The current changes occurring in supply chains around the world aren't leading to a neat concluding stage - at least not yet. The final form of these digital-first logistics operations will take years to emerge as increasing amounts of data lead to greater automation. Rather than simply becoming more efficient or faster, the processes behind the way materials are sourced and shipments are routed will shift within a few years.
Leading organizations are grappling with this data-driven future already, thinking of next steps and preparing to compete under new rules. While it's difficult to effectively and accurately prepare for a paradigm shift, this is the kind of planning businesses will have to engage in if they want to be ready for what's to come.
True transformation on the horizon
The Harvard Business Review didn't hold back in its recent assessment of supply chain management's future prospects, declaring that the discipline is about to "die." That doesn't mean companies won't have to manage the flows of goods between their various locations and partner organizations, simply that the digital nature of modern operations will ensure employees are handling different tasks under the new system than they presently occupy.
The shifting landscape will call for new professional roles. According to HBR, organizations will struggle with preparing workers for jobs that don't currently exist. There is no exact blueprint for what these professionals will have to accomplish over the next few years, as they work with operational technology to keep the automation-heavy supply chain moving at speeds current systems are incapable of reaching.
The exact skills needed for this next generation of logistics overseers will be diverse and focused on the new tool sets becoming available. HBR the road to full transformation will come with its own specialized worker roles. Near-term transformation will involve data analysis, forecasting and data validation. Due to the evolving nature of these team members' duties, supervisors will also need to update their skill sets and expectations, as their workers are presently performing a number of repetitive tasks that may be completely automated soon.
Speaking with CIO Review, Ryder System Chief Information Officer Rajeev Ravindran described the systems that are defining the current manufacturing and supply chain sectors. Those include cloud computing and the internet of things, solutions that ensure data is easily accessible from a wide variety of geographic locations. The IoT may be an underrated player in the digitization of the supply chain, capturing the data needed for more comprehensive transformation.
Ravindran specified that employees will need expertise with IoT implementation and management in the years ahead. While those competencies may not have been popular in the past, they appear to have a bright future. Leaders who attempt to digitize their operations with tech-savvy employees may be disappointed by the results of their projects.
The journey from today's supply chain practices to future experiences promises to be swift and transformational. Every step along the way will call for unique skill sets distinct from the most common configurations seen today. This means embracing new tech may be contingent on developing novel employee competencies.