Given that transportation operations were cited in the study as the area suffering the most from resource constraints, it’s no surprise that delivery route optimization was the technology most deployed (54% partially/fully deployed) to improve the productivity of labor workers. For companies that view their supply chain and logistics operations as a competitive weapon, 63% had partially/fully deployed route optimization versus just 28% for those where it’s viewed as a necessary evil. A significant partially/fully deployed variance was also seen with driver mobile productivity solutions: 56% for competitive weapon respondents versus 35% for necessary evil ones.

Figure 1: Technologies that have/will be deployed to mitigate labor worker shortages

Source: Descartes & SAPIO Research

The automation opportunity is not only for laborers, but also for knowledge workers who spend an inordinate time preparing data and running reports rather than conducting higher-value analysis and planning. To improve the productivity of knowledge workers in supply chain and logistics operations, automated real-time shipment tracking (53%) was the technology most cited as partially/fully deployed. In the face of growing customer demand for visibility, without automation, shipment tracking is prohibitively manual (e.g., calls, emails) and resource-intensive. Back-office automation and advanced analytics were tied at 47% for partially/fully deployed. AI—which leads all other options in market hype—was the lowest partially/fully deployed response (32%).

Workforce shortages have caused over 50% of respondents to make significant changes to their hiring strategies for laborers and knowledge workers. Working time flexibility (35%) was the tactic most cited as used significantly to attract workers, closely followed by adopt latest technology (34%). Both approaches play favorably to millennial and Gen Z demographics. Higher pay was third (31%) for significantly used, and the lowest not used at all (15%). Competitive weapon respondents were even more focused on working time flexibility (39%) and adopt the latest technology (42%) while necessary evil ones were less focused on both, with working time flexibility at 26% and adopt latest technology at 28%.

Following the younger worker theme, investing in workforce skills is also very important to retaining workers in this demographic. On-the-job training and education compensation (35%) was the top significantly used tactic followed closely by higher pay (34%). Interestingly, almost half (49%) of necessary evil respondents did not offer higher pay to retain workers compared to competitive weapon respondents (23%). Work time flexibility was much more likely to be significantly used by competitive weapon respondents (31%) than necessary evil ones (16%).

The study confirms that most supply chain and logistics organizations have made changes to their operational, technology, recruitment and retention strategies to address workforce challenges. Going forward, the winners in the talent war will recognize that they must continue to invest and evolve to combat workforce challenges. What changes is your organization making to address the issue? Let me know.

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