Supply chains rely on human connection: The evolving role of talents

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It’s undoubtedly true that technology is set to have a big impact on every part of supply-chain operations, be it planning or logistics.

With the constant focus on digital solutions, companies may inadvertently be forgetting a loophole. This is because the technology-first approach ignores an important truth: the intensely human nature of the supply chain.

COVID-19 created a major shift in the way organisations are working with supply chain planners. Working with planners was previously more transactional; such as, “Can you send me this piece of information? Or can you get me this piece of data?”. Planners during those times were unsung heroes. Either you did your job and things were on time and on budget, which is what was expected, or you got in trouble if KPIs weren’t met.

Now in our post-pandemic world, there is a lot more admiration and visibility for keeping organisations operational at a human level. And the mindset has shifted to: “Let’s try to solve this problem together and come out with the best solution for everybody!”. This means no longer having sales try to fix a customer’s problem, or having purchasing fix a purchasing problem.

The lines of communication are more open than ever to figuring out the best end-to-end solution, not just for a specific issue, but for the entire organisation.

Supply chain is now such a common newsroom topic – you can have a conversation and mention supply chain, and people will instantly have some level of understanding about what you do.

A few years ago, it was simply not the case and would lead to a lengthy discussion about what supply chains are, why they are important, and what you do in that space.

The new focus is impactful (not just urgent) work

The planners among the supply chain cycle have been trying to address these shifts by questioning and focusing on more urgent work that needs to be done. This is a huge shift for the profession.

You will find higher forms of employee satisfaction in supply chain roles today as there are more improvements when performing their daily activities, and the associated recognition for the important work they do. The “Great Resignation” may have had a huge impact that left companies struggling to find quality talent. To attract that talent, you need the right people, processes and technology in place.

The most significant value we have seen is when technology can help planners in the supply chain with time savings. Before, it was a task for planners to spend days manually entering data into their enterprise resource planning tool and various Excel spreadsheets to generate forecasts. Now they can complete the same task within hours while providing more in-depth analysis.

The key thing is to remove silos and empower team members with tools to automate tedious tasks.

COVID-19 isn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last major disruption that will upend old supply chain beliefs. But perhaps it will be the one that re-shapes it to put people at the forefront and use it to look at technology through a human lens.

Talents for the future

Advances in supply chain technologies and supply chain concepts must be matched by advances in talent management capabilities.

This includes accessing new sources of talent through the gig economy. Future supply chain professionals must drive the organisation’s strategy rather than just the supply chain strategy, and having the right people on your team is essential.

To help clients assess their talent strategy, there have been instances where personas were used to identify if the person is a technologist, orchestrator, analyst or innovator.

Rather than each persona being an individual, it’s more likely that the supply chain professionals of the future will have a mix of these personas and getting the right mix in future supply chain roles are important for companies to move at the speed of change.

The right technology helps but it doesn’t run itself – it requires people that are driven and adaptable. Supply chains are human, after all.


Greg Quirk is an Industry and Solutions Marketing – Product Marketing Manager at Kinaxis, Inc. Mr. Quirk has over 20 years of progressively senior high tech industry experience, predominantly in product management and product marketing. With an electronic systems engineering degree, he understands the technical details and combines that with a MBA and his passion for explaining the “why” behind the technology highlighting why people should care.

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