Platooning is likely to cause a drop-off in demand for truck drivers
Platooning is likely to cause a drop-off in demand for truck drivers

Gartner Supply Chain Conference looks to the future

Supply chain leaders gathered to discuss transformation strategies
in the face of disruptive technology

Speaking at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference – held in London on 20 and 21 September – Lynda Gratton, author and professor of management practice at London Business School, talked of how the rise of technology has pushed the world of work into a period of major transition that will rival the industrial revolution.

Combined with the fact we are living longer, healthier lives, we must prepare for entirely new ways of working, she said.

“We believe the transition we are going through is as great as anything we saw through the industrial revolution, and it’s happening a lot faster”, she said.

“That is why people are unhappy. If you ask people, ‘Do you have the skills you need for the future?’ 70% would say no. Your employees are concerned.

 “Brexit and Trump were a push against the future, a push against globalisation and a desire to return to a time when a man could drive a truck and not have technology take over.”

Gratton said truck driving was the “number one job in the US for semi-skilled men”, though delegates had just been told it cost just $30,000 to retrofit self-driving technology to a lorry.

Speaker John Phillips, PepsiCo’s SVP customer supply chain and global go-to-market, said autonomous vehicles were “not a question of if but when”.

Digital disruption was happening across the supply chain and the consumer realm was the key driver, he said.

Meanwhile, Andrew Stevens, research director at Gartner, talked about blockchain, which offers a new way of organising supply chains. He explained how the technology allows participants to set the rules for transactions between participants, which are recorded in blocks that cannot be edited. Instead each change must be recorded in a new block, appended to the last block, hence the blockchain.

Stevens said this could increase trust between participants, reduce the risk of counterfeits entering supply chains, increase security and collaboration and improve the overall customer experience. He said blockchain would provide a “backbone”, so you can focus on what needs attention.

However, he said challenges remained over who would lead a blockchain, who would pay for it, who would police it and the problem of internal silos.

Gratton concluded that jobs being lost to technology are traditional masculine roles, while those being created are feminine. “The debate in the US will be: ‘How do you train a truck driver to be a carer for an elderly person?’” she said.

She told supply chain professionals they need to emulate the great CEOs who were known for their people skills. “The thing that makes us different from robots is a billion years of interaction,” she said. “The thing we can bring that no machine can is warmth.”

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