Emerging Technologies Are Shaping the Future of the Supply Chain

Technology can drive pricing, route optimization and decision-making

A women looks at an iPad while standing in a warehouse.

Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and supply chain leaders are investing in emerging tech solutions to improve business operations, optimize processes and enhance sustainability. As a result, supply chain models are undergoing a profound transformation, and logistics providers and shippers agree that several technologies are not only changing operations today but also hold significant potential for their organizations.

The 2024 Annual Third-Party Logistics Study found that nearly all respondents — 87% of shippers and 94% of 3PLs — believe emerging technology adoption is critical to their company's future growth and success. They are also aligned on their top reasons for investing in technology — improving process efficiency and productivity, reducing operational costs and improving visibility.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics bring a sophisticated, data-driven approach to the supply chain, allowing supply chain leaders to shift from historically manual processes to automate and inform core supply chain functions. Analytics are improving processes and decision-making related to inventory management, demand forecasting, network optimization, efficiency, risk mitigation and resilience.

In the Annual Third-Party Logistics Study, 74% of 3PLs said predictive analytics has the most significant potential for their organization. Andy Moses, senior vice president of sales and solutions for Penske Logistics, said the technology helps 3PLs mitigate supply chain disruptions, which is essential to their work.

“Shippers are looking for 3PLs to perform at a high level every day, particularly how they perform on out-of-the-ordinary days when there are disruptions in the supply chain or volume surges,” Moses said. “Predictive analytics that help a 3PL get out ahead of those are invaluable.”

Warehouse Automation

3PLs also value the potential of warehouse automation, robots, wearables and mobile technology. Within the warehouse, technology can help boost quality, productivity and safety and plays a valuable role in maximizing labor, which has taken on greater importance as the number of warehousing jobs in the U.S. has increased. More importantly, technology can enhance the overall labor experience, handling repetitive or dangerous tasks while increasing safety and creating more flexibility in the workplace.

Warehouse technology has become more accessible as costs have decreased. At the same time, labor costs have increased, making it easier for companies to justify the investment. Additionally, more technology suppliers offer automation solutions via a robot-as-a-service (RaaS) costing platform.

Specific warehouse technologies that are proving useful include:

  • Autonomous mobile robots that automate the movement
  • Storage and retrieval of goods in a warehouse
  • Wearables, such as headsets and smart glasses that direct employees to pick locations
  • Radio frequency scanners that can be positioned throughout the warehouse to direct employees and ensure accuracy when stocking and selecting products

Supply Chain Control Towers

3PLs and shippers taking part in the 2024 Annual Third-Party Logistics Study aligned closely on the role of supply chain control towers. Of these participants, 44% of shippers and 48% of 3PLs listed them as one of the most important emerging technologies.

Shippers often have disparate purchasing, warehousing and transportation systems. Control towers unify all systems on a single platform, providing an in-depth view of the full supply chain rather than its parts so shippers and 3PLs can collaborate more effectively.

Control towers also play a critical role in the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Having comprehensive, connected data will help ML and AI predict workflows, improve decision-making, anticipate potential disruptions and offer solutions. “AI is going to transform a lot of things in trucking, fleet maintenance and logistics,” Moses said. “The merger of man and machine is going to do great things for the business community.”

The Need for Collaboration

The 2024 Annual Third-Party Logistics Study also found that logistics providers are investing more heavily in technology than shippers and have more scale to support heavier investments in technology. However, they work closely with their customers to determine their needs and introduce the most effective solutions.

Moses said 3PLs see technology play out across multiple industry verticals and can help shippers understand the possibilities and configure technology to meet specific needs. The Annual Third-Party Logistics Study found that 83% of shippers and 79% of 3PLs said they’re already working together on tech solutions or plan to going forward.

To learn more about how technology can drive down prices, optimize entire networks and automate decision-making, contact us.


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