Supply Change episode 7: the competitive imperative of change

August 6, 2019 Matt Vermeulen



In a fast-changing world, how are jobs changing? Who will be impacted by new technology? And how fast will it all change? In this episode, Ron and Roy explore the impact technologies like artificial intelligence, automation, and platforms will have on the people within supply chains today. 

The rate of change is getting faster and faster. When Roy was at Raytheon in the 80s they implemented electronic data interchange, all of a sudden that technology eliminated lots of transactional activity, which freed up work for many employees. But unfortunately, there wasn’t any additional work to allow those people to find new positions. Roy says, “it opened up my eyes that whenever you put in a new technology that is going to disrupt the process flow and eliminate transactional work, you also have to have in place a training program to be able to give people the opportunity to expand their activities and skill-sets for the new workload going forward.” 

What he learned is the concept of a transitional “soft landing.” Giving affected employees advance notice, explaining how the new technology will do a significant portion of the job they're doing today, and help them see the vision of the new organization—and what the new skills they need are.

The responsibility of re-training—does it belong with the company or the individual? 

Ron argues that both individuals and the company have a role in preparing for change.   Individuals need to understand that the roles that are going to be available to them in the future are going to require a completely different skill set than they have. And in the case of the individual’s responsibility, he says that the “individual has to take the impetus to increasingly train and learn new skill-sets.”

Ron explains that companies need to realize that they have to continually train their workers to be able to get to that new level. That they need to realize that it’s easier “to keep a worker and train them than to find a new worker.” And no matter what, it’s in your best interest to take advantage of all the training available to you so that when new responsibilities show up, you're there with the right skills.

There are companies out there now taking these concepts to a new level. 

It starts with utilizing this new vast stream of data provided by new technologies. As you streamline the supply chain and eliminate stockpiles of wasted material, you can start to drive more value. Some companies are incorporating reducing their carbon footprint into their RFP in terms of driving innovative new ideas in their manufacturing process, their delivery process, their bills of material, and their indirect costs so that there's less carbon and more efficiencies.

The problems and the opportunities are immense, but through new technology that lets companies understand how data can deliver results in the supply chain, Roy sees us “being able to make a significant difference in all of our world’s problems by thinking about this as holistic supply chain change management.”

Competitive imperative: training for the future

The need for being creative and innovative goes all the way through elementary school, high school and beyond. Ron argues that we need to nurture minds that are open to new ideas. And then that will drive a supply chain filled with new ideas. 

A connected supply chain will dramatically change how we as humans work within the supply chain. The world is changing quickly and so are the skill sets required to thrive. 

Ron says “it's a competitive imperative for organizations to understand the implications that technology has” in their business and supply chain. And it's not just about making your supply chain better, it’s not just about improving for the sake of the supply chain—but improving it because it really is the bellwether for whether your organization runs well. 

Roy reminds us that everyone from the individual to the employee—the manager, the HR rep, the visionaries in the company—everyone must realize that they're going to need well-trained, skillful staff able to deliver on changing requirements. The entire organization has to see that as an imperative to make it work.

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About the Author

Matt Vermeulen

Matt Vermeulen writes about B2B commerce for Tradeshift. Whether he's writing about Accounts Payable best practices or debunking AI myths, Matt enjoys making complex topics easy to understand and fun to read.

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