The Top 10 Supply Chain Skills of the Future

October 31, 2017

Written by Supply Chain Executive Mike Mortson. This guest post first appeared on Mike’s industry blog, Supply Chain Game Changer.  

There are many exciting advances in technology these days. The proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Robotics, Industry 4.0, Big Data and Analytics, and Digitalization are all phrases that are emblematic of revolutionary changes both today and in the future.

It is important to know that these changes are not just impacting Manufacturing, Engineering and I/T.  These technological advances will impact every aspect of our personal and working lives.  And one area that will be driving these changes is Supply Chain!

The New Digital Environment:

There is no question that I/T, Science and Engineering are crucial enablers for, and drivers of, these technologies.  Without their skills these technologies would not advance.

However it is clear that the application of these technologies touches virtually every aspect of the Supply Chain.  We have clearly entered the age of the Digital Supply Chain!

Electronic connectivity of every aspect of the Supply Chain is now available, and essential technology.

There is no longer any need to send, change, and receive purchase orders on paper or by fax.  All purchase order activity can be managed electronically.

You do not need to phone your Supplier or your Carrier to find out where your goods are.  You can look on any screen from anywhere and see where your goods are and how quickly, or slowly, they are moving.

Advanced robotics can be implemented within both your Manufacturing facilities and your Distribution Centres and all movement can be monitored, managed and adjusted from a Control room.

The progression of Analytics and Big Data can allow you to move away from the mundane tasks of data collection and spreadsheet manipulation and instead focus on managing the information provided by intelligent, thinking Analytics engines.

Single room Control Towers, enabled by end to end connectivity and integration of the entire Digital Supply Chain, are a real capability within the reach of any company.

Implications for the Skills Needed in Supply Chain:

All of these capabilities, and more, will result in a migration of Supply Chain activities away from more manual, transactional tasks to more Strategic, higher level tasks.  As such this means that the skills held by Supply Chain professionals will have to advance as well.

It is still critically important that Supply Chain employees understand the basics of how the Supply Chain works.  Supply Chain employees must have a working knowledge of any one or all of Planning, Procurement, Category/Commodity Management, Supplier Relationships, Logistics, Sourcing, Quality Management, Warehousing, Inventory Management or anything else Supply Chain related.

This basic knowledge is essential because the Supply Chain experts are the ones who will define, design and shape the direction that Technology takes as it applies to the Digital Supply Chain.  While I/T personnel will be the experts in programming and the inner workings of new technology they do not have the expertise to know what to program, how it should look, or how it needs to work from a Supply Chain perspective.

As such Supply Chain personnel must now be able to think even more strategically and out of the box.  They must be able to work with I/T, Engineering and Manufacturing collaboratively so that they can create the future!

What are the Supply Chain Skill Needs of the Future?

The Supply Chain Leaders of tomorrow will need to develop and employ a much more advanced set of skills.  While many of the basic functions that are performed in the Supply Chain, like order management, negotiations, supplier management and transportation will continue the way in which these skills, and more, are performed will be much more technologically advanced and informed.

So what are some of the Supply Chain skills of the Future?

  1. Strategic Planning and Big Thinking inclusive of technology development and advancement incorporating the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence
  2. Applied Real-Time End to End Supply Chain Management expertise including collaboration, networking, relationship management, technical expertise and Change leadership
  3. Technological expertise and adeptness in areas such as Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and the Internet of Things and how to imagine and apply this technology to advance the Digital Supply Chain
  4. Change Leadership expertise on a Global, Multi-channel, Multi-Partner basis
  5. Control Tower leadership and single point of command management  skills
  6. Data Analytics mentality including the ability to look across lots of data and information to make better, faster, holistic decisions
  7. Risk management expertise including problem solving, an ability to quickly assimilate enormous amounts of information rapidly combined with exceptional decision making
  8. Holistic, Global Leadership including an ability to work seamlessly within and across companies, cultures, functions and geographies to drive change and action
  9. Business Process Transformation capability including Lean and business process re-engineering
  10. Best Practices knowledge both within and across industries including an ability to translate those learnings in to applications in your own company and industry

Even if you are involved in just one area of the Supply Chain (e.g. logistics) there is enough technological advancement in that area that you can make a very fulfilling career in just that area.  I expect it will be very important to have a working knowledge of all areas of the Supply Chain, but it is also true that any one aspect of the Supply Chain is big enough to fill an entire career.

These new and enhanced skills must be real in both content and depth.  Just changing job titles in the Future to more glorified sounding names misses the point entirely.

And certainly investment will be required to educate people and implement these technologies.

But the Supply Chain will become more strategically important (if it is not already) to your company.  It will be a source of competitive differentiation, it will become more cost effective, it will be function that people are excited to be a part of, and it will drive your company’s future success.


The only question about all of this change is the Rate of change.  There is no question that these technological advances are coming.  Supply Chain professionals cannot rely on the same skills of the past.  They must move forward and they must have the skills to define and shape the future of the Digital Supply Chain!

The question then for you and your organization is whether you are going to be a leader or follower in both the adaptation of these technologies as well as the development of the skills needed to support these capabilities.

It starts with you and your Strategy: take that Quantum Leap, advance your skills and be the Supply Chain Leader of the Future! 

1 Comment

  1. Ross George

    The maturity of supply chain management trends and technologies is of great interest to all
    parties involved in supply chain management. As such, technologies often help to streamline
    processes and define the future way of working. Knowing what is going on in the market and
    which trends may help to make processes more efficient can save costs, optimize capacity
    allocations, and ultimately increase customer satisfaction.

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