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5 Key Themes: Navigating the Future of Supply Chains – Part 1

Navin Lutchmun
Feb 16, 2024

In this 2-part thought leadership piece, discover how Capgemini has supported supply chain professionals to leverage real-time data, transform collaboration, upskill their workforce, harness AI and cognitive technology, and embrace sustainability practices to create a future-ready supply chain.

Supply chain leaders must stay ahead of the curve to ensure their organisations thrive. Capgemini has identified five key themes that will shape the future of the end-to-end supply chain.

Read below for Part 1 which explores the pursuit of resilience and agility, seamless collaboration, and future-fit employees. See here for Part 2 which examines AI-enabled supply chains and sustainability at the heart of supply chain processes.

In a rapidly changing world, supply chain leaders must stay ahead of the curve to ensure they thrive. Capgemini has identified five key Supply Chain themes, with supporting future initiatives, that will be on the minds of retail and consumer product leaders in the years to come.

These are:

  1. The Pursuit of Supply Chain Resilience and Agility
  2. Seamless End-to-End Collaboration
  3. A Future Fit Employee Ecosystem
  4. Supply Chain Enabled by AI and Cognitive Technology
  5. Sustainability and Circularity at the Heart of Supply Chain Processes

We will exemplify these themes through a User Journey of a Supply Chain leader of the future, who is dealing with a scenario of skyrocketing demand.

The user journey will showcase how real-time data, seamless collaboration and workforce upskilling can create a future-proof supply chain.

1. The Pursuit of Resilience and Agility

In the present, we have observed that supply chain leaders have limited digital resource to identify and react to live issues, thus they spend much of their time firefighting and in quick-response mode. To combat this, we recognise that supply chain leaders are prioritising resilience, and this will continue to be at the forefront of leaders’ minds. The pursuit of resilience and agility will require supply chain professionals to leverage their existing skills, as well as develop new abilities, including real-time data analysis and scenario planning to respond to disruptions and market changes quickly. Therefore, in the future it will become imperative to measure supply chain responsiveness from alert to action and the success rate of the same.

The Integrated Business Planning (IBP) process allows leaders to become resilient by incorporating decision making at different time horizons, prompted by artificial intelligence (AI) tracking algorithms, this gives humans in the supply chain the tools to evaluate demand drivers and identify the impact of external influences.

Alongside more traditional IBP activities and forums, companies can start to allow teams to focus on contingency planning. This will ensure that the supply chain is prepared for any eventuality through the ability to scenario plan and determine how to react to these scenarios internally. This can be supported through End-to-End (E2E) planning control towers. These towers are equipped with the processes, tools and data that enable rapid decision making and escalation where needed.

Capgemini supports its clients in the set up and management of the E2E planning control towers. We have seen increased resilience and agility from these control towers, allowing organisations to respond to disruptions and market changes quickly, but well-prepared.

Future Leader: “When demand skyrocketed for our hottest product, our agile supply chain team sprang into action. Armed with real-time sales data, they collaborated closely with suppliers and made rapid adjustments, they evaluated transportation capacity and inventory levels. The outcome? Seamless adaptation, meeting customer demands. Our team is on the move, making it happen.”

2. Seamless End-to-End Collaboration

Today, successful collaboration within an organisation’s ecosystem is heavily reliant on the breaking down of silos. This can be supported through the introduction of end-to-end planning roles; the sharing of data from a unified Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system; and from transparent processes. It has been recognised that effective collaboration can lead to improved efficiency and customer satisfaction. However, effective collaboration is difficult to attain as there is still a lack of visibility across end-to-end business transactions; a lack of standardised processes; and very complex international supply chains (spread across multiple tiers, with complex subcontracting and logistics) with delays, quality issues and increased costs.

Seamless end-to-end collaboration in the future relies on two essential factors:

1) Within the extended value chain, there must be a successful collaboration across an ecosystem of partners. Supply chain teams will need to learn to collaborate seamlessly across the entire end-to-end process, from suppliers to customers, with the whole value chain being connected as if working across one ERP system. The establishment of an extended value chain creates a collaborative ecosystem among trusted partners, fostering collective innovation and maximising efficiency.

2) The integration of a solid framework for decision making, including clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics to measure the KPIs. A robust, shared decision making-framework and joint KPIs can support future performance to allow organisations to achieve their objectives.

Following assessment of these factors, organisations should consider whether their current technology layer is truly end-to-end and where siloes exist. They should consider how data in one part of the organisation can feed another to allow for system efficiency and better performance. Companies should also look to support their key external suppliers to in their innovation development to allow for this seamless, end-to-end collaboration. Some examples are a multinational digital communications technology corporation integrating a robust Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) system and a leading organisation introducing collaborative platforms for sustainable sourcing as part of its sustainable commitments.

