MHI has found that while the adoption of digital technologies is increasing, firms are struggling to hire skilled workers to run them and extract actionable insights out of the mountains of data that digital supply chains are generating.
That is the key message in the 2020 MHI Annual Industry Report, titled Embracing the Digital Mindset: Connecting Data, Talent and Technology in Digital Supply Chains
, researched in collaboration with Deloitte and released at the recent MODEX show.
Eight out of 10 survey respondents believe digital supply chains will be the predominant model within just five years, while 20% believe they are now. The survey results also suggest that investment in supply chain innovation continues to be strong, with 50% of respondents planning new technology investments over USD1 million over the next two years.
The report identifies the main technologies which are either disrupting or providing a competitive advantage. These are headed by robotics and automation, identified by 67% of respondents; sensors and automatic identification (59%), analytics (57%) and Artificial Intelligence (56%), while 54% identified inventory, network optimisation and Internet of Things.
When it comes to supply chain challenges, respondents continue to report that their organisation's greatest challenge is hiring and retaining qualified workers at 57%.
Close behind is the category of customer requirements for faster response times and lower costs. Digital innovation is essential to solving this customer experience challenge, but the technologies cannot be implemented without a skilled workforce to run them.
"The challenges of digitising your supply chain and bridging the talent gap go hand in hand - one can't be done without the other," says George Prest, CEO of MHI.
The report stresses that data and technology will empower supply chains in the future, but it's not a single technology-it will be a combination of a number of technologies highlighted in the survey.
Additionally, as every link of the supply chain is becoming more sensor-enabled, and the scope and scale of the resulting data is only increasing, corralling and integrating these data streams can drive quantum changes and improvements in supply chains.
The report calls this data, and the information and insights it provides, the currency of the NextGen supply chain. It also notes that many businesses don't quite know how to tap into this currency. The report asserts that to compete in the future marketplace, companies must develop greater expertise at valuing, and capitalising on, their data assets.
The report also emphasises the need for a more diverse and multi-generational workforce for future supply chains. As technology and digital innovation are increasingly becoming the centrepiece for attracting and retaining top supply chain talent, firms are now competing with e-commerce leaders and tech startups for talent.
"Workforce challenges cannot be solved without building and maintaining a culture of innovation and technology within your organisation. Talent and technology are fundamentally linked together in the success of future supply chains," says Prest. "As the pace of this technological change in supply chains escalates, so does the price of sitting on the sidelines."