A Heavy Lift:

New Survey Reveals Supply Chain Trends for 2023

The supply chain industry has had its share of challenges over the last few years, not the least of which have been unprecedented shutdowns and delays. Layered with roiling geopolitical tensions, climate risk, changes in sourcing strategies, economic instability, labor shortages and cybersecurity concerns, the industry as a whole is at an inflection point.

Ivanti Wavelink conducted a survey of employees across the supply chain profession to gauge the current state of the supply chain, including key insights from insiders as well as trends to watch. Their answers reveal the current state of the industry—and give a glimpse into the future.

Key takeaway ›

Respondents expressed various concerns, but the workforce is clearly top of mind. Attracting and retaining staff, worker efficiency and mitigating tech-related problems with staff, were the primary issues cited. Worker efficiency and/or labor shortage topped the list of biggest challenges, regardless of the role or experience of the respondent or the size of the company.

These are problems now, and survey respondents expect these challenges to linger into the future. The takeaway: It’s difficult—and critical—to get the right people in the right roles and to help them do their jobs as efficiently and effectively as possible.

We’ve all seen plenty of headlines about labor shortages and struggles with efficiency. Now we have the data to back it up. Here it is—along with some (perhaps surprising) good news.

The numbers you need to know

Concerns over labor shortages and inflation are fairly consistent—and significant. Time to train the workforce (52%) and high turnover (50%) were the most-noted workforce challenges. Additionally, 41% also cited the need for digital upskilling. It’s worth noting that all respondents – no matter their role and experience level – are concerned about labor shortages and other workforce issues, but the C-suite and VP-level are most concerned with workforce issues. Concerns about inflation and other economic issues are more prevalent among non-management-level workers.

There is promising news: respondents are becoming less concerned about supplier issues (46% versus a current rate of 54%). They’re also becoming less concerned about worker efficiency (48% versus a current rate of 55%).

That lessening concern is good news for many, and—especially in the case of worker efficiency—may be attributable to increasing adoption rates of mobile technology that enables efficient worker operations.


the biggest challenges facing right now

biggest challenges throughout 2023


What needs to happen?

Nearly one third (32%) of respondents said attracting and retaining labor is the one thing that would most improve their warehouse distribution fulfillment process. However, respondents are also concerned with technology. In second place was supply chain visibility (18%), followed by increased data analytics and “intuitive data technologies that improve productivity while reducing errors and training time,” (both 17%). 

“With the current shortage of available labor, many industries are better equipping their teams with technologies that help them optimize workflow. By embracing technology to help streamline operational efficiency, organizations can increase productivity, reduce costs, save time, and improve customer satisfaction,” said Brandon Black, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Ivanti Wavelink. “Additionally, by implementing technology and automation that uses real-time data, companies can gain end-to-end visibility that allows them to evaluate information more efficiently and be more agile in mitigating issues.”


32% say attracting and retaining labor would improve their warehouse the most


Embracing technology and automation

Around 85% of respondents plan to invest in new technology and/or build upon existing technology in the next year. More than half (53%) of respondents indicated they intend to increase automation up to 30% in the next year, and a quarter are aiming for an increase of 11-20%.

The most-used tools were hand-held mobile computers with barcode scanners (58%) and tablets (50%). Wearable computers and automated picking tools are currently less utilized but trending upwards, with respondents indicating that these tools are the top items they plan to invest in throughout the next year.

What’s preventing further acceleration of automation and technology adoption?

Budget is the biggest concern, cited by 65% of respondents. Change management came in second at 55%.

Tech that’s easy to deploy and is ultra-dependable could accelerate adoption. The survey says that reliability/uptime is the biggest consideration when evaluating new tech (69%), but other concerns are close behind: ease of deployment (67%), ease of learning (63%), and adaptability—characterized as a system that can quickly react to needed changes (63%).


What about visibility?

32% have less than 50% visibility into their mobile assetsAbout one-third (32%) of respondents say they have less than 50% visibility into their mobile asset deployment. That’s a concerning gap, because without visibility, organizations don’t have insights into how devices are being used, if they are working efficiently, or their security status, which increases vulnerability risk. 

Moreover, while the survey contained few outliers—speaking to the integrity of the results and the universality of concerns—a few elements stood out. For example, 19% of representatives from companies with more than 10,000 employees, and 15% of representatives from companies with 2,000 – 9,999 employees reported that they have zero visibility into their mobile asset deployment.

When further breaking down results by company size, labor shortage was the #1 challenge cited by all but one category: those with 2,000 – 9,999 employees. That group marked “worker efficiency” as the number one concern. 

These results strongly suggest that once a company reaches a certain size (in this case, at least 2,000 employees), worker oversight becomes more challenging.

The takeaway: every company can benefit from a visibility solution that scales to account for its growth. This is especially important for companies that are —or aspire to be—at a size when manual granular visibility is prohibitively difficult.

The bottom line

Supply chain insiders know what they’re up against and what they need for improved outcomes, such as a wider talent pool; higher visibility; better data analytics; access to reliable, deployment-friendly tech to improve efficiency; and breaking down barriers between leadership and non-managers.

Solving some of these issues may go a long way toward addressing others. With so many companies opting to invest in automation and technology, those that don’t may find it harder to innovate when they are one of the last to adopt. Plus, greater visibility and better analytics with better efficiency will reduce the burden on existing workers, potentially lowering turnover and making open jobs more enticing.

The industry is at an inflection point. The choices? Raise the bar or fold under mounting pressure. Raising the bar means embracing digital acceleration and solutions that make supply chains more efficient, resilient and secure.


The Ivanti Wavelink survey received 208 responses, all of whom work in the supply chain field. Respondents included warehouse workers, drivers, line workers, warehouse managers, analysts, customer support specialists, executive leadership team members, C-suite, and more. People identifying as male represented 69% of respondents, with people identifying as female representing 31%. Most (nearly 83%) respondents had worked in their current profession for at least 5 years, with 14% working in the profession for 15 years or more.

About Ivanti Wavelink

Ivanti Wavelink, the Supply Chain division of Ivanti, is the global leader in supply chain solutions that focus on task worker operational excellence in business-critical environments. The worlds’ top organizations use our industry-leading Mobile Enterprise Application solutions to enhance worker productivity at the edge while offering IIoT capabilities using low-code, low-risk automation, with actionable outcomes.