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Learning Supply chain management

Workforce: Future of Supply Chain

3 min read

As we witness accelerated levels of investment for technology and new capabilities to rapidly improve the performance of the supply chain – have organisations carefully considered how these new capabilities will impact their workforce?

The most important cog in the wheel of any transformation is undoubtedly ‘the people’. As today’s supply chains transform toward a more digitally enabled format – with factories and warehouses becoming populated by robots, drones and the use of autonomous vehicles, sensors controlling maintenance, inventory, heating, lighting and physical security, artificial intelligence, machine learning and cognitive algorithms used to carry out supply chain and demand planning – the workforce is sometimes the forgotten element, as all eyes are drawn towards the shiny new (digital) toys.

Significant time is expended in identifying and understanding how to best apply these new capabilities. Then, more time to plan on how best to implement, before ultimately committing to embed the capability within existing operations. So much time spent on assessing the operational impact of new capabilities, yet it is the people, the one critical element within the supply chain, which organisations repeatedly overlook during this process.

Some organisations are yet to invest in robotics, AI, IoT devices or warehouse automation capability. Late (or no) adoption shouldn’t mean that the workforce is left unprepared, as many customers, suppliers and trading partners will have embraced these new capabilities. To maintain high-quality interactions with your trading partners, the workforce still needs to be ready and skilled up to prepare for new ways of working.

Organisations that invest in future capabilities are expecting to realise benefits by accessing an exponential increase in the volume of available data. Big data availability is already putting pressure on market-leading organisations to recruit specialist analysts capable of turning that data into insights. Equally, there is pressure to identify future talent who can specialise in the use of AI, blockchain, robotics, warehouse automation and cyber tools.

Successful organisations aren’t just trying to snap up hot digital talent and then calling the problem solved. They’re developing strategies and programs that continuously enhance their workforces, allowing them to adapt in an ever-changing landscape – a modern digital working environment where employees are less burdened with repetitive tasks. They are focused on rapid workforce reskilling and hiring as a critical success factor.

The pace and diversity of digitisation and capability investment throughout the supply chain has already made some roles obsolete and created a growing demand for supply chain professionals with digital and analytics skills.  New roles are expected to be created at the cross roads between technology and supply chain expertise, like scenario analysts, customer journey architects and robotics engineers to name a few. These roles will require the future workforce to speak the language of the business while also engaging with sophisticated technology solutions.

It’s no surprise that every other part of the business is also going digital, so the competition for the best talent is intense. To make matters worse, technology is evolving faster than traditional forms of education and training, therefore the number of those in the workforce possessing digital skills remains relatively small.

To keep pace with the speed at which supply chain models and technologies are evolving, organisations must identify the specific capabilities they need right now and in the future and focus their energies on establishing effective, sustainable talent pipelines. This combined with an understanding of the latest in supply chain technology will help to ensure their supply chain and business are future ready.

For further insights regarding the impact of new technology on the workforce, please refer to KPMG’s new series “Rise of the Humans”.


Platforms: Future of Supply Chain


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