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  First Thoughts

    Dan Gilmore


    Supply Chain Digest

Feb. 2, 2024

Supply Chain Predictions for 2024 Part 2

Highlights from Gartner's 2024 Supply Chain Technology "Predicts"


Last week we began our annual round-up of supply chain predictions for 2024, beginning with a samplng of some of what Gartner calls "predicts," more specifically its predictions for the practics of logistics and technology adoption. (See Supply Chain Predictions for 2024.)

Gilmore Says....

"Look for areas with high degrees of automatability where variability is low, predictability and repeatability are high, and where robotic technology is viable," Klappich adds.

What do you say?

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This week, we sample Gartner analyst predictions relative supply chain technology. 

Before the long research note gets to those "predicts" it notes that four of the top reasons cited in a recent Gartner survey as driving investments in emerging technologies were:


• The need for companies to support new business models

 Improve process efficiency/ productivity

 Enhance decision-making

 Improve supply chain resiliency/agility

Gartner notes the language around the investments many companies are making in the newer technologies is wrapped around "digitization."

In terms of predictions, let start with this: My friend and long-time analyst Dwight Klappich - who is all over robotics for warehousing and manufacturing - predicts that by 2028, there will be more smart robots than frontline workers in manufacturing, retail and logistics due to labor shortages.

More robots than humans? I will note that UPS recently open up a new distribution center that will soon have some 3000 robots - and maybe 200 workers.

And it’s a lot more than labor costs that are driving robot adoption, Klappich says, arguing that "Labor has become as big a constraint on operational performance as is product availability," driven by an aging workforce and declining labor participation rates.

Klappich cites another recent Gartner survey that found that 35% of companies have already deployed supply chain robots, with 61% piloting or in the middle of their first implementation.

In fact, data from robot maker trade groups says that market for intralogistics smart robots (ISMRs) will reach over 2 million globally by 2025. Gartner defines "Intralogistics" robots as machines work inside the four walls of a DC or factory, but not for instance autonomous trucks.

"The data is clear: companies will struggle to maintain their workforce over the coming years, so automation and robotics is their only option," Klappich writes, adding "It is not a question of if companies are going to use robots, but where, when and how many."

But there will be many challenges - some technology or process-based, but also potentially societal and governmental.

"While largely a positive, the adoption of robotics will introduce  and society. Companies must be prepared for a negative backlash if robots are introduced

too quickly, and workers are displaced unceremoniously," Klappich warns.

So what to do?

Among a number of recommendations, Klappich says companies should start by identifying appropriate robotics use cases within their operations by studying work patterns.

"Look for areas with high degrees of automatability where variability is low, predictability and repeatability are high, and where robotic technology is viable," Klappich adds.

He also recommends that companies seek creative solutions by experimenting with various robotics scenarios combined with some adaptations of current processes instead of looking solely at radical, new approaches.

Good stuff from Klappich as usual.

Next up, Gartner analysts Carly West and Jose Reyes predict that by 2028, 25% of logistics KPI reporting will be supported by GenAI models.

Most everyone has over the last several years has been inundated with news and hype about AI generally and "generative AI" specifically, the latter of which means it is capable of generating content.

How will the technology used to support supply chain business reporting?

Gartner says the basic idea is that generative AI will be able to pull more insight from mounds of existing data.

But naturally there is a downside. Gartner says the AI will be used to do the work humans do today.

"GenAI can automate data analysis, provide insights, enable predictive analytics and facilitate data-driven decision-making, Gartner says, adding "By integrating all of an enterprise’s systems into a GenAI framework, supply chain leaders can generate KPI reporting with a simple inquiry."

Sure sounds like a job killer to me - but then again most of us are at risk. I have no doubt "First Thoughts by GenAI" is coming soon.

So again, what should companies do?

Gartner says to all get educated, recommending that companies "Identify useful use cases in which to apply GenAI by educating the team on the potential."

Also, Gartner says companies must assess whether the development of these AI capabilities should be done in-house or sourced.

"Evaluate whether the company should be investing in internal resources more heavily by watching the progression of GenAI models and the internal teams building them over the next one to two years," Gartner recommends.

Note to self: dig into this someday soon.

Ok, think I will end it there. Back with more predictions next week.


What is your reaction to these Gartner predicts? What would you add? Let us know your thought at the Feedback section below

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