Navigating the Future: Labor, AI, and Robotics in AIDC and Supply Chain Management in 2024

Dean Reverman and John Martin


Looking ahead at what to expect and where to focus in 2024 is as simple (and as complex) as revisiting some of the most significant talking points in 2023: Labor, AI, and Robotics. These topics have plenty to discuss individually but inevitably weave together into a broader story about the future of AIDC and the supply chain.

Labor is the main issue today and will be for the next few years. The ripple effect from COVID is still being felt, along with more empowered workers and competition. No industry is immune, but we view this as an opportunity for our channel, which delivers efficiency and technology-powered solutions that seek to augment workers, automate redundant tasks, and help businesses do more with less while addressing employee burnout and creating engaged workplaces.

AI is everywhere in conversations and planning, but execution has yet to be fully realized. The foundations are there, and we’re seeing a rapid influx of startups and existing infrastructure investments to prepare for a predictable wave of AI-based solutions. Now is the time for VARs and SIs to develop their ecosystem of partners that will enable explosive growth likely to begin in the next 2-3 years. AI will directly impact labor and dramatically improve data capture, giving businesses that embrace it a dramatic market edge. This is a clear example of a situation where you do not want to be playing catch up.

Despite what most science fiction or technophobes may tell you, robots are our friends. Labor constraints in the supply chain, in particular, can be tackled with automation that makes warehouse processes faster and each worker more productive. Robots can facilitate that, eliminating wasted time, steps, and processes and helping address a never-ending consumer demand to be faster and better than before. The channel continues to develop a play with robots. While the opportunity may only be suitable for some, VARs and SIs with the commitment and discipline to establish RaaS (Robots-as-a-Service) solutions will reap considerable benefits in the future, enabling immediate ROI for existing labor gaps in the budget.

Hardware supply chain is back to normal ranges, with a modest expected growth in demand. A bright spot? Zebra’s 2023 Warehousing Vision Study indicated that decision-makers expect the size and number of facilities to expand, and they are preparing for that by accelerating modernization timelines and funding, but deals seem to be pushed due to economic conditions and a general fear of adopting “unproven” solutions. While interest rates may decrease slightly in 2024, financing is still expensive. It is critical to look to your channel distribution partner to assist with financing options like a Hybrid SaaS model to offer flexibility for end users while addressing both CapEx and OpEx needs. Meanwhile, utilizing the channel to build a partner-assisted ecosystem will give you the foundation to provide solutions that are indeed reliable and replicable (but still customizable to a customer’s specific needs) and deliver on the next generation of innovation.