Skip To The Main Content

Supply Chain’s Future

APICS CEO

Friday June 22, 2018


The title alone is enough to have many of us question our whole career path: “The Death of Supply Chain Management.” However the Harvard Business Review article is not all doom and gloom for the profession. Instead, the authors discuss the future of business and the overhaul of supply chain management, which currently is limited by legacy technologies, but soon to be transformed by digital technology.

“With a digital foundation in place, companies can capture, analyze, integrate, easily access and interpret high quality, real-time data – data that fuels process automation, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and robotics, the technologies that will soon take over supply chain management,” write Allan Lyall, Pierre Mercier and Stefan Gstettner.

They cite technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and sensor data. Of course, they also mention blockchains (because it wouldn’t be a business article in 2018 without giving that some space).

The future, Lyall, Mercier and Gstettner describe, is a “digital control tower,” which is a “virtual decision center that provides real-time, end-to-end visibility into global supply chains.” The tower could be a room, filled with data analysts and high-definition screens that deliver information on the entire supply chain. This control tower must deliver

  • real-time data
  • unquestioned accuracy
  • relentless customer focus
  • process excellence
  • analytical leadership.

So, what can supply chain professionals do to get ready for the future? The authors suggest that executives shift away from managing people executing repetitive and transactional tasks, and toward designing and managing information and material flows using a limited set of highly specialized workers. “In the near term, supply chain analysts who can analyze data, structure and validate data sets, use digital tools and algorithms, and forecast effectively will be in high demand,” they write.

For the long term, specialists are needed to design a technology-powered supply chain system with the agility to sustain shifting business strategy, requirements and priorities.  “To keep that engine running, a small number of people must be recruited or trained in new skills at the intersection of operations and technology,” Lyall, Mercier and Gstettner write. “Since the skills needed for these new roles are not readily available today, the biggest challenge for companies will be to create a supply chain vision for the future – and a strategy for filling those critical roles.”

Preparing yourself and your company

As the Harvard Business Review article illustrates, supply chain is evolving. To keep up, supply chain professionals must transform themselves from practitioners to leaders who seek greater business wisdom. Successful supply chain professionals need to demonstrate internal and external focus, which includes building a responsive supply chain that meets customer needs while contributing to the bottom line. Most importantly, supply chain professionals of the future need to adopt an enterprise-wide mindset now. They should communicate well and negotiate with teams from sales, finance, research and development, customer support, and more. Bringing these teams into alignment often falls on supply chain, and your success (or failure) garners attention from top leaders.

APICS seeks to prepare you and your business for supply chain’s future. To start, I suggest you browse APICS magazine, which can be found online at apics.org/magazine. In addition to seeing the latest issue, you can look under the “compilations” tab to find articles grouped by subjects such as innovation and global trends, talent pipeline, customer experience, and more.

Of course, APICS continues to develop talent through its industry-leading certifications. If you are considering an investment in your career, APICS certification is where you should start. Visit the APICS Education Selector to see what’s right for you. The value of APICS certifications are proven. The 2018 Supply Chain Compensation and Career Survey Report revealed that those professionals who hold just one certification reported a median salary that was 19 percent higher than those who are not certified. Moreover, those with 2 or 3 certifications reported median salaries of 39 percent higher and 50 percent higher, respectively. See how certification can impact your salary using our salary calculator, exclusively available to APICS members.

All comments will be published pending approval. Read the APICS Comment Policy.

1 comment

Leave a comment
  1. July 23, 2018, 10:17 AM
    This article is very useful in planning for the future, especially for young professionals. It seems to highlight the key skills to focus on"analyze data, structure and validate data sets, use digital tools and algorithms, and forecast effectively will be in high demand"

    Leave a comment

    1. New code