At SCALA’s 20th annual supply chain debate, industry leaders emphasized the need for significant changes in the coming decade as the sector confronts new challenges and mounting pressure to achieve net-zero targets.
The event, held on June 21, 2023, at the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, brought together nearly 100 professionals from the supply chain and logistics industry. Participants engaged in discussions about the critical factors that will shape supply chain and logistics operations in the next ten years. The key themes that emerged were the importance of leveraging the right technology, fostering collaboration, and empowering people.
During the debate, six expert speakers shared their insights. Sharon Hammond and Audrey Limery highlighted the significance of technology. Hammond emphasized the value of automation in improving operational reliability, flexibility, growth capacity, resource allocation, and ergonomics. Limery advocated for increased digitalization and visibility in supply chains to support sustainability in the era of artificial intelligence (AI). The majority of attendees agreed that data, AI, and automation would be crucial for supply chain success in the next decade.
David Cebon focused on the future of trucking, stressing the importance of an electric road system alongside a network of static chargers for fleets. He warned about the environmental challenges the industry will face and the need for logistics to adapt in order to deliver essential goods in the face of extreme weather events, emphasizing the urgency of decarbonization efforts.
Professor Neil Ashworth reaffirmed his previous stance from a decade ago, emphasizing the democratization of consumer verticals as a significant factor in the industry. He highlighted the impact of empowered consumers in the healthcare sector and predicted that all industries would experience a similar shift in power towards consumers.
Gavin Chappell and Rebecca Attoe-Butt emphasized the importance of people and relationships in addressing the aforementioned issues. Chappell discussed current challenges such as labor shortages, skill gaps, managing expectations, and career development within the industry. While he encouraged automation where applicable, he emphasized that people would remain fundamental to supply chain success due to their problem-solving abilities and strategic decision-making during times of disruption. Attoe-Butt echoed this sentiment, underlining the need to focus on human capabilities such as problem-solving and building trusted relationships as AI becomes more prevalent.
The delegates concluded the event by voting on the key factors for future supply chain success. A significant 45% agreed that people would remain the cornerstone of successful supply chains, along with increased technology investment, decarbonization efforts, and strengthened relationships.
Chris Clowes, a senior consultant at SCALA, highlighted the challenges faced by supply chain leaders, including the pandemic, Brexit, the Ukraine crisis, and high-interest rates. He emphasized the value of people in driving necessary changes and navigating disruptions over the past decade. While AI and automation play essential roles in improving efficiency and reducing costs, Clowes emphasized that blending technology with the expertise of professionals who understand supply chains is vital. The commitment of people to enhance operations, drive decarbonization, and invest in the right technology is crucial for the success of other discussed factors.