With U.S. labor markets tightening and the persistent need for supply chains to operate at lower costs, supply chain executives will need to address serious capability challenges.
The supply chain of the future needs to be more technology enabled and integrated, and deliver fully on expectations. But with top talent drawn to colossal tech companies, how will supply chain leaders attract the best and brightest to bridge that gap?
Empower the talent you already have. Supply chain executives are feeling the pressure to move quickly while reducing cost — amid a talent shortage. In this economic environment, it is more important than ever for companies to develop existing employees who are already invested in the company's success. Providing digital skills training for current employees allows companies to fill the talent gap that is stalling innovation.
By automating routine, repetitive tasks, companies can augment employees’ capabilities thereby freeing them to focus on more stimulating, high-value work. And there’s more than just a talent benefit to digital upskilling — our research shows investing in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) improves employee productivity, which in turn, economically uplifts companies.
Adopt a start-up mindset. Individuals with the skills necessary to develop and operate advanced analytics for supply chains are being scooped up by tech companies with nary a thought of entering the supply chain field. The competition for talent has made it difficult for supply chain organizations to attract the individuals necessary to introduce innovative measures.
Companies must draw attention to their supply chain roles by creating an attractive and stimulating environment. This will entice new talent by providing opportunities to solve big-picture challenges and find new ways of operating through more advanced tools and techniques (i.e., not running the supply chain on spreadsheets). Giving these talented minds the latitude to solve problems in a creative, technological manner is a surefire way to keep them motivated.
Build a flexible supply chain ecosystem. To do more with less, companies will need to find ways to take advantage of expanding data sources and analytics tools to better target and tune their supply chains. This means collecting and integrating internal and external data, both structured and unstructured, across the end-to-end value chain. Creating this integrated platform is a top priority for companies, according to our 2018 digital operations survey.
A fully integrated platform with visibility from suppliers through the end customers will enable the supply chain to be much faster in sensing and responding to changes. For example, a snack food company with the ability to pinpoint expected demand changes due to local sporting and weather events at daily, neighborhood-level granularity can more efficiently deploy products at the right time to meet that demand spike.
And with advanced demand sensing and machine learning technology, the planning and execution of this will happen in a more automated way.
As supply chains become more connected, adaptable and transparent, we expect companies will feel more comfortable allowing technology to make decisions, automating some basic “no-regrets” workflows.
Progressive companies will aggressively digitally upskill their workforces and bring on new diverse talent while improving technology — by embracing this change, many supply chain functions will shift to a more analytical vs. transactional focus. The resulting ecosystem will be prepared to respond quickly to customer demands, disruptive technology and economic uncertainty.
Robert DeNardo is a principal, and Mark Hermans is managing director for PwC.
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