When purchasing, planning, order fulfillment, manufacturing, and logistics are largely automated, what's left for supply chain professionals?
According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), the supply chain function may be obsolete within 5-10 years, “replaced by a smoothly running, self-regulating utility that optimally manages end-to-end work flows and requires very little human intervention.”
As we discussed in our last post, technologies like artificial intelligence, predictive intelligence, robotics, and other forms of process automation are poised to take over systems like supply chain management.
This is primarily due to their ability to easily access, capture, analyze, integrate, and interpret high-quality, real-time data, allowing companies to “digitize and automate labor-intensive, repetitive tasks and processes such as purchasing, invoicing, accounts payable, and parts of customer service.”
Although it may be troubling to think about rendering people obsolete in many of these positions, it's nonetheless becoming a reality. Businesses that act faster and smarter by planning for these changes and using the best technology available will ultimately be those left standing and successful.
Preparing for the Future
So how can those in the supply chain management world prepare for a future in which:
- Predictive analytics improves demand forecasting,
- Sensor data estimates when machines will break down,
- Blockchain revolutionizes how parties collaborate in flexible supply networks, and
- Robots improve margins in retail warehouses and fulfillment centers?
Here’s what Alann Lyall, Pierre Mercier, and Stefan Gstettner of the Harvard Business Review suggest:
The Short Term
Supply chain executives need to 1. Focus on developing a limited set of highly specialized workers to design and manage material flows and information, and 2. Get away from managing people doing mostly transactional and repetitive tasks.
The Near Term
The supply chain analysts who can use digital tools and algorithms to structure and validate data sets, analyze data, and forecast effectively will be in highest demand.
The Long Term
A technology-driven supply chain engine “that seamlessly supports the ever-changing strategy, requirements, and priorities of the business” will need to be designed by a handful of specialists. Furthermore, this engine will need to be maintained by those recruited, trained, or reskilled to operate at the intersection of technology and operations.
According to HBR:
Since the skills needed for these new roles are not readily available today, the biggest challenge for companies will be to create a supply chain vision for the future — and a strategy for filling those critical roles.
How CPQ Can Help
The gradual automation of these processes plays into the need for CPQ and other adjacent solutions to help businesses realize this impending, future state.
FPX’s CPQ application helps business leverage data to access insights, drive efficiency, enhance the customer experience, and more.
That’s because CPQ solves the problems of:
- Poor end-to-end supply chain visibility (inability to view extended value network, including overall capacity, likelihood of managing/scheduling shifts, availability of materials or products, etc.)
- Overall inefficiency in supply chain operations due to disconnected ERPs and legacy systems
It does so by bringing data into a single source to connect the end-to-end supply chain, improving visibility across all channels, providing insights, and better managing pricing, capacity, inventory, and product development to ensure delivery and revenue attainment are predictable and accurate.