Skip to content

The future of work – how companies can assimilate employee roles with smart technologies

The future of work – how companies can assimilate employee roles with smart technologies


It is no secret that robotics, artificial intelligence and many more digital technologies are creating new capabilities in modern supply chain. With collaborative robots, artificial intelligence, and analytics, the way supply chains function will radically change. So too will the nature of work itself.

As technological adoption increases, the workforce in these digital supply chain networks will face urgent and systemic disruptions. Workers would have to constantly adapt and learn to use new technology that are new to them and the market.

To help companies be ready for changes, Deloitte created a four-tiered model of how supply chain employees’ roles may evolve as the organization adopts increasingly smart technologies. This was originally published in an article by Supply Chain Quarterly available here

In tier 4, adopting the technology, workers would need to first learn how to use the new connected and cognitive technologies. The roles of the workers remain the same however, they are more effective as technology helps to improve their efficiency and accuracy.

According to supply chain quarterly, in 2015 the French sporting goods retailer Decathlon implemented real-time inventory tracking in over 400 stores. To accomplish this goal, the retailer used new, but relatively simple equipment: radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and scanners. An RFID reader was integrated into existing checkout scanners to conduct sales transactions and track inventory levels. Sales grew by 2.5% as visibility increased and stock shrinkage fell.

The system did not significantly change how the workers did their jobs. While they did use a new piece of equipment to scan the RFID tag, the core business process remained largely the same. This is an example of a new technology application bringing new value to the business without significantly changing the worker’s job or role.

In tier 3, adapting the organization, the way teams organise and communicate start to change as the pace of technological advancements change. In traditional supply chains, groups are organised by function such as product development, procurement, and marketing. However in a digital supply network, information moves around quickly and thus groups need more integration as they need to respond to new information quickly.

In tier 2, shaping the value-added worker, technology is now able to free human workers entirely from some tasks. This allows the human worker to do something else that can help to create more value.

Technology is now able to perform predictable, analytical tasks, such as processing invoices. This allows humans to do other tasks that require more creativity or intuition. This includes improving high-level strategy, exploring new opportunities for technological integration, or working hands-on with suppliers and other stakeholders to build relationships.

In tier 1, evolving business models, supply chain strategies would continue to evolve. With new roles and task formed in the business, new business opportunities are discovered and created as well. With the new business opportunities, workers would need to work harder and smarter which can eventually lead to an organization to overhaul their entire business model. This then creates a cycle.

While the tiers can be helpful to understanding the future of the DSN and the future of the workforce, companies also need to translate that knowledge into specific actions. Companies can determine how and which technologies support different strategic goals.