People skills 'being overtaken by supply chain technology'

By Adrian Preston
The gap between deployment of supply chain tech & low ROIs shows advanced tools are outstripping people skills, warns Adrian Preston of Skills Dynamics

In today's rapidly evolving digital economy, supply chain operations worldwide are embracing digital transformation as a strategic imperative.

However, organisations recognise that as technology continues to disrupt traditional supply chain processes, one of the major challenges hindering progress is a lack of core competencies – supply planning, financials, project management, strategy and analytics – and digital savviness among their supply chain professionals. 

The paradigm shift towards digitalisation has become essential for businesses, But ensuring employees have the right skills to successfully navigate the complexities of digital transformation and embrace technology is key. 

The vast majority of companies say they are leveraging transformative tools such as AI and big data analytics to enhance their processes and drive organisational growth. Yet despite substantial investment, many of these are not seeing any improvements in speed or accuracy. 

This disparity between technology adoption and lack of observed improvements highlights that simply investing in advanced tools is not enough; individuals must possess the necessary expertise to leverage them effectively.

Success in supply chain management

Given the global interconnectedness brought about by modern technology, data is now readily available at our fingertips. 

Many use digital technologies to manage costs and fluctuations, while others rely on these tools to make informed decisions regarding sourcing support. Yet the true value lies not in the data itself but in our ability to extract meaningful insights from it.

However, reaching the pinnacle of success in supply chain management requires a marriage between experience and training to help professionals in making informed decisions that drive operational excellence and business growth.

Broadly, there are two camps: 

  • Senior professionals who possess foundational knowledge of supply chain principles, such as forecasting, inventory management and supply planning, but lack digital skills
  • Junior professionals who excel in digital know-how but lack the vertical expertise in core supply chain competencies

Lack of clarity on digital transformation

Many professionals believe team members are not using all digital technologies to their full potential because they lack clarity on when or why it should be used. Bridging this gap is paramount to achieving supply chain excellence.

For instance, when determining safety stock, it is essential to consider not only demand variations but also variations in supply. Merely relying on data and IoT capabilities can lead to inaccurate outcomes.

Therefore, a convergence of expertise is necessary. Both senior and junior professionals must undergo training to enable the transfer of skills across the field to facilitate a holistic and integrated approach to supply chain management.

The importance of possessing core competencies and digital skills cannot be overstated, as the consequences of lacking them can be disastrous for organisations.

To avoid being left behind and ultimately ceasing to exist, organisations must prioritise the acquisition of digital skills and combine them with the necessary competencies to transform data into actionable insights.

Adrian Preston is Head of Supply Chain Content at Skill Dynamics, which offers practical eLearning for procurement and supply chain teams. 


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