Bridging the Supply Chain Skills Gap -- Creating an "All-Collar" Workforce


Supply chain management used to be considered a boring and stagnant career option to most people. Certainly it was not the most tech-forward, exciting and profitable choice. But the world has changed even if the perception has not.

Today's commerce, whether omnichannel, multichannel, e-commerce, brick-and-mortar... you name it, the landscape has changed significantly and the role of supply chain has become vastly more important. Virtually every transaction can be improved by good supply chain management. On the flip side, nearly every transaction can be derailed or damaged by poor management.

The New All-Collar Workforce

Speed, accuracy and transparency are essential performance considerations for a healthy supply chain. With the huge number of online sales, variations in reverse logistics, increased distribution, and lightning fast delivery expectations, companies are integrating automation to take over these routine “hard skill” tasks and allow the human workers to focus on revenue growth, customer satisfaction, problem-solving, and other “soft skill” tasks. Deloitte Insights predicts that human workers and machines will work together seamlessly in the near future, each complementing the other’s efforts in a single loop of productivity.

Automation allows a company to do more with fewer human employees. Digital workers help enhance operational efficiency and expand data collection, plus they can obviously do the heavy lifting. But these “no collar” employees cannot take over all human tasks. According to Forbes, there are at least 7 job skills that robots won't be doing better than humans any time soon.

Bridging the Skills Gap

As part of this changing landscape, human workers need to adapt their skills to effectively work alongside automation and to perform their own non-automated tasks. This evolving collaboration, an “all-collar workforce,” if you will, is truly the future of business. In fact, although the majority of executives still view supply chain as simply a “support function,” others realize this is an opportunity to differentiate based on logistics processes.

“The true competitive advantage now for any company is the people and how they consume and use the technology to solve a problem.” --Robert Christiansen, vice president at Cloud Technology Partners (CTP)

Talent is a top priority for companies of all types and sizes as they work to recruit for new and evolving roles, as well as retraining or up-training existing employees. It is often a struggle to attract diverse talent to supply chain as it has been seen as an unattractive field, leading many companies to use non-traditional ways to recruit for these new jobs.

Training methods are also evolving to engage and educate new talent in the new workplace. For example, games may be more engaging and effective than old manuals and training videos, plus they are hands-on and can better simulate the actual needs of the workplace. Since we are training to work alongside automation, then training with automation makes sense and it can be easier to evaluate the results.

The new face of business and industry requires a new population of workers. The all-collar workforce will blend human strengths with machine strengths for optimal performance and an updated view of what the team should look like. On the way, both the human and digital workers will continue to receive training to bridge the skills gap.