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2024 Predictions: The Evolution of Physical Operations in the Age of Data and AI

January 11, 2024


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It's no secret that data can deliver competitive advantage. Samsara's most recent State of Connected Operations Report found that 90% of physical operations leaders believe real-time operational data is critical to decision-making, and two-thirds have increased their technology budgets as a result. 

How can leaders ensure they're making the right investments when technology innovations are happening faster than ever? To get some ideas, we asked several leaders at Samsara and our global customers for their takes on what 2024 will bring. 

Their answers point to the incredible gains technology can drive with a greater focus on data and operational flexibility, and the positive, real world impact AI will have on employees and the communities they serve. Read on to see their predictions for the year ahead.

Data will continue to be key to innovation and give organizations the flexibility to meet emerging challenges.

Data fatigue is already a well-documented issue for many organizations, and AI will supercharge the amount of data flowing across enterprises. This is why our experts point to the need to put data—and a strategy for how to use that data most effectively—at the core of your operations. 

Stephen Franchetti Headshot

"As the AI explosion continues, an organization’s ability to stay competitive and innovate will come down to their enterprise data strategy."

—Stephen Franchetti, CIO, Samsara

"Over the past year and a half, there’s been a significant explosion of “ready for prime time” generative AI, opening opportunities for enterprises to benefit from intelligent automation. There's no denying that AI will continue to increase efficiency, accuracy, and overall business agility in 2024. 

With this, we’ll start to see an increased need for a robust foundation of reliable and well-governed enterprise data. Utilizing the power of this data is paramount for training precise machine learning models, deriving insightful analytics, and enabling intelligent decision-making. As AI technologies continue to evolve, the quality and accessibility of enterprise data could significantly impact an organization's ability to assess large datasets in real time, stay competitive, eliminate bias, and free up more time for innovation."

Philip van der Wilt Headshot

"Businesses are waking up to the fact that it’s not petrol, diesel or electricity that powers fleets—it’s data."

—Philip van der Wilt, SVP and GM EMEA, Samsara

"Those who have already invested in technology and IoT platforms to manage their fleets are already better off. Fleets that have already invested in connected data platforms are better able to identify which routes, vehicles, and tasks are best suited to the electrification of their fleets. 

They’re also using these same fuel-agnostic systems to identify other technologies that will lead to fleet decarbonization. It’s now up to the rest of the industry to play catch-up or risk being hit with a double whammy—falling behind on electrification plans while being unable to manage sprawling fuel costs."  

Data will allow organizations to respond to challenges faster and use resources more effectively.

There are almost limitless ways physical operations organizations can use data to tackle issues across their operations, but using data to address workforce safety threats is emerging to be one of the most powerful. Our expert predicts:

Kevin Thomas (Sysco) Headshot

"Data will allow leaders to act swiftly against risks and bad actors as threats evolve."

—Kevin Thomas, VP, Corporate Officer, Global Environmental, Health, Safety, Physical Security (EHSS), & Asset Protection, Sysco

"In 2023, leaders were challenged with limited staff resources, but technology helped fill the gaps—for example, video monitoring for risky driving on the road or real-time status of valuable cargo. I like to think of mitigating risk as, how do I look around the corner before the corner is looking at me? It all comes down to people, processes, and technology. 

Moving forward, data about the location of assets and workplace behaviors will become so commonplace that it will be easier to protect against current and emerging threats. We’ll also see more leaders use these insights for predictive models to uncover risk and inform where to make new investments."

Successful AI integration will mean using it ethically and making it accessible to human beings.

Even if an AI tool is plug-and-play from a technology standpoint, organizations will still need to ensure that employees understand how and why AI is being used, as well as what is being done with the data. Our experts predict:

James Payne (Roto-Rooter) Headshot

"In 2024, AI is commercialized but adoption will take a backseat if deployments aren’t safe and ethical."

—James Payne, CTO, Roto-Rooter

"What’s clear about 2024 already is AI will continue to be the most talked about technology. Everyone in leadership will wonder how to use AI to solve a problem or gain new insight. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime technology that can touch every employee’s day differently. 

In 2023, we saw the commercialization of AI pick up steam as major technology companies made it a key part of their offerings. The challenge for IT leaders now becomes, how do I give my business this powerful tool but do it in a way that’s safe and ethical? They’ll be looking for solutions that are purpose-built for enterprise and have high standards for security. If not proven, we’ll see many leaders decide some deployments simply aren’t worth the risk."

Evan Wellbourne Headshot Round

"Explainable AI will play a key role in the broader acceptance and trust of AI systems as adoption continues to increase."

—Evan Welbourne, Head of AI and Data, Samsara

"The next frontier in AI for physical operations lies in the synergy between AI, IoT,  and real-time insights across a diversity of data. In 2024, we’ll see substantial advancements in predictive maintenance, real-time monitoring, and workflow automation. We may also begin to see multimodal foundation models that combine not just text and images, but equipment diagnostics, sensor data, and other sources from the field. As leaders seek new ways to gain deeper insights into model predictions and modernize their tech stack, I expect organizations to become more interested in explainable AI (XAI). XAI sheds light on the black-box nature of AI systems by providing deeper insights into model predictions and will afford users a better understanding of how their AI systems are interacting with their data."

Seth Runser (ABF) Headshot

"Looking into 2024, we’ll continue working together to understand challenges and identify ways AI can help solve business problems and provide a better customer experience."

—Seth Runser, President, ABF Freight

"At ArcBest and within ABF Freight, we have a long history of utilizing AI that goes all the way back to the formation of our technology team in the 1960s. Today, my team works closely with our tech and innovation teams who implement our AI strategy, utilizing our rich data set to make it easier for our employees and customers to do business."

Focusing on employee and market needs will be critical to drive business outcomes.

The power of data, AI, machine learning, and other technologies is lost if organizations don't remember to consider the impact on people, including their employees and the broader communities they serve. Our experts predict:

Larry McGrane (Kelly Group) Headshot

"Improving connection will make employee engagement and retention challenges a thing of the past."

—Larry McGrane, Managing Director, Transport & Plant, The Kelly Group

"The most difficult part of the telecommunications industry is employee engagement and retention. These are challenges many leaders across industries face globally, but with post-Brexit competition for recruits at an all-time high, we’re feeling even more pressure. We must all find new ways to attract and retain quality candidates so we can service the demands of our industries.

This is why in 2024 we’ll see leaders zero in on creating better connections between employees and the business. In my position, I’ll focus on those that support mental health and safety. For example, our Elite Drivers Club will recognize drivers and their safe driving practices on the road. It’s this level of human connection that can build company pride and I believe it will make a real difference in engagement and retention. With the right technology tools and programs, we can all make the impossible, achievable."

Julia Monroy Headshot Cropped

"Mexico’s growing importance in North America’s supply chain ecosystem will lead to rapid adoption of technology as companies double down on creating localized solutions."

—Julia Monroy, Regional Sales Director Mexico, Samsara

"The Mexico transportation industry had a strong year in 2023, benefiting from trends like nearshoring and friendshoring. As the region becomes more important for North America’s supply chain ecosystem, there will be a rapid increase in demand for technology solutions that address local challenges. This year we will see technology adoption across the transportation sector rapidly increase as companies double down on creating localized solutions for companies in the region."

Learn more about trends shaping Connected Operations.

If you're interested in hearing more about challenges in physical operations and how today's leading organizations are overcoming them, check out The Lookout, our customer thought leadership series. You can read about digital transformation, modernizing driver pay, and other topics.


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