EY: Talent not tech key to supply chain future
Increased automation and digital transformation will revolutionise supply chains in the coming years, but lack of investment from organisations in talent and employee skills could hamper progress, according to a new report by EY.
Technologies such as RPA, IoT and machine learning are becoming commonplace in supply chains around the world, yet businesses are not confident that their teams are adequately equipped to monitor and mange them.
In a recent survey conducted by the consultancy firm, ‘Reinventing the supply chain for an autonomous future’, less than half of respondents (44%) said their workforce had the right mix of skills for the latest digital innovation.
Without the trained teams in place, businesses face losing out on the cost savings, increased capacity and enhanced efficiency their digital investments could yield, says Regenia Sanders, EY Consulting US-Central Supply Chain and Operations Leader.
“Supply chains need to be fundamentally reinvented to meet the demands of today’s digital world — yet, in doing so, humans should remain at the center of your business,” she says. “A deficiency in talent also becomes a deficiency in the use of technology, no matter how much you’ve invested in the latter.”
Organisations must bring balance to their investments; money, time and effort ploughed into ambitious, tech-heavy overhauls of process and infrastructure must mirror that enthusiasm in their people.
“While it is hard to keep up with the latest tools and technologies,” Sanders admits, “it is doubly difficult to train your people in-house to be ahead of the curve.”
What are the solutions?
EY’s report suggests supply chain leaders take stock of their current workforce, assess where and how they can be trained and up-skilled, and, on the inverse, where it would be prudent to outsource.
“For instance, in demand planning, sophisticated statistical models and artificial intelligence-/machine learning-based forecasting engines can be managed and fine tuned by a centralised organisation with the right skills to drive forecast improvement,” Sandser says. "This way companies don’t need to invest in hiring and training large demand planning teams that are spread throughout the organisation and therefore siloed.”
But it is a process of small steps and continual adjustment. Organisations that promote a culture of persistent learning and team development will ultimately be the big winners. In many cases, technology can be used to train staff in virtual environments, while in-house qualifications can also drive swift training programmes and reward staff for their efforts to adapt.
“The path forward to address this shift in skill sets likely relies on a mix of recruiting, upskilling, retooling and continuous improvement of your organisation,” Sanders adds.
Grupo Espinosa: 70 years of constant evolution
Founded in 1952, Grupo Espinosa has been relentlessly supporting the publishing industry with producing more than 100 million copies every year – whether its books, magazines, catalogues or single-order custom prints. No project is big or small for Grupo Espinosa, as the facility can scale up on demand and their turnaround times are highly competitive. Grupo Espinosa works with on-demand digital press or offset press, in paperback with glued softcover binding, PUR softcover binding, stitched paperback binding, binder’s board, hardcover, saddle stitched, Spiral or Wire-O. Equipped with the experience needed for a product to leave the plant ready for distribution, Grupo Espinosa delivers anywhere inside or outside Mexico. Traditionally starting off as a black and white printing press, Grupo Espinosa has experienced transformation first hand – from colour to digital offset printing. Currently, Grupo Espinosa is also looking at making capital investments into audio books to match with the increasing demand.
So how did a seemingly local operation in Latin America become a world-renowned printing facility trusted by hundreds of clients? As Rogelio Tirado, CFO of Grupo Espinosa for the last six years says “It all comes down to our market experience and our dedication to quality”. With nearly 70 years behind them, and located in Mexico City, Grupo Espinosa has two major locations – one spanning 75,000 square metres and the other about 45,000 square metres. Both locations are controlled by a single ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system ensuring speed, consistency and quality of work. Tirado says this isn’t their only competitive advantage. He adds “Our competitive advantage is the relationship we have with customers and the trust they put in us with their intellectual property”. Speaking of trust, global publishing giant Macmillan Education exclusively partners with Grupo Espinosa for their Latin America operations, as part of Macmillan’s decentralized hub strategy. Having a facility that offered the full spectrum of service – from storing digital content to printing and distributing – was one of the major requirements for Macmillan, and Grupo Espinosa was recognized as the leading printing hub for providing this 360 infrastructure. Another factor that has led to success for Grupo Espinosa is the absolute focus on quality and time. The staff are committed to providing the best quality in the best possible time, without causing wastage of resources. Sustainability is a huge factor playing into Grupo Espinosa’s operations, and they’ve created a healthy environment with the sustainable use of paper and energy resources as well as keeping their employees – most of them associated with the organisation for over 10 years – happy. He adds, “In order to be truly successful, you need to be good to the environment, employees, suppliers, and your customers. But most importantly, you need to be sustainable, you need to have proper working conditions, pay proper salaries, proper prices for paper, source the paper from sustainable sources, pay your taxes, basically be a good global corporate citizen and that's probably one of the biggest achievements that we have.”