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2024 Supply Chain Trends and Predictions: Preparing Warehouse Operations for the Future


The supply chain is ever-evolving, and the years since the pandemic have been particularly unpredictable for logistics providers and warehousing operations. Just when 2023 seemed to promise some glimmers of stability, new technologies like generative AI brought pressing new questions.

These technologies, coupled with ongoing shifts in consumer demand and supply-side pressures from labor and climate issues point to more changes in the year ahead. Warehouse managers must be quick to adapt, as speed of service and quality of customer experience will continue to take center stage. 

To help you get a sense of what this means for your operation this year, here are our predictions for the biggest supply chain trends of 2024.

Looking Back at 2023

At the outset of 2023, we predicted a few trends that played out more or less as anticipated. Supply chain disruptions from the pandemic era continued even as COVID-19 receded into the background. Delays were driven largely by material shortages and cost inflation, while tighter sustainability regulations amid growing climate change disruptions also played a role. 

Mobile commerce also continued its surge to the forefront of eCommerce. Globally, mobile sales surpassed $2.2 trillion in 2023, accounting for 60% of eCommerce sales worldwide. This continued to push convenience and personalized service to the forefront of customer experience, increasing pressure on warehouse managers to deliver dynamic eCommerce fulfillment solutions. 

2023 also brought surprises to the supply chain operations landscape. A near-fourfold increase in labor strikes made for significant supply chain and warehouse labor shortages. AI technology, meanwhile, proved promising for creating supply chain solutions.


2024 Supply Chain Trends

As we look to the year ahead, it’s clear that many of the same factors will continue to make an impact. Yet, a new year also brings unique challenges. Here are five supply chain and warehousing trends to watch for in 2024.

The Continued Rise of eCommerce and the Focus on Customer Experience

Although in-store sales still account for the majority of retail purchases, eCommerce continues to bite off a larger slice of the pie. As data from the end of 2023 reveal, we’re only accelerating toward an online-first future. Compared to 2022, online sales were up 7.8% over Thanksgiving weekend and 9.6% on Cyber Monday in 2023. According to a Bank of America survey, 42% of consumers plan to spend more online in the next 12 months. All told, global eCommerce sales will make up more than 20% of all retail purchases for the first time in 2024.

Shopping convenience only enhances consumer expectations for the same on the delivery side. In terms of order fulfillment, speed is the name of the game for supply chain management in 2024. Consumers have made it clear they want their orders to arrive today, so it’s no surprise that 99% of retailers plan to offer same-day delivery by 2025.

This puts immense pressure on warehouse managers to get their order fulfillment ducks in a row. Speed and accuracy are often competing objectives, but companies must achieve both to satisfy today’s customers. Besides ensuring they use the latest software and fulfillment technologies, warehouses should consider introducing dynamic storage solutions to make inventory stocking and picking more efficient, accurate, and effective for eCommerce fulfillment.

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UNEX Guide to Optimizing Warehouse Space

New Technologies Changing Warehouses

Next-generation supply chain technology has already been reshaping warehouse and supply chain operations, and that trend will only continue in 2024. AI and robotics, in particular, are poised to transform inventory optimization and order fulfillment strategies. 

At the broader scale of the whole supply chain, companies will increasingly leverage AI to mitigate supply chain disruptions. According to Gartner, half of supply chain organizations plan to invest in AI and advanced analytics by the end of 2024. Managers can deploy this technology to quickly find new suppliers or conduct a deep dive into data to find a supply solution from an existing vendor. Large companies like Walmart are even using it to automate price negotiations.

On the warehouse side, AI and robotics work in tandem to expedite inventory optimization, order picking, and shipping and delivery. Generative AI unlocks new potential for data analytics, which can inform fulfillment strategies on a granular level, while robotics can work alongside employees to streamline processes. Both technologies have the potential to increase speed and accuracy while also overcoming gaps from labor shortages.

We don’t anticipate that these technologies will replace manual warehousing and fulfillment solutions. Rather, they’ll work in tandem with static and dynamic storage solutions to take process optimization to the next level.

Digital Supply Chains Become the Norm

Digital transformation is a buzzword in nearly every industry. That’s certainly true in supply chains, where data integration through digital processes has become key to transforming operations. 

These two sides of the same coin — digitization and data — deliver a one-two punch at the top of the Association for Supply Chain Management’s list of supply chain trends for 2024. Digital tools allow for deeper and faster data analytics, expanding visibility into every nook and cranny of the supply chain. They work in conjunction with AI and other technology to improve coordination across the supply chain and further dial in inventory levels and fulfillment processes. 

In manufacturing or general warehousing and fulfillment, there’s no aspect that access to big data can’t improve — whether an organization needs to delve into freight pricing, improve port planning, or enhance demand prediction capabilities. A full 60% of manufacturers already rely on digital supply chain analytics, and another 31% are in the process of implementing them for 2024.


