In a previous blog post, I discussed some highlights from Blue Yonder’s 2024 Supply Chain Executive Survey. In talking with 600 C-suite and senior executives around the world, we discovered that they share three primary challenges: ongoing supply chain disruptions, rising operating costs, and growing sustainability pressures.

There’s something else our survey participants have in common. They agree that the way to address those challenges is investing in supply chain improvements, particularly advanced technology. Of our respondents, 79% reported that their companies have increased their supply chain investments in the last year. And over half (51%) are investing more than $10 million in supply chain improvements.

A significant focus of these improvement efforts is the application of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and other advanced technologies. According to our survey, over half of companies are already applying AI and in their supply chain planning (56%), transportation management (53%), and order management (50%) activities. And supply chain teams plan to keep adding leading-edge capabilities. In fact, 86% of our survey respondents will increase their investments in AI, ML, and generative AI in the future.

When asked about the results generated by their supply chain investments, executives cited improved efficiencies (named by 53%), revenue growth (37%), increased market share (37%), fewer disruptions (37%), and increased profitability (29%).

Three Ways To Maximize Your Results From Advanced Technology

In looking at the benefits cited by the executives in our survey — for example, 29% of companies have improved their margins — we can’t help asking, “Why aren’t those numbers higher?” Based on our collaborations with hundreds of supply chain teams, we can confidently say that close to 100% of our mature customers are achieving all these benefits, and more, from partnering with us.

What can supply chain teams do to maximize their returns and achieve better results? As a leading supply chain software provider, Blue Yonder has developed a set of three best practices that enable companies to maximize their returns on technology investments. Those top practices are summarized in the following sections, as well as in our new e-book, “Supply Chain Executives Spoke. Blue Yonder Is Listening.”

1. Connect planning and execution to drive a synchronized, rapid response.

Many of the respondents plan to add new planning and logistics solutions soon. Their top priorities include a transportation management system (cited by 49%), a warehouse management system (41%), a sales and operations planning solution (37%), a sales and execution solution (37%), and integrated demand and supply planning (34%).

While adding these capabilities is a great first step, today’s AI- and ML-enabled solutions can’t perform to their full potential if they’re siloed and disconnected. To maximize their responsiveness to disruptions, rising costs and other pressures, companies need to synchronize the end-to-end supply chain, by tightly integrating all their planning and logistics solutions. The result? A single, fluid ecosystem that shares the same unified dataset, the same priorities and the same seamless, end-to-end execution workflows.

This might sound difficult to achieve, but Blue Yonder makes it easy. Customers can leverage the Blue Yonder Platform to connect all their software — across both logistics and planning — in real time, for a synchronized, rapid response to changes in any node. For example, if the demand planning forecast is adjusted downward, then all execution resources — including labor, warehouse operations, inventory, trucks and other assets — are automatically re-optimized for capacity and productivity.

2. Apply AI and ML to automate decisions.

Process automation — such as picking robots in the warehouse — is justifiably generating a lot of interest and investment. But even more important from a strategic perspective is decision automation, enabled by AI and ML.

Today disruptions are coming one after another. While they happen quickly, they have far-reaching and costly effects. The top impacts named by executives in our survey were customer delays (named by 42% of participants), stalled production (42%), regulatory compliance issues (39%), reputational and monetary damage (38%), and an inability to meet customer demand (38%).

When a disruption occurs, it’s critical to not only respond quickly, but to respond in an optimal manner, across end-to-end functions and systems. That’s where AI and ML come in. Enabled by advanced technology, Blue Yonder’s optimization engines ingest a range of real-time data from across the supply chain, as well as external feeds like news and weather, and arrive at an end-to-end, orchestrated resolution in microseconds. They support a fast, seamless and autonomous response to even the most complex problems, keeping the supply chain on track.

In addition, Blue Yonder Orchestrator — our generative AI capability — provides supply chain teams with predictive insights and recommendations in response to market changes, rising costs and other trends. The executives in Blue Yonder’s survey are targeting generative AI for investment, and so are we. We believe it’s changing supply chain — and logistics — for the better.

3. Optimize the supply chain for sustainability.

In Blue Yonder’s 2024 Supply Chain Executives Survey, 48% of respondents named sustainability as a key area of investment — and 44% of companies have increased their sustainability initiatives in the last year. Advanced technology has the potential to make an enormous contribution to improved sustainability.

While cost and service have always been standard top-level metrics for supply chain performance, AI- and ML-enabled optimization engines can also be “tuned” to consider sustainability as a key outcome. Decisions can be made on a weighted basis, in which targets like waste and supplier sustainability are considered alongside delivery schedules, margins and more traditional metrics.

With end-to-end capabilities across the supply chain, Blue Yonder is uniquely qualified to help customers define and install best practices in sustainability. In fact, we’re creating a 2024 Sustainability Roadmap that matches our advanced technology capabilities to opportunities for greener operations across the end-to-end supply chain.

Ready to Maximize Your ROI? Blue Yonder Can Help

Applying these three best practices can help any company leverage AI, ML and other advanced technologies in a more strategic, impactful way. But why stop there? Contact Blue Yonder today and gain insight into how you can maximize the return on your existing technology investments — as well as add new capabilities that meet your most pressing challenges.

This blog only touches on the full results of Blue Yonder’s 2024 Supply Chain Executives Survey. Learn more details here.