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The Story of Supply Chain: from manual to autonomous systems and how AI is empowering the workforce

Bruna Almeida Alves
20 Oct 2022

How has technology for Supply Chain Management evolved and how have consumer behavioural changes affected the way Supply Chains operate?

In this article, we will discuss the present and future of Supply Chain Management and the Systems of Intelligence, how these can impact your workforce, and how a solid change management process can help leaders navigate this cultural change

How has technology for Supply Chain Management evolved?

Supply Chain systems started to be deployed in large organisations in the 1980s, with ERP systems, mainly focused on storing descriptive data. The main function of an ERP system was to record transactions and serve as a tool for the management of financial flows. A few of the available systems included supply planning functions.

At the beginning of the 2000s, a second wave came with the Advanced Planning Systems (APS). The innovations in these systems, making use of predictive data analysis, gave us automated technology for demand planning, forecasting, supply, and inventory planning. With the APS, users got a glimpse of the benefits that an Integrated Planning and above-market planning approach could deliver to a business.

How has consumer behaviour changed in the past 15 years?

Fast-forward to 2008 and the release of one of the most disruptive technologies to date: the iPhone. The full impacts of the smartphone technology are still yet to be fully assessed, but the available research (Statista) already shows an unprecedented impact on consumer behaviour. Coupled to that, from 2020 the pandemic has caused a severe disruption on our ways of working as a society, as a result of COVID-19 and its associated lockdowns.

These factors have accelerated behavioural change resulting in retail eCommerce sales having quadrupled from 2014 to 2022 (Statista). On top of that, consumer shopping trends are highly influenced by social media trends, resulting in demand unpredictability. This is combined with consumers having greater expectations in terms of fulfilment lead times, resulting in a need for lower End-To-End lead times. There is also a push for personalised products, changing the way supply functions operate.

All those changes that have impacted both supply and demand are now leading Supply Chain leaders to revisit their strategies and to start thinking of moving away from the cost savings model to agile models. Apart from that, some companies are also using Supply Chain as a competitive advantage, exceeding their customers’ expectations, and delivering what is wanted: faster using innovation and winning customer loyalty. Across industry, there is an increased awareness that a successful business needs to be able to predict the future or risk being left behind.

How does the change in consumer behaviour affect the way Supply Chains operate?

For professionals to be able to manage this transition, they need technologies that provide real time visibility, execute end-to-end planning across the echelons and deliver prescriptive analysis, enabling a faster decision-making process. These new technologies are known as Systems of Intelligence and focus on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to enable software to perform cognitive analysis and decisions, thereby becoming fully autonomous.

How can deploying SI empower your workforce?

The end game for an autonomous supply chain is to have in place systems, or platforms, that have the power to perform most of the tasks autonomously. All the selected tech needs to be flexible, scalable, and able to be implemented at speed within the organisation. On top of that, it needs to be able to interact with hundreds of entities within any organisation.

It is also necessary to keep in mind that, at the end of the day, the human element and interaction will always be required at any business. The company that wishes to embark on the journey of autonomous planning needs to understand the whole picture – not only the machine element – and ensure that their workforce possess the skills that are needed for these systems to perform at their best. For successful implementation, an appropriate change management process must be in place which can help in deciding what activities will still be performed by humans, which can be determined in terms of value or impact, ethical or moral questions, or investment decisions.

How can Capgemini help you with this transition?

To help your business start with this transformation, Capgemini Invent has the necessary expertise in change management to support with embedding change across your organisation. Also, by being a global leader in consulting, digital transformation, technology, and engineering services, we can be with you at every step of your transformation journey.

Final remarks

We have seen significant change in Supply Chain Management and the story of its technology and how it has evolved since the 2000s. With the advancement of the internet, smartphone invention and, most currently, COVID-19, we’ve seen the impacts they have had on consumer behaviour and how this has changed the way Supply Chains operate.

At the end of the day, it is not innovation for the sake of innovation – we must identify the solution that we can bring with this technology to your Supply Chain.

Bruna Almeida Alves

Senior Consultant in Supply Chain
Bruna is a Senior Consultant in our supply chain team, specialising in end-to-end operational supply chain planning and new product introduction projects.