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Making Supply Chain Trendy

Making Supply Chain Trendy


Supply chain and logistics industry is a lot of things, but is it trendy? It is fast becoming so, and this is good news for talent recruitment. Young workers and new graduates are now more technology savvy and crave flexibility. The industry is currently in the midst of transformation, and this metamorphosis into a high-end industry will ensure that it continues to attract top (and young) talent.

So how exactly is the industry becoming trendy?

Robotics in warehouses

Automation is already well-established in many distribution centres around the world, but for most, it is limited to workflow automation managed by increasingly advanced warehouse management systems.

The situation is changing however, as more and more material handling equipment manufacturers bring warehouse robotics to market. Robotic solutions offer the ability to introduce automation into the distribution centre operations without the need for major structural alterations. Amazon’s warehouse robots are an essential part in its operations. Its Seattle operation aggressively uses robots for order fulfilment. The company operates a growing fleet of 30,000 robots.

According to a Deutsche Bank study, Amazon’s Kiva robots have saved it considerable time and space, as well as US$22m for each fulfilment centre that uses the Kiva robots so far. Robots assist in loading everything from corrugated cartons to regular parcels. Half of supply chain managers expect to benefit from increasing logistics automation within the decade. Time and cost reductions are always at the top of any operations manager’s mind. These savings are even more desirable in today’s go-go supply chain, where time to market is critical for companies that compete globally for market share.

Driving driverless trucks

Autonomous truck development has been a trend that has grown over the last couple of years, but it still looks like it will be some time before autonomous goods vehicles are used in earnest.

At first glance, the opportunities and challenges posed by self-driving trucks might seem to merely echo those associated with self-driving cars. But trucks are not just long cars. For one thing, the economic rationale for self-driving trucks might be even stronger than the one for driverless cars. Autonomous trucks can coordinate their movements to platoon closely together over long stretches of highway, cutting down on wind drag and saving on fuel.

Where do truckers fit in a driverless trucking landscape? As long as self-driving trucks require a driver to remain on board to secure the goods, driving jobs seem safe. After all, driving a truck 11 hours a day is stressful. Besides being able to nap and relax in the cab, drivers could use the time away from the wheel to catch up on trucking’s heavy paperwork, locate a backhaul load that would pay for the return trip, chat with family and friends, learn a second trade, or run a business.

The race for the last mile

It is the most cost-intensive part of the supply chain; the final delivery of goods from distribution centre to retail store or consumer’s front door. Moreover, the explosion in omnichannel retail has increased both the demand for last mile resources and in many cases, the costs of operating them.

The emphasis on logistics and fulfilment due to an increase in on-demand or same-day delivery means the operations need to incorporate a higher rate of technology adoption. For example, the usage of data analytics helps in demand forecasting of products and ensuring warehouses are well stocked with the right products.

Each day logistics and supply chain companies are generating large amounts of business data from their different operation channels. From trends in customer behaviour, distribution and supply performance to last mile delivery KPIs. Using such information and data leads to improvements in operational processes, lowered costs and better results in the customer experience. Talent that specialise on last mile data analytics will have an advantage.

The rise of the virtual logistics team

The concept of remote working and virtual teams has become pervasive across many commercial sectors, enabling companies to access talent globally rather than locally and to cut down on travel expenses and real-estate needs. The potential future of the workforce is marked by corporations streamlining their approach on almost everything, from data storage solutions to communication platforms. With new, flashy tools and shifts in workplace culture, there is an almost unlimited potential for customisation, which allows technology to cater almost exclusively to the needs of an enterprise.

While telework has not reached full acceptance in the workforce yet, it does represent a cultural shift in developed countries. Studies however challenged the stereotype that teleworkers are less productive or lazy, noting that 91 per cent of workers surveyed believe they get more work done via virtual work than they would in an office setting.

As supply chain IT continues its transition to the cloud, 2017 might be the year in which supply chain and logistics organisations begin to look closely at the benefits of remote working for administrative and support staff.

Preparing for the next big thing

Sometimes it is difficult to predict what is going to happen next week let alone 14 or 15 years down the road. Technology, digitisation and automation are dramatically changing the supply chain. The cloud and massive streams and lakes of data are making for a vastly different way of managing operations. The manufacturing firms that continue (successfully) into the future must possess the talent with the right competencies, and the strategic thinking and problem solving abilities to deal with the new and increasingly more complex supply chain.

But how confident are firms that they will have this workforce at the ready? Not very. In Deloitte’s 2015 Supply Chain survey of 400 executives, only 38 per cent of respondents say they have the competencies they need today, and that does not even consider the future. Organisations need to work collectively with colleges, universities and high schools to educate students on the benefits of working in the supply chain profession. For example, tout the fact that many of today’s supply chains use leading-edge technology to make the world’s best and most recognised products (including all those electronic devices millennials are so attached to). Traditional enterprise resource planning systems are also giving way to cloud-based supply chain planning software to drive unprecedented collaboration, cooperation and innovation.

It is one thing to transform the warehouses and supply chain operations, but it must also be followed up by great marketing to attract others to join the industry. Otherwise, the trendy industry, regardless of the depth of innovation used, will not reap the expected benefits.