The holiday season is here and it’s time for everyone’s favorite guessing game: predictions for next year. It’s an interesting one this year because there are a lot of dynamics to consider, and trying to dial in on just a few is a slight to many other topics.

Geopolitics, regional economic recessions — these are covered in a wide variety of industry publications, and I’ll yield the floor to them this year. Instead, we’re taking a look at three supply chain industry predictions many of you have your eyes on for the future.

Fun and games (and making money): gamified incentives

Competition is said to drive the very best businesses and products forward. But how about talent? What’s a little friendly competition among order pickers? That’s right — with more data available, operations teams can expand KPI visibility to their workers, and with it some creative incentives.

Consider the analytics we're all exposed to in sports. It’s easy to appreciate how performance data helps determine the most efficient workers, the fastest or the most accurate. KPIs work not just as a motivator, but as an incentive driver as well.

Think of the retail associate who can complete shelf audits faster than their peers. Get a spot bonus, or an early end-of-shift (with pay, of course), and their colleagues start aiming for the top of the leaderboard.

Gamification as a means to attract and retain top talent will become more common and help organizations throughout the whole supply chain address labor gaps.

What did you learn? Building resiliency

Experience isn’t defined as “what happens to you,” but more “what you learn from what happens to you.” And the last few years have included a boatload (technical term, here) of lessons.

This isn’t a recap of the doom and gloom we’ve all weathered. No, it’s a recognition of the silver linings that are more apparent after we’ve weathered the storms. 

From stockouts and supply chain shortages through over-replenishment, we’ve been there. Freighters stuck in tight places? Check. Empty shelves that should be full of paper products? Yes. Commodities like chicken eggs tripling in price? Ugh.

However, the experience from all of this is that each disruption in the supply chain offers us opportunities to be more resilient in the future. Organizations — from raw materials providers to retailers — are more focused on optimizing inventory, and they are building safety nets into their demand planning that will mitigate potential disruptions in the future.

One-second wins: focusing on micro-efficiencies

Saving a second on a task has ripple effects on overall productivity when you multiply that savings across a team of workers accomplishing hundreds of tasks each during a given shift. A focus on little efficiencies, replicated throughout operations, will continue.

Adding automation is a big piece of that. Operations will continue to explore the potential of autonomous mobile robots and other sweeping changes to their tech stack, and 74% of supply chain leaders are increasing their supply chain technology and innovation investments, according to a 2023 survey from MHI and Deloitte.

However, smaller initiatives will get managers the 5% productivity gains they are looking for in the near term. Saving a couple of screen taps, scripting a sequence of keystrokes: these are the kinds of optimizations that accelerate supply chain workflows. So how do you find those?

Inquire with your supply chain mobility partner about performing a process consultation. You benefit from their experiences optimizing deployments in countless other operations to fine-tune yours.

Also, remember those supply chain workers looking to top the team leaderboard? Watch them and ask them. They’ll tell you what obstacles are slowing down their game, and the ideas they have for increasing speed.