In demand planning, sophisticated statistical models and artificial intelligence-/machine learning-based forecasting engines can be managed and fine-tuned by a centralized organization with the right skills to drive forecast improvement.
A sizable multinational corporation may devote as many as 500 people across the globe to the supply chain planning function. Training on these technologies — even as they continue to evolve and shapeshift — poses a significant hurdle for supply chain leaders. You can automate and innovate faster through a planning COE that centralizes repetitive, globally common planning capabilities, such as statistical forecasting, analytics and data management.
Planners can then increasingly rely on these more automated capabilities and shift their focus away from putting out fires to more impactful activities such as addressing exceptions from integrated planning tools, making decisions and tradeoffs to drive better business results, and negotiating with internal and external stakeholders. With automation, planners can concentrate on value-added activities, without the need for potentially costly and error prone manual processes.
Upskilling and continuous learning
When it makes sense to upskill, enterprises should focus resources on strategic core functions, leveraging tools to enable virtual on-demand training and knowledge sharing. Companies can also enable a qualifications program to build in-house mastery, with rewards aligned to core functions, therefore creating a culture of continuous learning.
With automation, planners can concentrate on value-added activities, without the need for potentially costly and unnecessary manual processes.
Just like in supply chain planning, new skills are needed for manufacturing. According to a recent CNBC article, in a tight labor market, manufacturers are working hard to keep job attrition low. Many manufacturers have invested in automating processes and making equipment smarter using analytics, predictive maintenance and robotics, but similar investment must go into preparing their workforces for the future.
Traditional learning models are proving to be outdated and should be replaced by modules that are gamified, with badges, challenges and leader boards. Interactive training modules can even involve augmented reality for complex tasks. Evolved training models can account for how to engage the workforce across generations, factoring in different learning styles.
Companies might also consider exploring the “citizen developer” movement, which enables workforces to innovate and upskill from within, essentially incentivizing them to automate their own jobs. In a traditional approach, a company would ordinarily turn to a technology company to insert its digital knowhow into operations after it learns about understanding the culture, business and tasks involved — a time-consuming process. Through the citizen developer movement, that approach is turned upside down: your people learn coding, for example, and apply that knowledge to what they understand the best: their day-to-day roles.
The “citizen developer” movement is about empowering and enabling supply chain teams with no formal coding training to drive analytics, automation and innovation. Case in point, planners in Procter & Gamble planning centers were provided learning resources and incentivized to improve and automate parts of their daily work processes. Procter & Gamble found this approach to be very motivational and engaging for their teams; not only did the consumer-packaged goods giant benefit from custom RPA and M/L applications their planners developed, but employee retention also increased. In fact, in a single year, the program staffed over 100 citizen developers and resolved over 90 business problems thorough use of automation and analytics.
Humans at the center of your supply chain
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. A deficiency in talent also becomes a deficiency in the use of technology, no matter how much you’ve invested in the latter. With a mix of internal and external learning efforts and thoughtful reorganization, you can position yourself for the future confidently with the unified strength of brains and bytes.
Dheera Anand, Senior Manager, Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP also contributed to developing this article.
Following a series of recent disruptions that strain supply chains, it is more evident than ever that supply chains need to be fundamentally reinvented to meet the demands of today’s digital world. Companies are utilizing technology to build resiliency and agility. However, to overcome hurdles and fully unleash the power of emerging technologies, companies must put humans at the center of their ongoing efforts.