7 key issues of supply chain management in 2023

Nov 23, 2023

Managing the supply chain has never been a simple task, but there are a renewed host of obstacles and challenges to overcome for any business in the world of logistics.

From ever-changing customer expectations to the ongoing digitalisation of our marketplace, keeping your finger firmly on the pulse is key to consistent supply chain success.

To keep things running smoothly, we’ve put together seven key issues that supply chain managers need to be aware of as we head into 2024 and beyond.

Read on to find out more about the supply chain management trials ahead and what you can do to keep moving forward with confidence.

 Managing customer expectations

No matter the year or the economic situation we find ourselves in, priority number one should always be our customers.

In the last few years, we’ve seen arguably one of the most influential shifts in consumer attitudes owing to major world events such as the pandemic, environmental concerns, and international conflicts. As our audience changes, so too should we.

However, it’s not always possible to instantly provide exactly what our customers are looking for, especially in such a volatile, changeable marketplace.

As such, the first key issue for supply chain management in 2023 and beyond is managing customer expectations to minimise disappointment and increase transparency across the supply chain.

Find the midpoint between what they’re looking for and what you can realistically deliver, and lay this out on the table. Customers can handle slight delays or restrictions in availability, but not after they’re led to expect something else.

 Fluctuating/increasing prices

Going hand in hand with managing customer expectations is the ongoing fluctuation of prices across the board. No-one likes a price rise, but with such volatile economic conditions impacting worldwide trade, the prices continue to chop and change on a regular basis.

An example of this can be found in the freight rates between China and the West Coast of the United States, where last year the price rose by a staggering 240%.

So, who’s paying for this? Dependent on the specific position of your business, it becomes a decision between eating the costs yourself or raising your end-user prices to make up the difference.

Do you want to offer stable pricing for your customers at the expense of your cash flow and profits, or will you regularly alter prices to meet market conditions? Whichever option you choose, consider the impacts on your supply chain and end user as you adapt to this fluid market.

 Demand forecasting

No-one can predict the future. Analytics and market forecasting can give us a reasonably accurate idea of what’s to come, but with so many moving parts influencing consumer demand, the only certainty is uncertainty.

As the pandemic and other major world events made many supply chain managers throw out the play book when it comes to predicting demand, now is the time to innovate and explore new methods of forecasting.

As we are still in the early days of this ‘new world’ of consumer habits and demand, there is no black and white answer to lean on as of yet. However, there are ways to minimise your risk and maximise cost efficiency in the latter stages of the supply chain.

Utilising a 4PL, or Fourth Party Logistics provider, is an excellent way to improve reactivity and remain flexible during periods of uncertainty. For example, as one of the UK’s leading 4PLs, X2 offers its clientele a ‘dimmer switch’ function to allow them to increase or decrease their haulage needs at a moment’s notice.

Rather than planning months in advance and potentially wasting money on unused vehicles and delivery drivers, X2’s dimmer switch enables your company to scale their obligations up or down to meet current demand levels.

You might not be able to predict the next demand spike or crash, but with a solid 4PL in support, you’ll be ready to take it in your stride.

 Digital transformation

The world is becoming more and more digital with each passing day, that’s no secret. As the logistics industry continues to keep pace, we are seeing logistics 4.0 take a greater role in the supply chain.

At its core, logistics 4.0 is the digitalisation of the industry, aiming to take greater advantage of the opportunities provided by digital advancement. This includes smart supply chain management which involves automating processes and the collection of data, as well as the implementation of AI solutions in the warehouse and on our roads.

However, keeping pace with this digital transformation is no mean feat. If your business is not in a position to make comprehensive changes to every link in your supply chain, consider partnering with an organisation that is.

X2, as an established 4PL, is currently undergoing its own digital transformation which will see next-generation CRM and AI technology spearhead the drive towards modernity and supercharged efficiency.

By partnering with a forward-thinking 4PL, you can reap the benefits of logistics 4.0 and the ongoing digital transformation without the significant time or fiscal investment.

 Material scarcity

As supply dwindles and demand surges, the race for materials continues to heat up.

Sourcing the materials you require for the production stage of your supply chain is one of the most crucial aspects of the entire process, so it’s important to work with providers you can trust.

Thinking well ahead can also prove invaluable in this context, as you may find greater availability of materials during periods of low demand. If you are confident in your demand forecasting, securing a higher volume of materials to keep on hand for upcoming busy periods can pay dividends.

 Unforeseen delays

Unfortunately, supply chain management and delays go hand in hand. Whether it’s driven by import restrictions on European trade, adverse weather conditions, or simple human error, unforeseen delays are part and parcel of our industry.

Whilst some delays are inevitable, minimising these wherever possible is key to keeping customer satisfaction high and maximising cost efficiency. One way to reduce the risk of substantial delays is to partner with an established 4PL.

As one of the UK’s leading 4PLs, X2 maintains an extensive network of more than 1,000+ haulier partners, providing its clients with access to a robust, reliable wealth of logistics support.

Whether you need to ramp up your haulage commitments to meet a dramatic spike in demand or leverage local couriers to maximise time efficiency following an unexpected delay, you don’t need to do it all alone.

 Congestion at ports and delivery depots

The final key issue impacting supply chain management in 2023 and beyond is that of port and delivery depot congestion.

This is arguably one of the most frustrating issues for supply chain managers, as for all intents and purposes your products or materials have arrived where they need to be – they just can’t be unloaded. Backlogs of vehicles waiting to unload their cargo can be caused by poor weather conditions or traffic accidents, all of which can really throw a spanner in the works for your supply chain.

This is yet another factor to consider when building out your delivery timescales and haulage forecasts – don’t make the mistake of assuming your cargo will be front of the queue upon arrival.


Supply chains across the board have faced some serious adversity in recent years, and whilst things are starting to look more positive, it’s by no means plain sailing quite yet.

Use the information provided above to make informed plans and forecasts for the year ahead, but don’t feel you have to do it all alone. If you are interested in finding out how your business could benefit from the support of a 4PL, get in touch with us today to find out more.

Secure your supply chain and secure your company’s future.

Call: +441455 220909
Email: ask@x2uk.com