There is no doubt that innovation plays a pivotal role in reshaping the skills required for success. As technology continues to advance and global markets become increasingly interconnected, the dynamics of the supply chain are undergoing a paradigm shift. We've posed a critical question to our network of experts and thought leaders: How does innovation impact the skills necessary to thrive in the world of supply chain?
Ground-breaking technologies, data analytics, and automation are quickly evolving and altering the traditional practices of supply chain planning, while also redefining the competencies demanded of professionals. From artificial intelligence optimizing decision-making processes to advanced analytics enhancing the ability to forecast demand and predict events – the landscape is ripe with transformative potential.
To shed some light on the intersection of innovation and skills development in the industry, we’ve captured some diverse perspectives from the experts. Let’s explore their insights and views on the evolving skill sets critical for navigating supply chain complexities.
“Industry 4.0, prompted and enabled by digitalization, has given innovation an adjusted definition and expectation to assist an organization in keeping pace in a competitive landscape. Globalization and increasingly complex Supply Chains rely on shorter innovation lead times to take advantage of the technologies of the era of Industry and Supply Chain 4.0. IoT, Automation & Robotics, Supply Chain Visibility, AI, Big data, digital twins, human augmentation, and extended realties carry an abundance of potential and hope for that edge over the competition. That edge, however, can only come to fruition if knowledge and skills on how to apply innovative technologies are available in an organization. As technology and business practices evolve, supply chain professionals must adapt and acquire new skills to remain competitive and effective.
The fulfilment of well-established traditional goals of supply chain management – availability, speed, efficiency – is no longer sufficient. Resilience, sustainability, and agility have made their way onto the list of attributes of a successful supply chain. Goals that can only be achieved with the use of innovative technologies and with the appropriate skill set to utilize IoT, data analytics, and AI.”
“In any field, innovation is synonymous with constant learning and adaptation. In supply chain, we know that the evergreen skills that will always be needed fall into two camps: firstly, functional, role-based, and business-oriented skills, and secondly, the softer, interpersonal skills needed to lead, manage, influence, and communicate with others. Now with increasing levels of automation and digital advances in areas such as analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, this changes not only the tools we use but also challenges us to think differently about the very ways in which we work.
It is incumbent on supply chain leaders to ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to learn these new skills – both technical and cognitive – that support innovation. We often think about how this may impact the older generations, but they are not alone in having to adapt to change. In this year’s boom! survey of Next Generation Supply Chain Talent, even those in the first five years of their careers – who grew up in a world surrounded by digital technology – said that ‘technological aptitude’ was a skill they found lacking when they entered the world of supply chain. On the flip side, this generation has high expectations of the benefits afforded by technological innovation, and if given the opportunity to do so, may prove to be a driving force in helping deliver those benefits to the business.”
“Post-COVID-19, retailers have been looking into new technologies that can capture trends in sales and predict demand. Macy's department store has recently implemented a forecasting system upgrade capable of reorganizing and responding to the increasing demand for work over leisure outfits. Big retailers like Walmart are rolling out machines in their e-commerce distribution to make custom boxes to fit the shipped items. McDonald's recently opened an automated restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, that uses technology to minimize human interaction when ordering and picking up food. These Innovations are reshaping the supply chain management landscape, making it crucial for professionals in this field to adapt and require new skills. The acceleration of investments in digital technology has increased the need for in-house digital supply chain talent. This includes skills in data analytics, computer programming, and advanced robotics.
Moreover, companies need well-rounded professionals with all the fundamental skills to manage supply chains from end-to-end. This is a prerequisite for the transition to digitally enabled supply chains. Professionals must translate supply chain and business requirements into digital projects and validate the proposed solutions. This requires an end-to-end understanding of supply-chain management. Finally, the new technologies have the potential to influence the trajectory of supply chain management, leading to safer working environments, faster repair times, improved work error rate, better collaboration, and retention of skills and knowledge.”
“Seemingly every CEO tells their stakeholders that innovation is a priority - and given the sheer number of new products introduced each year - a savvy supply chainer would be smart to understand the processes used in new product development.
I suggest training or certification in both stage gate processes and project management. I also suggest classwork in market research, and data science as they will help in sizing and segmenting the market opportunity. And in today's AI-enabled world, some study or training on predictive analytics methods and tools would be invaluable."
“Supply chains are being driven by innovative technologies that require companies to leverage innovation to enable their growth. Without an ability to innovate, supply chains will stagnate reducing growth and increasing complexity.”
“When we come up with new ideas or innovations to improve our supply chain, it can make things easier, but it can also bring unexpected challenges. These challenges require new skills to solve. However, they can also open up opportunities for supply chain professionals to advance in their careers. To succeed, it's crucial to be willing and able to adapt and learn, as change is constant in this field.”
“Innovation drives changing skill sets. It is no longer just enough to excel at a particular skill. Innovation in supply chain means our talent needs to be multi-faceted, agile, resourceful and resilient. In essence, as the world moves around us, we must be able to move with it.”
“I can only confirm that innovation has always impacted the required supply chain skills. The difference now is the rate of change related to innovation cycles, which requires supply chain experts and professionals to up their game on a regular basis. Hands down, no one in supply chain, who wants to deliver great work (either in industry or in consulting), can become lax and stop learning. Everyone has to be vigilant and engage in continuous skill-upgrade via proactive learning about the relevant innovations, as well as about the impact of technological innovations on the supply chain (some are direct, some result in indirect impact). I can only recommend everyone to keep their eyes and ears open and keep learning on the job!”
“The future will be defined by the Digital Supply Chain, and as such, skills needed to excel in Supply Chain in the future will be significantly different from the general skills needed in the past.
Beyond having a basic working knowledge of how Supply Chain functions work, in the future we will need to develop and hone skills in: Holistic global leadership, Applied real time end to end Supply Chain Management expertise, Technological and I/T knowledge, Control Tower management, Change leadership, Strategic Planning, Risk Management, Data Analytics, Business Process Transformation and Best Practices knowledge.”
“As supply chains evolve and become more technologically advanced, professionals in this field must adapt by acquiring new skills. Understanding and leveraging emerging technologies, such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, and automation, is crucial for enhancing efficiency and decision-making within the supply chain.
Innovation often demands a broader perspective on supply chain sustainability and risk management, necessitating expertise in sustainability practices and resilience planning. Collaboration and communication skills are also increasingly vital as supply chains become more interconnected and global.
In summary, supply chain professionals must continuously develop a versatile skill set that combines traditional logistics expertise with a keen understanding of cutting-edge technologies and a proactive approach to addressing new challenges posed by innovation to excel in this dynamic field.”
“I believe that the true superpower skill is lifelong reflecting and adapting.
The tricky thing about true innovation is that previous ways of working and thinking are shaken up. Any given skill might be very useful at the moment but rendered obsolete in the next.
If you pay attention to how jobs requirements are changing, you have the chance to adapt and embrace the new, and consequently stay ahead.”
The transformative impact of innovation on supply chain professionals underscores the imperative of embracing continuous learning. Today’s supply chain leaders must embody traits of tech-savvy, data-driven strategists. They are required to keep a keen eye on the future, proactively harness the power of advanced technologies, develop their skills, and adeptly navigate the complexities of a rapidly changing environment.
Stay tuned for more in our Expert Insights Series as we share views and opinions from thought leaders and industry peers on key topics on the ever-evolving and exciting supply chain landscape.