As we near the Total Supply Chain Summit in Leeds next month, which Prodware are attending, we got to thinking about one of the themes in the seminar programme – “people” as a success factor in modern supply chain management. You’d think this was an odd choice of article from us, a technology company, however – as we have discussed before – people remain at the core of digital transformation.
In this sector as with others, there is always caution surrounding new technologies disrupting traditional methods, particularly when it comes to labour and roles of the workforce. New efficiencies and automation technology such as robotics don’t necessarily equate to headcount reduction. As the supply chain is increasingly concerned (like many other sectors such as construction and manufacturing) about the growing problem of a skills shortage, it is important for the sector to get the message across that the profession is becoming more attractive as a career choice, due to the transformation it is currently undergoing. Let’s look at some examples.
Automation in distribution turns the dial in human resources
In a recent article by The New York Times, the automation revolution within Amazon was discussed. Quotes from Amazon’s operations executive, Dave Clark illustrate the positive influence that robotics in logistics and distribution has to the workforce; making it a more attractive career choice – even to low-skilled workers:
“When Amazon installed the robots, some people who had stacked bins before … took courses at the company to become robot operators. Many others moved to receiving stations, where they manually sort big boxes of merchandise into bins. No people were laid off when the robots were installed, and Amazon found new roles for the displaced workers… The people didn’t go anywhere,” he said.
“Amazon’s Mr. Clark said history showed that automation increases productivity and, in some cases, demand from consumers, which ultimately creates more jobs. He said warehouse workers would continue to work in technologically rich environments. “It’s a myth that automation destroys net job growth.”
The value of human capital in modern supply chain management
So the sector has such proven examples (albeit on a larger scale) where the introduction of technology has supported employee satisfaction rather than be seen as a threat. Common challenges for workers in logistics and distribution include low wages and low loyalty; leading to a staff retention headache for employers. If your workforce can be enriched and their skill-sets be made more relevant in today’s digital world, and this leads to efficiency gains, it’s a win-win for the modern distribution organisation. Whilst automation and robotics is a great example, other technology applications can also help human resource management in the supply chain.
Like any adoption of change management, there are varying degrees of investment. It may not be relevant for every distribution and logistics firm to invest in robotics or IoT but there are ways to improve your productivity and empower workers through technology.
Take this case study discussed in The Loadstar of cargo handlers Aerocare who were looking to improve the work-life balance of their workforce and minimise the risk of fatigue. They did this by investing in planning tool software which matched workers’ availability, preferences and skill suitability when reviewing scheduling.
Alerts and notifications within workflow management functionality of ERP software such as Microsoft Dynamics help to reduce mundane tasks and free up time for employees, whether it’s in the warehouse, in the delivery truck or at the office desk.
Businesses who operate within modern supply chain management must embrace technology in order to provide a good experience to their workforce, their customers and their partners.
Technology should be seen as a support to management to attract and retain their workforce, and we look forward to the seminar at the Total Supply Chain Summit by the European Logistics Association on what their thoughts are on making the profession more attractive.FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MICROSOFT DYNAMICS SOFTWARE FOR DISTRIBUTION