out all the stops to ensure their teams are supported, intellectually stimulated, and appropriately compensated.”

Sustainable Investments

Sustainability is another avenue of investment for supply chain executives, with 35% reporting investing in tools that unlock greener and more efficient fulfillment options (up from 23% in 2022). An impressive 84% of respondents plan to amplify or maintain their current sustainability initiatives, and 43% plan to seek more sustainable upstream options.

Even if businesses’ sustainability practices result in shipping delays, their customers are happy to accommodate – Blue Yonder’s 2023 Consumer Sustainability Survey found that a whopping 78% of consumers would wait for up to a week for a delayed delivery in favor of an environmentally friendly shipment.

The data suggest that sustainable business is here to stay, with key stakeholders continuing to dedicate significant resources to technology that improves efficiency, reduces waste, and meets customer expectations for greener operations. Industry executives from manufacturing, retail, and 3PL will explore sustainability initiatives in the sustainability panel discussion titled “Sustainability Initiatives to Build a Better as Well as Profitable Future” at ICON 2023.

Making Room for AI/ML

As businesses around the world seek tools and processes to turn supply chain management into a science, many have embraced advanced technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents are leveraging AI/ML in their supply chains, with top use-cases including inventory and network optimization (33%), warehouse resource management (29%), supply chain risk management (26%), and demand forecasting (25%).

Blue Yonder executives will discuss these topics and more at ICON 2023, the company's conference for supply chain and retail professionals, May 2-5, 2023, in Las Vegas. 

For the survey, Blue Yonder collected responses from April 10–11, 2023, from more than 300 C-suite and senior executives across manufacturing, retail, 3PL, transportation, planning and warehousing, with responsibility for supply chain and manufacturing operations in the U.S. Learn more about the 2023 Supply Chain Executive Survey results via this infographic.

Article Topics

Artificial Intelligence
Blue Yonder
Supply Chain Transformation
Warehouse Management Systems
Warehouse Operations
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