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5 Logistics Technology Trends to Watch out for in 2024

Around this time last year, we predicted that the world of logistics in 2023 would be dominated by themes of optimization and an increased interest from the c-suite. Given the way 2023 played out, we’re pretty comfortable saying that optimization was more important than ever. With cost pressures rising in multiple areas and across industries, the onus was on logistics operators to find ways to get smarter about their processes and work to reduce costs.

5 logistics trends for 2024As we kick off 2024, these cost pressures aren’t going away. Neither are the ramped up customer expectations that span from consumer deliveries to B2B delivery use cases. But how are logistics operators going to respond to these pressures in the coming year? 

Here are our predictions for the technology trends that will play important roles in logistics—last mile logistics in particular—over the coming year. 

1. Visibility Will Be More Crucial Than Ever

You can’t optimize what you can’t measure. And as optimization continues to be important, gaining the visibility to accurately measure what’s happening in your supply chain will be more crucial than ever. Distributors will need to know which stops are profitable, which customers are likely to order again, and what the cost implications of different routing and scheduling decisions will be—to say nothing of visibility into the deliveries themselves as they unfold. 

In 2024, businesses will have to dig into what visibility really means to their organizations. This will mean different things to different people, but might broadly be described as ensuring that you have the right information in the right place at the right time. The information here can include anything from live truck locations during delivery to more complete insight into your available capacity at the planning stage. 

This can be tricky to get right—it means that even having the right information isn’t always enough, e.g. if it’s so hard to find that it goes out of date while you’re hunting for it. But it’s a goal that will be worth prioritizing as businesses look at new ways to stay agile. 

last mile holiday perspective

2. Technology Will Help Level the Playing Field in Some Industries

One trend that we’ve seen playing out in the past few years involves businesses of different shapes and sizes using technology to gain a competitive advantage. Specifically, we’ve seen some of the ways in which mid-sized businesses can use smart technology deployments to compete more effectively with their enterprise-sized competition. 

It’s not too hard to imagine why this might be. First of all, smaller organizations are often a bit leaner and can make technology decisions and rollout new software deployments more quickly. More importantly, the proliferation of SaaS technology options has lowered the barrier to entry for a number of different improvements. Now that it doesn’t require a large internal IT staff and a host of on-site servers to get the most cutting edge logistics technology, mid-sized players can lean in on their digital transformations without breaking the bank. 

We expect to see this trend continue in the next year, with more and more businesses using the relative ease of deployment and use that comes with SaaS software as a way to level the playing field with their competitors. 

3. Businesses Will Put a Premium on Flexibility

The past few years have shown how much can change about market conditions over the course of just a few months. Geopolitics can have unforeseen—and often unpredictable—impacts on supply chains and logistics; extreme weather can have knock-on effects that take delivery organizations considerable time to grapple with; changing interest rates can impact activity in construction and related fields; the list goes on. 

The businesses that succeed in the face of these unpredictable disruptions are the ones that prioritize flexibility. You need to be able to adjust your routes to deal with changing customer demands, for instance. But, in food distribution, the flexibility to make frequent route updates is hardly a given—many businesses struggle to reroute more than once or twice a year because the route parameters and requirements are so complex.

By the same token, businesses with fluctuating demand levels over the course of the year (many retailers, for instance, who do most of their business during a few long weekends and in the lead-up to the winter holidays) need flexibility in how they fulfill orders. The ability to optimize the use of your own fleet vs 3PLs vs contract carriers and other fulfillment options is crucial for getting high volumes delivered on time during busy periods. 

Increasingly, technology can help empower this kind of flexibility. Gone are the days when the only routing options available to distributors were cumbersome, slow, and difficult to use. When planners have tools that they can rely on—and that can enable them to roll out the right plan in a hurry—they can more easily grapple with fluctuations.  

4. More Businesses Will Leverage What-If Scenarios

One big part of the flexibility equation is the ability to make informed choices between different logistics planning options—and often to make those choices on a tight timeline. That’s one of the reasons that we’ve seen what-if scenarios becoming more common, and we expect they’ll continue to do so in 2024 as delivery businesses continue to look for ways to get smarter, more efficient, and more flexible. 

What exactly do we mean by “what-if scenarios?” Simply put, we mean simulated logistics environments in which planners can run scenarios with proposed plans and see what the outcomes would be. To be effective, these are often powered by AI and designed to leverage as much data on previous deliveries as possible. By running these scenarios and comparing the results, planners can make more informed decisions about which options are the most cost-effective, the lowest risk, etc. 

Like we mentioned above, SaaS technology has lowered the barrier to entry for this kind of simulation. As its benefits become more and more obvious, we expect to see wider adoption in the logistics sphere. 

5. AI Will Become More Prevalent—In Unexpected Ways

If 2023 was the year of AI hype (which, given the rise of ChatGPT, DALL-E, and other AI platforms, we’d argue it absolutely was), then 2024 might be the year when we move past the hype to get down to practical applications of these technology paradigms. 

Given all of the breathless news coverage of advances in AI, logistics professionals could be forgiven for thinking that the real-life impact of AI has been slow in materializing. Again, the sheer amount of hype that surrounded this technology all year makes it fairly difficult to separate the AI fantasy from reality. And yet, AI has been slowly making an impact on logistics technology over the course of the past few years. 

In 2024, we expect that the practical applications of AI will slowly but surely make a greater and greater impact on the world of logistics. In last mile logistics, AI has already transformed areas like route optimization—albeit mostly behind the scenes. Applications like these will become more commonplace as time goes on, but we’ll also see new targeted AI-deployments that are laser-focused on helping human planners to do their jobs more effectively. 

2023 taught us a lot of things. Like most of the past few years, its biggest lesson was to expect the unexpected. We can’t predict what will happen in the next twelve months—but we can be confident that logistics operators will work hard to deal with whatever comes their way, and they’ll be on the lookout for the right tools to make that easier. 

DispatchTrack offers the most powerful end-to-end suite of tools for last mile logistics operators. Dispatchers, drivers, customers and clients can access our app on any device to schedule, track, modify and verify your deliveries.

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