The Signal October 25, 2023

5 Supply Chain Predictions for 2024 – Insights from Zero100 Live 

A combination of vision and tactics from supply chain leaders and experts in AI, social media, marketing, science, and tech at Zero100 Live resulted in a wealth of fresh perspectives on how to make progress on digitization. Here are our five predictions for 2024 coming out of the event.

Strategy
Matt Davis Avatar
Matt Davis
  • 2024’s supply chain word of the year is... “yeah, even more GenAI. 
  • Supply chain will lead AI strategy for the CEO and board. 
  • Data excellence will be driven by supplier contracts and regimented tech adoption. 
  • Sourcing – powered by digital – will be at the center of the next wave of supply chain innovation. 
  • The supply chain talent shortage will be solved with internal “open sourcing,” globally.  

These are just a few of the bold predictions coming out of Zero100’s first annual Live event last week. 

We convened 120+ supply chain and operations leaders across Strategy, Planning, Sourcing, Manufacturing, and Logistics; chief supply chain and operations officers; tech and AI thought leaders; and a handful of tech and service partners for three days of big sky thinking, sharing nitty gritty "how to" details, and brainstorming networking sessions. We left with dozens of ideas on powering the digital future of supply chain and a healthy shot of motivation to move things forward. I know I certainly did. 

For months leading up to Zero100 Live, we worked in tandem with our Zero100 Board to build an agenda focused on the most underserved topics in supply chain today. My team also polled the Zero100 community on what topics were top-of-mind for 2024. The results demonstrate that there’s no shortage of global, pressing, complicated issues facing the profession today. Our census found over 45 key topics – ranging from GenAI to supplier traceability through to decarbonization technologies – all underpinned by a litany of talent-focused imperatives. Ultimately, we built the 2023 Live agenda as grounded in the Six Zero100 Levers (which we unveiled at the event). 

Graph depicting the Zero100 levers.

These Levers helped focus the conversation on the 45+ topics, differentiating between what aspects lead in functional areas and what imperatives must be tackled end-to-end, together. In addition to 15+ deep-dive sessions, keynotes from L'Oréal, Unilever, TikTok, Colgate-Palmolive, MIT, Instacart, Walmart, and Edelman dove into each Lever – all focused on the how. Discussions on AI (and digital at large) and people seamlessly wove through all six areas, allowing us to go deep on these themes with leaders like Dave Clark, Andrea Albright, Luciano Sieber, Carlos Ruiz, Dr Maria Saénz, Sarah Norman, Alex Heath, and Marcelo Wesseler, along with our own Zero100 research team.  

Collage of the keynote speakers of Zero100's Live event, held in San Diego, October 2023.

It felt like the experiment worked – combining vision and knowledge from supply chain leaders and experts in AI, social media, marketing, science, and tech resulted in new perspectives on both the strategy and the tactics to make progress on digitization. Here’s what our research team sees: 

  • 2024’s supply chain word of the year is... “yeah, even more GenAI. (Yes, yes... I’m well aware this answer doesn’t match the tin, but the response was so priceless we’re going with it.) Going into Live, we asked our Advisory Board, if 2023’s word of the year is GenAI, then what’s 2024’s word? The immediate response given at that time of, “yeah, even more GenAI,” was only further backed by the content and discussions shared at Live. From AI for resilience to LLMs, LIMs, GNNs, and every acronym in between, we went deep into the current state of play for discriminative AI and what’s now, new, and next in GenAI. Our advice? See through the hype to spot the places for experiments now. Which feeds into our second prediction… 
  • Supply chain will lead AI strategy for the CEO and board. We’ve spent the year building what we think may be one the world’s largest bank of AI use cases in supply chain. We’ve extended this analysis to include the full demand and supply chains. What’s clear is that AI adoption is more advanced – much more advanced – on the demand side. But as one leader we spoke to put it, “AI ownership is up for grabs.” We believe supply chain is ready to lead here and lead NOW. It makes sense when you think about it – supply chains touch almost all aspects of operations and with deep tech knowledge. It was said live on our stage that AI in supply chain – especially GenAI – has gone from ”is it applicable?” to ”how might supply chain lead on AI innovation for the business?” 2024 will prove to be the year we see this shift.  
  • Data excellence will be driven by supplier contracts and regimented tech adoption. “Burn the paper and pencils.” I chuckled at this advice, but it was spot on. This brazen response came in a fireside chat when I asked how to make meaningful progress on master data accuracy. The how here is to partner with an intentionally small number of those who execute business processes to drive the adoption of new systems or upgrades. Once these few experts say that the tech is capable of running a process, everyone else should be moved, en masse, to the new solution with no option to opt-out. The result for this company has been steady and steadfast data cleanliness, timeliness, and quality. One other tip – consider building data accuracy into supplier contracts as you would any other vital partner deal term. 
  • Sourcing – powered by digital – will be at the center of the next wave of supply chain innovation. One of my favorite stories from Live was shared by a global head of sourcing. She explained how consumer trends from TikTok have been shaping flavoring and formulation strategies. What are the processes at the center of unleashing these innovations at scale? Product lifecycle management, alternative materials sourcing, and collaborative innovation, to name a few. And what function leads all three of these areas? Sourcing. Curtis Scott of Cardinal Health and Priscila Mendes of Cummins went deep into the technical roadmaps in sourcing to accelerate these processes. As said so well at Live, “So much of the last decade has been focused on the last mile. The next ten years is all about the first mile.” We couldn’t agree more. 
  • The supply chain talent shortage will be solved with internal “open sourcing,” globally. Dan Cherian shared insight on how to build the right talent for digital transformation and Alexis Brown of Estée Lauder added to the perspective with specific advice on embedded culture development into digital transformation. Connected to these points, we shared Zero100 data that proves that India is ahead of every other talent market on speaking digital when it comes to supply chain talent recruiting efforts. The global digital talent shortfall is driven both by a shortage overall and by a mismatch in geographical demand and geographical supply (said in plain talk, these talented folks ain’t always in your HQ location, mkay?) Two of our speakers shared that they are currently exploring open talent markets within their four walls. For both, the most important digital initiatives are posted on an employee board with calls for the skills needed. Active employees – no matter their physical location or org chart box – can bid their services openly for a match (think: my company’s own fiverr or Upwork). We expect to see a lot more experimentation with this idea of flexible labor in supply chain over the next five years.  

We owe a depth of gratitude to all of the attendees, speakers, and sponsors who made this event a success. I would personally say that I don’t just mean success in the traditional sense of the word, exemplified by number reviews or feedback questionnaires, but also success in the form of clarity on the imperatives for 2024 and in connecting so many of those who are paving the way forward on this collective journey. We were lucky to have a group unified by and grounded in their willingness to be open about both what’s working and what hasn’t. I’m already looking forward to Live 2024.  

See you there next October!