Capgemini supports our clients in understanding which is the best-suited next generation technology architecture for their business. We ensure these tools enhance collaborative working across the whole business in a continuous and autonomous way, taking clients leaps forward in achieving seamless collaboration.

Future Leader: “In response to the rise in demand, we revolutionised what collaboration meant with our key supplier. Real-time connections and innovation-driven discussions replaced traditional meetings. Using virtual environments such as the meta-verse and digital twin, we brought ideas to life and unlocked unprecedented creativity whilst dealing with a complex situation. Partnering closely with suppliers, we turned challenges into opportunities, forging a future-ready, thriving supply chain of value seekers, not parameter setters”.

3. A Future Fit Employee Ecosystem

At present, a limited number of white-collar jobs have been automated, but a large amount of streamlining has occurred, especially in back-office functions. This streamlining has eliminated many obsolete skills, such as manual data inputting. A paradigm shift is necessary to adapt to an uncertain future for the remaining skills and the to-be automated roles.

In the future, job security and fulfilment will have two co-dependent tenets:

1) Adaptability and continuous learning are of a high importance, to support today’s technology acceleration. Supply chain professionals will require a new set of skills, including proficiency in data analysis, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI). For employees, it is essential to identify and understand where they can drive incremental value to support the technology acceleration.

2) Organisations will have to redefine their talent strategy. They must plan to support the employment of the next generation of the brightest graduates while adapting to new technology. Furthermore, teams will require investment in training and development programs to ensure that employees have the necessary skills to thrive in a rapidly changing.

Organisations will have to consider the impact of advancing technology and how to best support the development of role agnostic jobs. This can create an employee ecosystem, where employees are working on several strategic activities across the E2E supply chain that can create value rather than using manual tools to fight the usual fires.

At Capgemini, we have set up training academies as part of numerous large-scale transformation programs. These training academies focus on developing skills and fostering a sense of community, with specific trainer roles and pathways to continue upskilling. These academies support the next generation platform rollouts and allow organisations to stay aware of new role changing technologies. For further detail, please see this Capgemini Research paper on the “Fifteen Supply Chain Jobs of the Future”. We analyse what will be required for organisations to foster a continuous learning mindset with high levels of emotional intelligence to support the technology implementation.

Future leader: “Knowing that unprecedented events, such as demand surges, can happen at any moment, we spent time equipping our employees with a proficiency in working with real-time data, developing scenario planning capabilities, and leveraging advanced technologies. Additionally, we focused on fostering human-centric collaboration skills, promoting effective communication and teamwork so we can easily connect with suppliers. Our upskilled workforce was the driving force behind sales success.”

To summarise…

The narrative of a future supply chain leader illustrates the practical application of these themes. Real-time data underpins the supply chain, providing the necessary insights for agile decision-making. Seamless collaboration fosters connectivity across the entire supply chain, breaking down silos and enhancing efficiency. Workforce upskilling becomes imperative, shaping a Future Fit Employee Ecosystem capable of navigating the complexities of tomorrow.

For leaders to strategically prepare for these five future themes, they should consider how their processes will need to adapt, including the skillset their employees will need to acquire to succeed in these future environments and the capital investment the advanced technology requires.

As we navigate the future of the supply chain, it is evident that the landscape is evolving at an unprecedented pace. The five key themes identified by Capgemini – Supply Chain Resilience and Agility, Seamless End-to-End Collaboration, a Future Fit Employee Ecosystem, Supply Chain Enabled by AI and cognitive Technology, and Sustainability and Circularity – stand as guiding beacons for leaders in this dynamic environment.

Within Capgemini’s Supply Chain expertise, we possess extensive experience in supporting organisations transform their entire end-to-end supply chain. We bring industry specific experience, and we pride ourselves in identifying key value unlocks across the whole end-to-end supply chain to support leaders in ensuring resilience and sustained success. To explore the final two key themes, please see linked here  Part-2 of our Themes of the Future for Supply Chain Leaders. Part-2 explores the themes of AI-opportunities and sustainability at the heart of an organisation’s future.

Meet our Authors

Navin Lutchmun

Director, Supply Chain, Intelligent Industry

Christopher Cooper

Managing Consultant, Supply Chain, Intelligent Industry

Charlotte Jones

Consultant, Supply Chain, Intelligent Industry
Charlotte Jones is a consultant within Capgemini Invent’s Intelligent Industry team, specialised in Supply Chain and with a focus on Consumer Products, Retail and Distribution.