The Omnichannel Fulfillment Transformation

Omnichannel fulfillment has introduced an unprecedented level of complexity to retail in recent years. Customers can engage brands in more ways than ever, putting customer service in the spotlight. Success in this arena depends not only on polished websites and social media strategies but also on streamlined, efficient order management, regardless of where those orders come from.

This should be a major focus area for retailers in 2024. According to a survey by Retail Dive, only 25% of retailers are fully satisfied with the state of their omnichannel fulfillment — that leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Supply chain and warehouse managers can get a jump-start on those improvements by ensuring they have a centralized system for inventory and order management. Inventory visibility is crucial, as is the ability to coordinate logistics across various order channels. 

While the technology we’ve already explored will prove integral to these enhancements, warehouse managers must not overlook the benefits of improving existing warehouse layouts and hands-on fulfillment processes. Dynamic warehouse storage solutions, which increase inventory visibility and improve picking efficiency, can set up warehouses for omnichannel success.

Labor Shortages Drive a Focus on Efficiency

Warehouse labor shortages were a major issue in 2023, and that warehouse trend is likely to continue in 2024. Almost 75% of manufacturers see attracting and retaining qualified labor as their top challenge going into the year, and labor shortages continue to face retail and warehousing operations. It remains to be seen what effect ongoing labor unrest and potential strikes may have in 2024, but supply chain executives must be prepared for more challenges.

Aside from positioning themselves to better attract and retain talent, warehouses must find ways to boost operational efficiency and do more with less. Organizations that put lean principles first — improving space utilization, implementing better workflows, and continually improving fulfillment processes — can more effectively counteract the labor shortage and improve conditions for their existing staff.

Dynamic storage solutions are essential for implementing these principles. By installing more adaptable shelving, teams can not only increase storage density but put more products within reach for order pickers. Dynamic solutions help minimize unnecessary movement to make employees faster and more efficient.

SpeedCell Dynamic High-Density Shelving

SpeedCell is a dynamic high-density shelving solution that maximizes space utilization within standard pallet racking, helping warehouse and backroom operations improve pick speed and accuracy for valuable time and cost savings.

SpanTrack Lane Carton Flow Rollers

Efficient, durable, and dependable, SpanTrack Lane carton flow rollers drop into existing structures to create the ultimate carton flow rack system for manufacturing facilities and order picking operations.

SpanTrack Carton Flow Beds

SpanTrack wheel beds are flexible carton flow beds that drop into existing structures to create the ultimate flow rack system for order picking operations, manufacturing facilities, and more.

Roller Rack Gravity Flow Racks

Our pre-engineered gravity flow racks provide seamless carton flow to maximize efficiency in order fulfillment, manufacturing, and retail operations.

Pallet Track

Durable pallet track rollers or wheel rails create a dynamic pallet flow system for fast movers. Our high-quality pallet tracks optimize flow, increase efficiency and storage density, and can be customized to fit an operation’s unique needs.


UNEX Storage Solutions for Future Warehouse Needs

If you’re a warehouse manager in 2024, you’ve got your hands full trying to keep up with the pace of change. Exploring new technologies, digitizing your operations, and adapting to an omnichannel world are challenging enough on their own. Thankfully, enhancing your fulfillment operation doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming.

UNEX offers a range of dynamic storage solutions you can adapt to your warehouse layout and operations. Solutions such as carton flow, dynamic industrial shelving, and pallet flow offer a host of benefits for addressing these warehouse trends in 2024:

    • Space savings: UNEX solutions like SpanTrack, SpeedCell, and Pallet Track help you make the most of every inch of floor and shelf space by allowing you to store more inventory behind the pick face on gravity rollers and wheel beds. As workers pick, products move forward, simplifying fulfillment within a smaller footprint. In the omnichannel era, maximizing storage space to keep inventory close at hand and accessible is essential for fast and efficient fulfillment. It also helps you avoid expanding your warehouse footprint prematurely so you can invest your resources in next-generation technology. 
    • Greater inventory control: By consolidating more SKUs into a smaller area, you gain better inventory visibility and more control over products that come and go.
  • Reduce labor costs: High-density storage solutions like SpeedCell give pickers access to more inventory in one place, reducing the need for more employees to move around the warehouse floor. 
  • Storage and fulfillment flexibility: All UNEX solutions can be tailored to fit your business as it grows and changes, giving you the freedom to expand and adapt to new supply chain trends.

These are just a few of the benefits UNEX solutions offer to help you optimize your inventory and position your business for success in an evolving supply chain landscape.

Looking Ahead: Adapting Warehouses for Future Success

Supply chain challenges aren’t going anywhere in 2024 — but neither are the solutions to these problems. New technologies offer exciting possibilities, and tried-and-true warehouse storage solutions and fulfillment strategies hold up to these new challenges. 

As you consider how you’ll handle AI or adapt to the expanding digital, omnichannel supply chain, consider how dynamic storage solutions can help improve warehouse inventory storage and order fulfillment processes. Alongside today’s digital tools, dynamic storage can unlock new levels of efficiency and productivity. Contact us to learn more about customizable UNEX solutions for your warehouse.

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