Logistics Executives Investing in AI/ML to Address Disruptions, E-Commerce & Labor Shortages


New research from Blue Yonder has identified the most pressing priorities and investments of today’s logistics professionals post-COVID-19. The research reveals that logistics executives plan to maintain and optimize convenient fulfillment options (38%) and implement and/or enhance their warehouse management systems (WMS) and cloud infrastructure (48%). The research also reveals that 57% of logistics executives plan to invest in more sustainable upstream operations (materials sourcing, suppliers, and manufacturing) to maximize sustainability throughout the supply chain.

Conducted from March-April 2021, the Logistics Executive Survey analyzed responses from more than 150 C-suite and senior executives across manufacturing, retail, third-party logistics (3PL), transportation and warehousing, with responsibility for logistics and manufacturing operations in the U.S.


Convenient, Efficient Fulfillment is Top Priority for Enhancing Sustainability and Consumer Experiences

While logistics professionals plan to maintain and optimize popular fulfillment options, such as buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), curbside pickup, and delivery, they also plan to offer consumers flexible ordering options to boost sustainability.

  • 38%of logistics executives state that maintaining and optimizing convenient fulfillment options (curbside pickup, BOPIS, at-home delivery) is the most important factor for enhancing consumer experiences post-COVID-19

  • 59% of logistics executivesand, within that group, 71% of those in consumer manufacturing plan to offer flexible delivery windows for online orders to maximize sustainability throughout the supply chain


The pandemic pushed consumers toward more convenient fulfillment options for products and services. With disruptions impacting the supply chain over the past 12 months, consumers’ high expectations for service levels have not wavered, forcing retailers and manufacturers to maintain efficient, fast fulfillment. 2020 was about speed and availability, but 2021 will clear a place at the table for sustainability.


Logistics Technology Investment Key to Meeting Demand and Reducing Costs

To meet growing demands while reducing costs, nearly half (48%) of logistics executives plan to implement and/or enhance their warehouse management systems (WMS) and cloud infrastructure in the next 12 months. Logistics executives also plan to implement/enhance plans with the following:

  • 42%said artificial intelligence (AI) and/or machine learning (ML)

  • 42%said sales and operations planning (S&OP) and/or sales and operations execution (S&OE)

  • 41%said transportation management systems (TMS)


“As many companies were ill-prepared for the mounting pressures of delivering enhanced consumer experiences caused by pandemic-induced e-commerce surges, logistics executives are turning their energy and resources to meeting new and rising expectations,” said Fab Brasca, group vice president, Global Solutions, Blue Yonder.  “To compete in this consumer-centric world, companies will have to adopt technologies that not only provide efficiency, but real-time visibility to meet skyrocketing customer expectations.”


Companies Reinstate Sustainability Efforts Paused During the Pandemic 

The pandemic forced both companies and individuals to rethink and reposition their sustainability actions. Global shutdowns pulled back the curtain regarding the environmental impacts of manufacturing, transportation, and consumption habits. However, most companies were forced to reallocate sustainability resources to stay afloat.

  • 54% of logistics executives paused their sustainability initiatives due to the pandemic. Of those that paused:

  • 77% have either fully or partially reinstated them

  • 20%have not reinstated them at all

  • For logistics executives that plan to enhance sustainability:

  • 57% are seeking out more sustainable upstream operations (materials sourcing, suppliers and manufacturing)

  • Within that group,65% of those in discrete manufacturing (industrial and automotive) plan to seek out more sustainable upstream operations (materials sourcing, suppliers and manufacturing)

  • 50%are implementing eco-friendly packaging options



Jumping Through Hiring Hoops: Technology, Training and Lenient Hiring to Help Combat Labor Shortage

To meet fulfillment goals amidst a labor shortage, logistics executives aim to fill the workforce void with a multipronged approach focused on strategic technology investments, and more flexible hiring and scheduling:

  • 40% are being more lenient on specific job/industry experience requirements to attract and retain labor/talent in a tight labor market

  • 54% plan to invest in workforce management technologies and 51% plan to invest in enhanced workforce training procedures in the next 12 months

  • 48% plan to offer more flexible scheduling options


“The perfect storm of historically-high unemployment rates, multiple rounds of stimulus funds, and surging e-commerce orders continues to challenge logistics hiring managers like never before,” said Raj Patel, senior director, 3PL Industry Strategy, Blue Yonder. “Blue Yonder’s workforce and labor management solutions are designed to address the critical retention of skilled labor while creating higher levels of employee engagement and operational excellence in today’s competitive workforce market.”


Research Methodology 

The Logistics Executive Survey was fielded by a third-party provider from March 18 to April 7, 2021. The online survey research collected responses from more than 150 C-suite and senior executives across manufacturing, retail, 3PL, transportation, and warehousing, with responsibility for logistics and manufacturing operations in the U.S.