May 13, 2024

Key Takeaways from the 2024 Gartner Supply Chain Symposium

Last week, ketteQ team members (AKA: the ketteCrew) traveled to sunny Orlando, Florida to join over 3,900 of the world’s brightest supply chain thinkers for the much-anticipated Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo. The event achieved record attendance and was packed with thought-provoking presentations, roundtables and inspiring discussions.

Following three packed days at the Symposium, we convened for our event debrief, which in typical ketteQ fashion, was a bit spirited. During the call we covered the event’s highs, lows and key takeaways. While our collection of top recaps, moments and learnings was long, I did my best to boil them down to four big takeaways worth sharing which include the following:

1. Supply Chain Planning is Hot Again

Mark Balte, VP of Services, ketteQ

Mark Balte, ketteQ’s VP of Services, has been in the supply chain industry for over 30 years and he is not surprised to see this age-old concept suddenly emerge as one of the hottest topics for organizations at the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium. When I asked Mark why he was not surprised by the resurgence of the planning function he took us for a walk down supply chain history lane.

Planning, once relegated to the “bowels” of corporate offices, has undergone a remarkable transformation. Historically, it was seen as a function charged with just moving goods from point A to point B, but now it’s viewed as a strategically important function. As a result, organizations are viewing planning through a very different lens and rethinking how they plan and manage supply chains. Modern, AI and ML fueled planning systems are enabling an evolution in supply chain planning which has not been seen in decades.

The resurgence of supply chain planning is being fueled by a high-octane combination of:

  • Post-pandemic realization of just how fragile the world’s supply chain are  
  • Customer demand for seamless experiences from order to delivery
  • Resilience, agility, and adaptability becoming mandatory
  • Next generation planning solutions purpose built to fully utilize AI, ML and cloud computing

So, as supply chain planning takes center stage once again, it's clear that its resurgence isn't just a passing fad—it's a strategic imperative for businesses looking to thrive in an ever-evolving landscape. Whether you're a multinational corporation or a mom-and-pop shop, the ability to plan, optimize, and orchestrate your supply chain has never been more crucial.

2. AI is Becoming the “New Coat of Paint” for Legacy Supply Chain Planning Solutions

Chris Amet, CTO, ketteQ

The most overused terms at the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium beyond innovation, transformation and happy hour, were Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). As expected, the AI and ML conversations were the most widespread in the Vendor Expo area where most of the booth signage made AI and ML claims. It was entertaining how these conversations were reminiscent of the good old .com days.

In the context of supply chain planning systems, applying advanced technology like generative AI and ML to a legacy supply chain planning system without addressing the fundamental issues inherent with outdated proprietary architectures is a cosmetic exercise analogous to slapping a new coat of paint on the same old house. While the house might look a bit nicer, the termites, wood rot and outdated plumbing are still there.

However, AI has the potential to bring substantial benefits to supply chain planning. It can enhance forecasting accuracy, optimize inventory management, streamline logistics, and improve decision-making processes. Rather than just adding a superficial layer of technology to a legacy system, a new breed of innovative solution providers started with a clean slate and have developed modern and open technology architectures specifically designed to fully utilize the power or AI and ML. With these new solutions, AI can significantly enhance the capabilities and performance of supply chain planning solutions, helping organizations adapt to evolving demands and stay competitive.  

Organizations seeking to evolve their supply chain planning operations from deterministic planning to probabilistic planning and eventually to autonomous planning should look beyond legacy planning systems when considering solutions.  

3.  Mid-Market Companies Embracing Modern Supply Chain Planning Solutions

Rich McGhee, VP of Strategic Accounts, ketteQ

While the Symposium’s attendee list was dominated by large corporations, a surprising number of mid-market companies were at the event and shared a common goal. They are facing increasing pressure to streamline their supply chain operations, optimize inventory levels, and enhance overall efficiency. This market segment has been left behind by complex legacy planning systems making spreadsheets the go-to supply chain planning tool for this group. Many organizations are finding that these manual, spreadsheet-based processes are error-prone and are no longer sufficient to meet the demands of modern supply chains.

Enter modern supply chain planning solutions—the next generation of solutions built on open and contemporary system architectures. These next generation innovative platforms leverage AI, ML, cloud computing and predictive analytics to enable mid-market organization to the planning era of the last few decades and get on the path to autonomous planning by providing real-time insights, automate decision-making processes, and optimize end-to-end supply chain operations.

During our many conversations with attendees from mid-market companies we discovered they’re seeking modern solution to increase demand forecasting accuracy, increased supply chain visibility, improve efficiency by eliminating automating routine processes, enabling better decision making and increasing scalability and flexibility.  

Mid-market supply chain professionals also expressed interest in the modern supply chain planning system which can be implemented in months rather than years, offers rapid time to value and the lowest cost of ownership when compared to complex legacy planning systems.

4.  New Technology is Enabling a New ERA in Supply Chain Planning

Mike Landry, CEO, ketteQ

During the Symposium’s opening keynote, Gartner’s Tom Enright suggested today’s supply chain leaders are faced with a choice about what the future direction of their organizations. Remaining in the current state, he referred to as drift, with all the uncertainty and conflicting priorities makes leaders very vulnerable to the next crisis that will emerge. He shared examples of organizations that have evolved to discover far more favorable, decisive, and forward-looking state—a state where supply chain leaders are in control.  In this mode, you go beyond resilience to deliver value by creating opportunity from uncertainty to achieve the holy grail, of supply chain—antifragile chain.

Achieving antifragility embraces experimentation and learning. Rather than adhering to predefined processes, organizations continuously test new strategies, learning from both successes and failures.

Traditional deterministic planning methods are proving inadequate in effectively managing the complexities and uncertainties to achieve antifragility and they are giving way to a paradigm shift towards probabilistic, semi-autonomous, and ultimately fully autonomous supply chain planning. This transition marks the beginning of a new era in supply chain planning enabled by a new generation of planning systems. This new era in supply chain planning will be a transformative journey that promises to revolutionize the way businesses manage their supply chains and navigate the complexities of today's interconnected world.  

The shift from deterministic to probabilistic planning is driven by a fundamental recognition that supply chain operations are inherently uncertain and variable. Traditional planning models, with their reliance on fixed assumptions and static forecasts, are ill-equipped to handle the unpredictability of today's modern supply chains. By embracing probabilistic planning approaches, organizations can better quantify and manage uncertainty, laying the groundwork for more resilient and agile supply chain strategies.  

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Gary Brooks
Chief Marketing Officer
About the author

Mr. Brooks has over 25 years of experience leading global marketing organizations for industry-leading software companies. Prior to ketteQ, Mr. Brooks was Chief Marketing Officer at Syncron where he was instrumental in accelerating the company’s growth and global expansion. Mr. Brooks has also led high-performance marketing organizations at Ariba, Bomgar, Cortera, KnowledgeStorm, Sergivistics, Tradex and Urjanet.

Mr. Brooks has shared his vision for service and supply chain transformation as a public speaker and contributing writer.  His work has been featured in publications around the world such as Forbes, VentureBeat, ZDNet, Equipment World, Nikkei, Manufacturing Business Technology, Supply & Demand Chain Executive and Field Service News, among others.

Mr. Brooks holds a BS from Northeastern University and a MS, Management from Lesley University. He is co-founder of the Brooks Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization that provides assistance to those in need.