It would be an understatement to say the last few years have been challenging for supply chain management professionals. Trade wars and tariffs, the COVID-19 pandemic, stuck cargo ships, and port backups have stretched many supply chains and those who run them to the max.
Intersecting these realities is an unprecedented surge in technology. As rapid as these disruptions force changes on supply chain management professionals, the velocity of digital transformation in business and advances in software technology and analytics compound those changes. Combined, they indicate that supply chain professionals should improve their skills to adjust to the new normal.
Trends in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
To better understand the upgrade in skills needed to move forward, it helps to understand current trends that will affect the future of logistics and supply chains:
- Digitization – Digitization of all industries is only a matter of “when” rather than “if.” Using technology to manage all aspects of the business will include the supply chain. This technology will improve supply chain speed, accuracy, and resiliency.
- AI – Artificial intelligence will impact supply chain from top to bottom. The supply chain will utilize AI and robotics heavily, from simple gesture-driven warehouse picking to advanced trend and predictive analysis that enables predictive and prescriptive actions.
- Better Collaboration – With greater control over the vast amount of captured data, procurement and internal processes will benefit from a high degree of transparency. The generation of high-value insights from the data analytics will help make better supplier choices and improve partnerships.
- Greater Focus on Risk – Due to the level of recent disruption, many companies have been forced to rethink their supply chain strategies. Reshoring, nearshoring, buffer stocks, and other contingency planning will be paramount to building supply chain resiliency.
- Cloud-Based Software – Flexible and cost-effective Software as a Service (SaaS) models for supply chain management offers companies a way to access AI, advanced analytics, and other tools to ramp up their digitization initiatives. These platforms are often pay-per-user and are highly customizable to meet a company’s needs.
- Greater Supply Chain Visibility – The cumulative effect of the above data-driven trends will mean greater visibility over the supply chain. This visibility helps managers make better decisions and plan strategically.
Developing Supply Chain Management Skills to Match Trends
The above trends will dictate the skills needed for supply chain management. Professionals in the industry can improve their skillsets in several key areas, including:
Traditional supply chain skills consisted of tribal knowledge, territorialism, and in-house SOPs. Supply chain professionals should develop strong project management skills to meet technical challenges and respond to disruption. This includes the ability to manage a single disruptive event as a project with a clear beginning and end. Or, it can include more significant long-term or permanent disruptions that require a project mindset and the development of new procedures.
IT and Automation Tools
It is almost impossible to run a modern, sophisticated supply chain without extensive use of technology. Today’s tools provided by IT and automation software are often intuitive, with many self-guided or informal training modes available. The more knowledgeable the end-user is, the sharper their decisions are. The requirement of this skill is compounded by the fact that companies often use several enterprise-level software systems linked to create one platform. This includes WMS, ERP, and others.
There was a time when supply chain, inventory, warehousing, logistics, and other functions were considered “overhead,” or at best, a necessary evil. But today’s data-driven enterprises leverage the data captured by their digitization efforts to allow these former overhead departments to develop strategies and processes that drive value and improve the bottom line. Supply chain professionals should position themselves with the knowledge of how data creates value and how that value can be driven to the bottom line.
While the focus on the future supply chain is technologically driven, the increased visibility, communication, collaboration, and access to data make soft skills essential. Flexibility and adaptability will be required when dealing with those experiencing the same issues from disruption and having access to the same data. The same is true of communication skills and time management. As data provides faster and real-time insights, communicating and managing time effectively will be critical due to the increased speed of an efficient supply chain.
Optimize Your New Skills With Plex DemandCaster
Plex DemandCaster believes that increasingly complex supply chains are here to stay. Agile demand and supply planning software can harness the power of data to allow accurate forecasting and complete end-to-end visibility.
With best-in-class software platforms for demand and supply planning, inventory forecasting and optimization, and more, supply chain professionals can put their new skills to work to deliver demand-driven value to the enterprise and stay ahead of disruption.
Contact us to find out how DemandCaster can deliver a solution tailored to your skills today.