What Logistics issues will have the biggest impact on you in 2023?

This year in Logistics could turn out to be a tale of two cities, “What you know” versus “What you don’t know”. There’s a lot of uncertainty about the economy and what’s happening on the world’s stage.

We do know that the Logistics Industry has had to evolve over the last couple years and 2023 will be no different as we move into an uncertain economy and the threat of recession. Your (logistics) focus should be on developing resilience, and reliability in your supply chain. COVID-19 was the test and it forced us all to adopt new business models and outlooks.

Here are some things that can impact your individual supply chain.

Merger and acquisition activity- Logistics companies grew fast and furiously during the Pandemic. This rapid growth gained a lot of attention from private equity firms looking to invest in fast-growing firms. Look for more of the same in 2023.

Expanded offerings- A key driver of change is how expectations of customers have evolved. This has caused Logistics companies to believe that their customers want a broader set of services. This can happen either by extending services portfolios (deep), or by expanding existing services across geographies, industries, or modes (wide). There will be continued emphasis by Logistics companies to go both “deep” and “wide” in 2023 to meet customer demands and needs.

Normal carrier supply cycles- During the pandemic, the cycles for transporting a load were unpredictable. You should expect a return to normal cycles in 2023.  With stable capacity brokers and shippers can become more selective in matching carriers to loads.

Technology as a key driver- Shippers turned to technology with logistics partners in 2022. 2023 requires more of the same. With a TMS (Transportation Management System), a company can handle their freight more effectively to meet customer’s demands for shorter delivery times. Technology makes it possible to automate processes like paying drivers faster, that used to be handled manually (on paper). This frees the labor pool to focus on more value-added projects. Logistics industries are more automated, and less manually intensive. The industry was traditionally an “old school sector” with lots of paper driven processes. Now, it has been pushed into the digital age by a mix of factors, including customer demand, labor shortages and the need to be able to do more with less.

Sustainability- Shippers are dealing with policy changes in 2023 and a growing interest related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. Retailers have made strong ESG commitments in upcoming years. Increasing environmental regulations and consumer pressures to bring down pollution and greenhouse emissions are forcing the logistics industry to reconfigure and innovate to become “green”. It can also raise costs.

Help Wanted and Needed – Companies are continually required to come up with new ways to attract, hire and retain valuable human resources. Warehouses struggle to keep positions filled and the ongoing driver shortage has the transportation sector feeling similar pain. This will continue unabated in 2023.

Resiliency- Companies will (and should) focus more on building networks that can withstand disruption. Supply Chains face disruptive events every day, these events can add up to consequences for and within the organization. Logistics and supply chains will continue to face countless and unpredictable disruptions in 2023, including the economy, weather events, and geopolitical issues. You must try and build a network that can deal effectively with disruptions.

Reliable Logistics Partners- More companies learned the value of having reliable logistics partners during the Pandemic. These relationships can go a long way to help companies navigate the ever-changing transportation environment.

Digital data and visibility- Digitization prepared companies for mining data. This will facilitate intelligent decision-making. Data analytics provides visibility to customers. This is one of the biggest challenges for shippers today. It’s difficult to know what’s going on in the chain. By digitizing supply chain process and collecting the data through the life of a load, shippers have (full) visibility on their shipment. In 2023, digitization, data, and visibility will become more prevalent, and increasingly faster and accurate.

Reshoring/nearshoring- Reshoring/Nearshoring emphasis has increased over the past couple of years. Driven by tension between the US and China, spikes in shipping costs, the pandemic’s effects on global supply chains, and concerns about sustainability companies have relocated from Asia to Mexico/US to lower transit times and reduce risk. Proximity allows goods to be transported (more often) over the road at competitive prices. This emphasis will continue driven by more “Black Swan” events.

Diesel prices- The price of US diesel fuel rose significantly (roughly 55%) in the first half of 2022. The Russia-Ukraine conflict was a chief cause. In addition, International rule IMO 2020, with Sulphur content restrictions, will take further effect and businesses moving cargo will have to find ways to adapt to this rule as it raises prices for fuel.

Capacity- 2023 probably won’t bring an increase in the supply of transportation capacity. As insurance, fuel and maintenance costs continue to rise, and demand falters, supply may shrink as smaller carriers struggle, forcing them to either merge or quit operations.

Accelerating inflation- Interest rate hikes, enacted to slow consumer spending and inflation, have started to depress the U.S. economy. Transport companies must navigate this moderation in demand. Going forward, the struggles will continue as we enter a possible recession in 2023.

Ongoing Semi-Truck Shortage  

A change in the composition of the national labor market was felt all over the world. This pressure puts semi-truck manufacturers behind the curve. The U.S. transportation industry requires roughly 200,000 new vehicles a year to maintain an adequate age of its fleet. During the height of the Pandemic, truck manufacturers missed these replacement levels, forcing trucking companies to use older vehicles. This year, manufacturers are on track to meet the transportation industry’s replacement demands. However, the current backlog of semi-truck orders is the largest ever. Carriers typically expand their fleet sizes when spot rates are high. They couldn’t do that this year.

Consumer Spending- The way people spend their money drives the transportation world. Consumer spending patterns are starting to shift. When the pandemic hit, consumer purchases of durable goods spiked. E-Commerce transactions set all-time highs. This shift required a massive response from trucking companies and their drivers. Recently, with rising inflation and no pandemic restrictions, consumer buying habits have shifted again. Now consumers are spending less money on durable products which require trucking and more on services/experiences which don’t.

Spot rates– Freight demand has outpaced the supply of trucks. This trend will probably continue into 2023 as consumers paying with credit at an accelerated rate feel the effects of inflation. It’s likely that consumer spending will slow across the board in 2023, decreasing the transportation industry’s workload and keeping spot prices low.

Managing Logistics in 2023

Based on the above topics there will be plenty of challenges to overcome in 2023. It won’t be easy, but it might present a good opportunity to make improvements and calibrate your supply chain for the future. To navigate 2023 successfully try to keep the following in mind:

  1. Keep your transportation providers fully informed
  2. Prioritize flexibility when planning your shipments
  3. Work with a diverse group of freight carriers and 3PL’s

A good supply chain partner like Riverside Logistics can really help you meet the challenges in 2023. Pleased call us at 804-474-7700 Option #4 and ask for Jim Durfee, VP Business Transformation. We’re happy to look into your network and guide you through the potential 2023 logistics turmoil.