Maximizing supply chain productivity with new technologies

Introducing new technologies in the current environment would prove challenging

Gartner, Inc. has emphasized that while new technologies hold significant potential to revolutionize the supply chain function, they cannot address historically low levels of labour productivity unless integrated into a broader strategy. During the opening keynote presentation at the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo EMEA, experts underscored the importance of engaging and productive workforces in realizing the benefits of emerging technologies.

Thomas Pocock, Senior Director, Advisory, in Gartner’s Supply Chain Practice, highlighted findings from Gartner’s Global Labour Market Survey conducted in 1Q23, which surveyed 2,613 supply chain employees. The survey revealed the challenges faced by the supply chain in terms of labour productivity:

  • Only 25 per cent of the supply chain workforce is fully engaged.
  • Turnover in the supply chain function is 33 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels.
  • Only 16 per cent of the supply chain workforce is willing to go “above and beyond” in their roles.

Pocock emphasized that introducing new technologies, such as AI or smart robots, in the current environment would encounter implementation challenges and heightened levels of mistrust and change fatigue. To overcome these hurdles, a new strategy is needed to ensure successful integration.

According to Pocock, technology is just one aspect that needs reinvention to reverse the decline in supply chain labour productivity. He recommended that Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) re-evaluate their approaches in three key areas:

  • Integrating technology and people strategies: Organizations should design the introduction of new workplace technologies with a focus on the human-technology relationship. It is crucial to provide opportunities for employees to learn and make sense of new technology while recognizing the incorporation of human input. Investments in new technology should be accompanied by equivalent investments in workforce training, skills development, and knowledge curation.
  • Individual talent management: Supply chain organizations often possess high-demand skills that are underutilized due to rigid job descriptions. CSCOs can unlock additional skills and flexibly deploy talent by breaking down projects into component tasks and seeking required skills across the entire organization and beyond.
  • Organizational design: Crisis situations and market opportunities can be leveraged to break down silos and create more efficient organizational structures. The spontaneous redesign of decision-making processes that occurred during the initial disruptions of the COVID era can be harnessed to build resiliency in the face of new challenges, such as persistent inflation or changing geopolitical considerations.

By integrating technology and people strategies, rethinking talent management, and embracing adaptable organizational designs, supply chain leaders can drive improvements in labour productivity while effectively leveraging new technologies. This comprehensive approach will enable organizations to maximize the benefits of technological advancements and create a more productive and resilient supply chain.



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