Customer centricity, e-commerce, Direct-to-Consumer (D2C), and the risk of financial peril are propelling shippers (manufacturers and retailers) and logistics service providers (LSPs) to digitally transform. 2020 and the first half of 2021 saw an acceleration in many emerging digital trends pre-dating the pandemic.

Today we are releasing the results from the 2021 State of Supply Chain Execution Report, which provides the latest market insights around:

  • Will e-commerce growth brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic continue?
  • What are the biggest supply chain execution/logistics challenges facing shippers and LSPs?
  • Which technologies are getting attention and investments?

Our survey questions were focused on four areas: E-commerce, Risk and Resiliency, Technology and Innovation, and Collaboration and Change Management. We partnered with Reuters Events Supply Chain to interview close to 600 supply chain professionals from around the world and they were surveyed between May and June 2021 for this report.


Digital trends dominate industry and company discussions as all are seeing an overwhelming period of e-commerce growth that necessitates wholesale changes to survive and drive competitive advantages in the post-pandemic era. This growth has sparked disruptions due to the lack of availability of raw materials, transportation capacity, and visibility needed to produce and move essential products.

Supply chain execution / logistics operations have risen to the occasion this year and last year in serving the changing needs of the economy during the pandemic, absorbing rapid changes in priorities and shocks in demand and supply patterns. With the expectation of continued growth, how can companies enhance capabilities rather than just throw scarce resources at difficult situations?

In this report, you will get insights into the thinking of logistics executives into the e-commerce growth picture. You will also observe that shippers and LSPs are renewing themselves to address the prevailing trends of customer-first and omni-channel. In this new environment, as brands and manufacturers gain digital maturity, they are converging upon D2C models to drive loyalty while retailers are branching out to push home-grown labels to consumers. The rise of D2C is taking shape. To respond to this new opportunity, how are brands and their LSPs rising to the challenge? In addition to sharing the findings, we asked several industry executives to share their observations and points of views.

Risk and Resiliency

The siloed nature of operations has increasingly prevented businesses from accessing the data they need to make timely and wise decision in crucial moments. Just-in-time (JIT) enabled the development of the cost-optimized supply chain, yet, the over-emphasis on such efficiency caused companies to insufficiently address risk management, especially for logistics network risks beyond the four walls. This presents much risk on the supply side. It is therefore very interesting to observe the top concerns for shippers and LSPs in their respective roles in our report. For example, what supply chain risk management processes are they currently investing in?

Supply chain risk and resiliency have gained greater attention in the past 18 months. Due to the lack of preparation that many companies had for both the pandemic and the resulting health crisis, there were many disruptions to different supply chain execution processes and operations. The survey results demonstrate a clear desire for businesses to build capabilities enabling much better focus on visibility, capacity, and transparency to respond to issues and risks. There is a clear message about the importance of diversification strategies and the necessity to tackle capacity shortages and prolonged lack of sustainability investment.

Raj Patel, Senior Director, 3PL Global Industry Strategy, Blue Yonder, share his industry perspectives: “When we think of risk management, cybersecurity is often front and center of people’s concern, often for good reason. However, risk management involves a much more expansive appraisal of your business. For example, sustainability issues can expose you to financial and legal risk, just as single-sourcing can heighten exposure on the supply side.”

Technology and Innovation

To maximize omni-channel opportunities presented by the growing volume of e-commerce sales, LSPs must offer up unique services that meet the needs of e-commerce and traditional retailers. Investment in modern technologies and new approaches to working are essential for businesses looking to adjust to changing trends and customer expectations.

At minimum, companies must seek to have a more holistic technical infrastructure in place. Integrating the Warehouse Management System (WMS), Transportation Management System (TMS), and Order Management System (OMS) is essential. While the digital logistics landscape is still be relatively young, companies can use this fractured space as an inroad.

To find out more about the actions that will enable shippers and LSPs to better serve this new era, we asked the respondents two questions about their investment in modern technologies and new approaches. First, both shippers and LSPs shared that changing customer demands and pressures to reduce supply chain costs are the top factors driving supply chain technology investment decisions. Next, the survey respondents shared which technologies are yielding the best ROI currently and in the next 18 months.  At present, investing in end-to-end visibility was a must for most shippers and LSPs. The report discusses more insights into the pressures and technologies.

Collaboration and Change Management

The rise of e-commerce has led to a dramatic improvement in inter-departmental collaboration and communication. To advance into a truly digital age, respondents informed us that the biggest

challenges in the speed of new technology adoption. The survey also touched on whether labor capacity shortages continue to impact operations and what labor strategies companies are employing to manage it.

Jim Bralsford, Senior Industry Strategies Director, EMEA, Blue Yonder, shared his perspectives: “The one thing that’s certain in this world, and particularly in supply chain right now is you’ve got to keep changing to stay current. That’s a scary proposition for many organizations. Legacy systems are obviously inherently inflexible. They’ve been customized over time, and people get comfortable with doing it this way. The advice I’d give is never fear to ask, ‘Why do you do it that way?’ Because its’s always been that way? Could it be improved upon? No matter the size and complexity of the task at hand, develop a roadmap and recognize this isn’t going to be a ’big bang’ change. Be willing to pivot and augment that roadmap along the way.”

Start Your Digital Transformation

In the post-COVID-19 world, companies are finding it very challenging to handle the higher volume of orders that come with increased e-commerce activities and more frequent changes and disruptions. A new level of control, agility and resilience is needed in logistics operations. The breakdown of silos among partners in the ecosystem and a new level of intelligence brought on by digital systems and devices will help companies shift their logistics operations to be more competitive and customer-centric. Autonomous supply chain execution especially in transportation and warehouse management needs to be something companies are striving for now. This is described further in the Future of Logistics eBook.

Customer expectations around the speed of click-to-deliver motions will drive significant changes in supply chain network footprints, where the inventory is held, and how the fulfillment and delivery happen, while keeping the focus on cash flows, fulfillment costs and sustainability. The new way of thinking is described in the Unified Logistics eBook.

Additional Insights

In an upcoming LinkedIn Live session on Aug. 17, 2021, I will speak with Jim Bralsford and Raj Patel about the acceleration in many emerging digital trends and how companies are enhancing supply chain execution capabilities to address disruptions, resilience, and prevailing trends in e-commerce. In an upcoming Part 2 blog, we will discuss the survey results and insights in more detail.

For more information about the 2021 State of Supply Chain Execution Report:

Learn more about how Luminate Logistics provides an end-to-end execution platform to help drive flexible, fully autonomous distribution networks.