5 Ways to Elevate Your Supply Chain | FORTNA

5 Ways to Elevate Your Supply Chain in 2024

As 2024 begins, supply chains are examining opportunities for optimisation and improvement in areas like robotics, return management and data visibility.

by Darren Jorgenson

As 2024 begins, organisations are taking stock of their supply chain network, facility utilisation and capacity, and overall performance. Examining the ebb and flow of the last year, opportunities for optimisation and improvement, the potential supply chain risks, and identifying cost savings is crucial for a supply chain’s growth, efficiency and effectiveness.

This FORTNA blog examines five key opportunities to elevate your supply chain in 2024 and beyond.

Inventory optimisation

While numerous functions and tasks are performed within the four walls of a distribution centre (DC), managing inventory is consistently the area that can drive positive or negative performance. There are many options and directions that an organisation can take, both small and large, that can improve receiving, storage and order fulfillment.

Slotting software
Begin optimising your warehouse inventory with the low-cost entry point of slotting software. Slotting allows an operation to slot or store products that are ordered more frequently in easily accessible areas and locate other products often ordered together. This creates shorter pick times, less travel time for workers and increased productivity.

Warehouse management software
There are many warehouse software options, all with specific strengths and weaknesses, overlaps and operational limitations. Warehouse management systems (WMS), warehouse execution systems (WES), and warehouse control software (WCS) are the most common types of warehouse software. Integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, organisational tech stacks and connections and control of material handling systems and robotics are all considerations. Partnering with supply chain experts with a proven track record of successful software implementations can help an organisation understand its needs and select the right software for its supply chain network.

Small-footprint solutions
A growing solution for organisations that need to utilise existing warehouse space but need to increase capacity, storage and efficiency is a small-footprint solution. Using a high-density solution like AutoStore, organisations can effectively skip over a phased approach to automation and employ an industry-leading inventory management automation system.

Inventory optimisation software
Reviewing inventory across the network enables optimisation of both the assortment and level of inventory required in a facility, considering throughput and storage capacity constraints, minimising the potential for disruption and excess building-to-building transfer. This can include optimisation of the placement to maximise the use of the most productive areas of a facility.


Transparency and visibility

With environmental, social and governance (ESG) regulations and reporting inevitable, understanding an operation’s impact on the environment and its workers and how it can improve is becoming increasingly critical. This knowledge can only be gleaned through data and visibility into the supply chain, including carbon footprints, employment policies and vendor practices.

Creating a sustainability plan in 2024 that includes benchmarking, ESG projects to pursue, and communication with employees and the community can help an organisation be equipped for when ESG regulations and reporting are required.

Return management

Having an effective return management plan is essential, even if your return policy is that you don’t do returns. Processing, restocking or disposing of previously purchased products can be different functions and processes, even if you use a circular economy approach. Customers continue to demand customer-friendly return policies while still using the practice of bracketing (buying multiple sizes of the same product, keeping one, and returning the rest). Understanding how return policies affect warehouse practices and the bottom line can help an organisation develop an effective return process.

Dedicated return facility
As organisations strive to make returns a competitive advantage while making their products more sustainable, a dedicated return facility could be a solution. This facility is solely tasked with receiving previously purchased products and quality-checking the products to either be reentered into stock, sold at a discount, or broken down for parts or raw materials. While this option has a considerable upfront cost, it could solve an organisation’s return problem over the long term.

Segment and adjust customer policies
Using customer data and buying behaviour, an organisation can segment customers into groups that operate appropriately within return policies and groups that abuse the policy. With this knowledge, companies can reward and gain loyalty from the customers they want and use stricter guidelines toward abusers.

Third-party liquidators
Many organisations have decided to do away with some or all of their returns. Selling truckloads to third-party auction companies allows organisations to take these products off their books while receiving some compensation.

Embracing robotics

As labour availability and workers capable of doing physically draining and repetitive tasks for entire shifts continue to dwindle, exploring where robotics can be implemented on the warehouse floor can lead to substantial gains in productivity and cost savings. Some robotic solutions to explore are:

Mobile robots
Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and autonomous guided vehicles (AVGs) have become widely adopted for transporting products and bins throughout the warehouse and decreasing costs associated with purchasing and programming. Many of these robots can be categorised as user-friendly, and with the robot’s advanced sensing and mapping capabilities, implementation time can be significantly shortened.

Robotic arms
Also known as articulated robot arms, these arms can be used in many places in the warehouse including pick and place, palletising and depalletising, and sorting and orientation.

Collaborative robots
These robots, known as cobots, can work hand-in-hand with their human counterparts. One example is an AMR that moves from zone to zone, and the worker picks the orders and places in a tote carried by the automated vehicle.


Becoming data-driven

“Hope is not a strategy.” It is an adage that has been used when making decisions that are not backed up with data or facts. This saying is as accurate today as it was when it was first coined. Decisions based on data and insight derived from that information can point an organisation in the right direction for growth and prosperity.

Becoming data-driven can be challenging if organisational systems and distribution networks are limited in connection or have data flows that do not allow optimal visibility. Connecting these systems to deliver meaningful business intelligence in dashboards and reports can make day-to-day operations and long-term planning more manageable. Working with a data-driven supply chain partner like FORTNA can help you find, decode and learn from your organisation’s data.


As economic indicators continue to improve and with customer demand and labour scarcity still a primary challenge for most operations, FORTNA can help devise an automation plan to increase your distribution network reach, increase productivity and throughput, and provide visibility and the data needed to compete in 2024 and beyond.

About the author


Darren Jorgenson

Practice Lead, Global Strategy

Darren Jorgenson is the Global Strategy Practice Leader for FORTNA and has been in the industry for 20+ years, serving in multiple industries and consulting roles. Darren is a member of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and has been recognised as a Pro to Know by Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine.