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Regular Industry Development Updates, Opinions and Talking Points relating to Manufacturing, the Supply Chain and Logistics.

Don't Let Soft Skills Be Forgotten In Your Supply Chain

09-Jan-2019
Don't Let Soft Skills Be Forgotten In Your Supply Chain
As greater focus is placed on supply chain technology, essential soft skills could easily be forgotten about. Dom Brenchley, Director Industry Strategy EMEA LLamasoft, explains why striking the right balance is crucial

Technologies including automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning may be coming into play more and more as supply chains move towards becoming more cognitive operations, yet soft skills are still as crucial as ever.

Supply chain management is moving through the age of digitisation towards more transparent and agile practices that lean more on technology and data than they do on people. This growing focus on technological advancement in the supply chain means that basic human traits which have traditionally been important in supply chain management could quickly be forgotten.

Those human traits – aka ‘soft skills’ – are the basis on which supply chain management has evolved. From communication skills to interpersonal skills and listening and observing, soft skills drive relationships inside and outside of the business and those relationships are crucial to business success.

While technology is rapidly advancing supply chain management and technical skills will need to keep pace, the supply chain is built on relationships. Without the right soft skills in place, those relationships would quickly break down.

Complimenting technology with human traits
With the right mix of soft skills, supply chain organisations can bolster their efforts to move towards cognitive supply chain management. This includes training and development but also investment in supply chain management software that provides greater transparency of the supply chain.

The relationship between your people and the technology your business runs on is equally as important as those business relationships. Greater supply chain transparency will aid greater use of those soft skills.

Communication is one example of an essential soft skill that will still be key but could easily be forgotten. While technology aids communication, the development of communication as a soft skill is still very necessary. There will be a greater need for clear communication for supply chain organisations that are moving from analogue supply chain management processes to digital supply chain management processes.

Driving digital transformation
There is a growing opportunity for supply chain organisations to move away from laborious, time consuming manual processes such as spreadsheets, phone calls and emails towards digital processes using supply chain management platforms that remove the need to perform those manual activities.

Emotional intelligence will be essential to ensuring the personnel who have been performing those manual processes understand the benefit that the new digital processes will bring to their roles. They will be critical to ensuring they don’t feel they are being replaced and understand that, with the laborious manual processes taken away, they will be able to focus on more interesting projects such as scenario planning, simulation testing and optimising the supply chain for efficiencies using clever new tools in the supply chain management software.

Beyond the implementation stage, strong leadership and teamwork still require a clear level of communication and interpersonal skills to ensure teams are working together successfully and strategies informed by the new digital supply chain software are being rolled out effectively.

Building teams for tomorrow
Globalisation has seen many supply chains expanding into new, previously unexplored markets. As such, there is a requirement to communicate effectively with people who not only work in different functions but also those who work in different geographical locations.

For supply chain organisations currently relying on manual processes and legacy systems that do not perform in line with today’s market demands, soft skills are important to organisational change. While digital natives may recognise the requirement for digital transformation in supply chain management, they need to be empathetic to convince seasoned leaders to buy into it.

Staying one step ahead
While digital transformation of the supply chain may seem a long way off for some organisations, the benefits can be unlocked quicker than you may think. This will be achieved by developing the right mix of soft skills within your supply chain management teams and investing in a software platform that removes the manual, longwinded tasks.

With the right technology and soft skills in place, your organisation will benefit from a healthy balance of data-driven intelligence and a team that can translate that intelligence into a supply chain strategy strong enough to overcome today and tomorrow’s challenges.

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