Even today, with more disruptive technologies looming on the horizon, supply chains are mostly administered through systems that include dashboards and information delivered to remote tablets. What used to be a paper-based process has evolved into a more dynamic digital environment, with software specifically designed for supply chains. Now, warehouse and assembly line workers have been asked to take on a tech aptitude — to read dashboards, use predictive analytics or RPA tools, and look at data rather than rely on their experience and know-how honed over years on the job.
Overall, many respondents in our survey have confidence in the abilities of their supply chain teams, but about one in four do not consider their people to be experts at emerging technologies, a worrisome result given technology’s potential impact on supply chain efficiency. With more than half of companies planning to use drones and RPA within three years, a gap in digital skills is rapidly getting wider.
More broadly, respondents agreed that their supply chain leadership and workforce had the skills to manage an end-to-end supply chain today — but wholly 80% said their workforce needed new digital skills to maintain their competitiveness.
Digital skills are supported by an increasing need to communicate effectively, collaborate across internal and external boundaries, and connect with employees to maintain motivation, to name a few desired abilities. Without the ability to inspire and align broad networks of supply chain professionals, digital data goes only so far. While supply chain leaders cited creating a digitally enabled supply chain as their No. 1 priority, balancing interpersonal and technology skills wasn’t far behind, as the No. 3 priority.
And the challenges? The top two are budget constraints and talent. How does one build new operations and a new base of talent to power those operations — without a lot of money to spend?
To consider the options, we must first understand the interplay of the elements that make up a successful framework for the future.
Assessing what you do and how it’s done
Like most functions, the supply chain workforce is influenced by both the operating model (how you do things and how your business is set up) and the operating environment (how your workers are managed and work together). In other words: your business model and your workforce model (see figure 2).