4 Essential Skills for the Future of Supply Chain Management

4 Essential Skills for the Future of Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management and the supply chain itself has greatly evolved over the years. It is far more than buying products from a small group of suppliers and fulfilling orders. It has grown into a discipline in its own right, involving international trade, outsourced services, more demanding customers, and increasing automation. A variety of trends, including various forms of technology, are continuing to impact the supply chain at all levels. This is why a whole new set of skills will need to be developed, and a new breed of managers will need to be brought up who can navigate these new tools and use them to their full potential. Here are 4 essential skills for the future of supply chain management.Strategic Thinking

Customers are used to getting entertainment and information instantaneously these days, and they are increasingly demanding products almost as quickly. They will not wait six weeks for delivery. They will pay more to get it today, but they don’t want to have to go to the store to get it. Speed is of the essence. This is impacting supply chain in a variety of ways. Having 24×7 warehouse fulfillment is one solution. Hiring third party warehousing services located across the country so that they can ship locally to customers no matter where they are is another. Supply chain managers have to be able to think strategically so that they can adjust their supply chain to meet customer demands.

A Thorough Understanding of New Technology

Around sixty million boomers Baby Boomers will retire by 2025. An estimated 40 million will take their place. This could cause serious knowledge loss in many organizations. It is also driving many businesses to automate, since this lets them meet demand with fewer employees.

Machine learning and robotic process automation is already helping businesses automate daily decisions, predict orders, and lower costs. Other technologies are altering the supply chain. For example, take the internet of things. You can track the product from production line to warehouse to the package’s delivery to the customer’s doorstep.

The truck carrying inventory can be tracked as it travels the highway. And it isn’t only tracking delivery time but could track everything from idle time to driver habits. This data can then be used to reprimand drivers who have unsound driving habits or bring drivers in for additional training. You can now track a product as it is being manufactured as well, allowing businesses to report delays in delivery as soon as they experience production problems or alter the production plan while a lot is still being made. Information exchanged up and down the supply chain allows businesses to respond more quickly to quality issues.

We’re only seeing the first hints of how artificial intelligence can affect processes from manufacturing to delivery. We can certainly predict much more accurate demand planning and mass customization. As a matter of fact, personalization of products is already possible in many cases due to 3D printing.

Order to cash processes and lower prices for unique items are also likely. And technologies such as virtual reality are beginning to affect the supply chain. For example, virtual reality is starting to be used to help people literally see what their product would look like. Advances in process modeling, including touring it in VR, may result in more efficient process improvements with less risk. If you don’t understand these technologies, you can’t lead organizations where they’re being implemented.

The challenge for supply chain professionals is finding enough trained, experienced people to leverage technology, though they can’t afford to ignore the value these technologies bring. Businesses cannot afford to track unimportant metrics, analyze data without knowing how to gain value from it, or waste resources by ignoring higher priorities.

Businesses are reluctant to offer training to their employees. This means businesses are competing for the few people with the advanced skills needed to effectively manage the modern supply chain. However, online learning could help remedy some of these pipeline issues. Universities like Kettering allow you to get your masters in supply chain management online for instance. A side benefit of attending classes online is that you’ll master a variety of online tools. Completing a degree like this will result in higher pay rates, eligibility for promotions, and help you do your job more effectively.

Change Management

The increasingly automated and intelligent supply chain demands much more specialized skills. These skills are lacking in the general workforce. Shifts in business models, such as shifting from supplying hardware to support the hardware, or moving from manufacturing to design, force businesses to radically realign their supply chains. This increases demand for supply chain professionals with deeper cross-functional business knowledge and soft skills as well as “digital dexterity” or an ability to adapt to technology at a rapid pace. Supply chain managers must then manage change and guide their teams through those changes.

Best Practices Knowledge

The traditional supply chain is linear. Bring in raw materials. Add labor inputs. Create products or deliver a service. Ship products to the customers and dispose of the waste. The circular economy is one where the supply chain ideally closes in on itself to eliminate waste. In the new, circular economy, the business receives old products before recycling them or reusing them in some way. Yet this must be done without putting a burden on the customer.

This is on top of the continuing efforts to make products with less waste. Knowing how to reduce defect rates and increase quality levels helps the firm meet customer expectations and reduce waste. All of this requires knowing best practices in one’s industry and knowing how to apply these lessons to your organization. Then you minimize the risk that comes with change while maximizing the return on the investment.

Supply chain management is becoming more complex and challenging, but it remains critical to the success of every organization. Master the right skills, and you’ll remain at the forefront of these changes and be in demand with employers.