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Essential Skills for the Future Supply Chain

4 minute read

As supply chains evolve to become digitally enabled and increasingly agile, the talent companies need to remain competitive is also evolving. However, not only are organizations struggling to identify the expertise they need, but many are also struggling to find that talent.

Research shows just 44% of CSCOs think they have adequate specialist talent to evolve in the future, and only 38% believe their organization’s non-IT workforce is ready to leverage new technology. Additionally, of companies engaging in digital transformation, supply chain professionals rank the people and skills deficit as the top obstacle.

For businesses to drive supply chain initiatives forward, building a workforce that embodies key data, analytics, and technology skills is crucial. Keep reading to learn more about the skills essential to create the supply chain of the future.

Technology literacy

Organizations need workers who not only understand technology but can effectively translate between technology and business to solve problems and drive operational change.

Deep learning technologies are predicted to eliminate 75 million jobs over the next several years. However, technology will also create 133 million roles for a net gain of 58 million jobs. With a substantial number of positions centered around new technology, basic digital proficiency will be expected—and required—across the supply chain.

Additionally, companies need workers who can bridge the gap between new systems and existing employees. Though organizations are increasing investments in supply chain technology and analytics software, ROI is often elusive. A survey of supply chain leaders uncovered that 80% of respondents admitted their increased technology investments didn’t deliver the desired results.

Read: Challenges Facing Supply Chain Analytics Success

The problem is twofold: Companies need talent who fully understand new technology and they need people who have the skills to implement it. Effective implementation involves a mix of digital proficiency and change management expertise, which can be difficult to come by.

Organizations that lack the right talent often turn to outside resources to fill the gaps. For example, a global snack food company was dealing with muddled finance and supply chain visibility. We tapped into our team’s expertise to create a suite of dashboards that provided vital analytics for stakeholders to visualize business performance. Our consultant’s specialized analytic and digital skills enabled the company to drive organizational improvements and quick decision making.

Read Case Study: Visibility for Supply Chain Finance

Person looking at dashboard on tablet

Data expertise

Supply chain organizations are also in desperate need of employees with data-related skills.

Supply chains generate massive amounts of data but it’s often a mess. Most companies struggle greatly with understanding and managing data, which leads to a reliance on antiquated processes and prevents progress.

Organizations need people who can mine, clean, and present data and utilize it to drive strategy. Tapping into supply chain data enables companies to:

  • Improve customer experience
  • Ensure availability of raw materials and products
  • Anticipate and respond to market trends
  • Reshape operations to achieve higher margins
  • Gain a full view of business operations
  • Break down corporate silos

However, even though data expertise is vital for supply chain organizations, there’s not enough available talent: 73% of U.S. and Canadian decision makers believe the data and analytics industry is facing a talent shortage.  Thankfully, more workers than ever are interested in growing their data-related skills. A recent LinkedIn Workforce Insights survey found data analysis topped the list of digital skills U.S. workers want to learn this year.

Read: Data Management and the Supply Chain

For an international leader in premium spirits, improving their data was a game changer. The company was facing challenges with inconsistent data while onboarding a client with online capabilities and expanding online distribution. Catena Solutions deployed a team of consultants with expertise in data governance, master data management, data flow, and data architecture to identify and fix process gaps and structure the company’s data. This enabled the company to successfully onboard their customer and eliminate common frustrations due to unorganized data.

Read Case Study: MDM Road Map & Process Improvement

woman typing on computer in warehouse

End-to-end planning

More organizations are working towards overarching initiatives, like building resiliency and reducing operational costs, rather than siloed issues focused on one supply chain function. This is increasing the need for skills that span beyond traditional planning functions.

Workers who have cross-supply chain skills and can drive big picture strategic initiatives are invaluable. Advanced planning techniques like Sales & Operational Planning (S&OP), Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning (SIOP), and Integrated Business Planning (IBP) are becoming the rule, not the exception. If companies fail to implement them, they’ll fall behind, especially considering nearly three-fourths of supply chain leaders are reporting the need to address more frequent and greater disruption.

To lead planning initiatives, companies require people with exceptional problem-solving skills who can also use predictive analytics to interpret supply and demand data across the organization. End-to-end planning experts also need to translate critical data and insights into digestible formats so stakeholders throughout the company can operate from a single source of truth.

Catena Solutions completed an end-to-end planning project where supply chain data and analytics skills were essential. For a Fortune 500 food manufacturing organization, we revamped the company’s supply and demand IBP process, leading to streamlined solutions and maximized efficiency for company leaders. This project required a unique skillset and the ability to work seamlessly across departments to identify organizational challenges that were hindering progress.

Read Case Study: Integrated Business Planning Optimization

How are companies getting the necessary supply chain technology, data, and planning skills?

Supply chain organizations are mainly turning to three methods to close these talent gaps and acquire supply chain skillsets needed for the future.

  • Upskilling: With nearly three-fourths of workers worldwide surveyed by Salesforce saying they aren’t equipped with the resources needed to learn the digital skills to succeed, helping existing employees develop their skills is crucial. Thankfully, it seems many companies are: Gartner found 79% of CSCOs are developing training programs to drive the adoption of advanced analytics.
  • Transformation: In a recent PwC survey, 54% of COOs planned to make changes in technology transformation for efficiency. Transformation initiatives—especially digital ones—provide companies an opportunity to focus on evolving employee skills along with the transformation. Pay special attention to change management strategies, though, which are needed for skill and technology adoption.
  • Outsourcing: While upskilling and transformation initiatives are effective when done right, most companies struggle to identify the skills their organizations need to develop. In fact, only 6% of companies report having a formal perspective on their organization’s strategically important skills and competencies. This is where bringing in partners with outside expertise, like Catena Solutions, can help organizations tap into talent for the supply chain of the future. Contact us to learn more.

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