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2024 Market & Tech Trends

2024 Crossroads: Market & Tech Trends That are Reshaping Supply Chains

We’re not even halfway through the year and 2024 is shaping up to be one of rapid evolution and transformation for the transportation, logistics and supply chain sector. And while most of the pandemic-related disruptions have eased, challenges like the labor shortage, ongoing geopolitical tensions and evolving customer demands are all placing pressure on shippers.

Overall Market Trends

The truck freight market continued to wane during the first quarter of the year, according to CCJ Digital. Spending by shippers dipped by almost 28% from Q1 of 2023, and around 17% from the fourth quarter of last year. Shipments were also down by more than 21% year-over-year for the quarter.

There’s a bright spot on the near horizon. After a 2-year downturn, the trucking sector outlook is finally nearing an upturn as freight demand is set to grow this year in reaction to the trends of growing goods spending, a turning inventory cycle, and rising industrial production, Supply Chain Xchange reports, citing a recent ACT Research report.

Despite experiencing slow-but-steady economic growth in the first quarter, inflation remained stubbornly high. This unexpected persistence prompted the Federal Reserve to delay interest rate cuts, and they haven’t offered a clear timeline for when they might happen.

“U.S. economic growth likely slowed to a still-solid pace in the first quarter while inflation accelerated, reinforcing financial market expectations that the Federal Reserve would delay cutting interest rates until September,” Reuters reports, noting that consumers did much of the “heavy lifting” for the economy during the first quarter. “The economy has defied prophecies of doom since late-2022 following the U.S. central bank’s aggressive rate hiking campaign to snuff out inflation.” 

Early estimates suggest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at an annualized rate of 2.4% last quarter, with a range of 1.0% to 3.1%. Reuters says the economy is now expanding at a pace above what Fed officials regard as the non-inflationary growth rate of 1.8%. 

Artificial Intelligence Makes an Impact

Technology continues to play an increasingly important role in shippers’ supply chain and logistics management strategies. Information technology as a whole, with artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced tech in particular, are mission-critical in driving sustainable transformation efforts within organizations. The role of IT is paramount and a robust IT strategy forms the backbone of sustainable transformation, providing the necessary benchmarks and efficacy.  

“AI represents the frontier. Its prowess lies in harnessing the vast troves of data generated by companies daily, particularly concerning sustainability, to derive fresh insights and analyses,” says Maneet Singh, CIO at Odyssey Logistics. “Enterprises generate substantial unstructured data relevant to sustainability, often overwhelming and disorganized for manual processing.” 

The supply chain is one area that stands to benefit significantly from AI and machine learning.  Take trucking, for example. “Imagine a large language model trained on extensive data sets that can optimize routes, manage storage capacity, and adjust real-time variables based on live data,” Singh explains. “This level of optimization has the potential to unlock significant efficiencies across the supply chain, minimizing waste and maximizing productivity.” 

According to Singh, Odyssey has adopted a five-part roadmap for AI-readiness and technological resilience designed to develop proactive strategies for company-wide tech stewardship. 

Odyssey is focused on optimizing internal processes and investing in solutions that not only boost team productivity and reduce operational costs, but ultimately translate into a more responsive and efficient customer experience.

Tapping into Fresh Perspectives in Logistics

In recent years, the acceleration of artificial intelligence (AI) has sparked various predictions. While some feared it would disrupt the labor force, others saw its potential to transform business. AI is here, and it’s poised to revolutionize logistics, provided we feed it with strong data sources. 

As digital natives, Millennials and Gen Z bring a fresh perspective, tech-literacy, and innovative ideas on how to drive the industry forward using new tools. Their skills are essential for an industry like logistics, which is now rapidly embracing digitization and new technology.

“The next five years represent a unique moment of generational equilibrium when all these qualities will co-exist in the logistics workforce,” Odyssey’s Chief Officer of Human Resources Laura Sheehy writes in Food Logistics. “This is a golden opportunity that the industry should seize.”

Creating a Unified Data Narrative

Right now, Odyssey is halfway through a yearlong effort to consolidate data sources across the company to create a unified data narrative. This will help produce better predictions while also improving risk management. 

“By integrating advanced data analytics tools and AI, we’ll be able to more effectively roll out market-leading solutions for our customers, optimize our operations, and respond to global economic shifts,” Singh says.

“This focus on leveraging data to make decisions not only sharpens our competitive edge in our highly complex industry,” he continues, “but also ensures that as we grow, we can remain agile in how we serve our customers.”

What’s Ahead: AI Meets CI

The true power lies in harnessing the combined force of AI technology and the deep institutional knowledge of supply chain complexities. This synergy allows companies to build more agile and responsive supply chains that are better equipped to handle unforeseen challenges, this year and beyond.  Learn more here.


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