Kuka robots include units such as robotic arms, which aid with manufacturing © Photo by vm via GettyImages
Kuka robots include units such as robotic arms, which aid with manufacturing © Photo by vm via GettyImages

How to ease the 'shared pain' of new procurement tech

A lack of engagement with new systems and resistance to change are two of the biggest challenges for procurement teams attempting to onboard new technology, an event was told.

Richard Leslie, business development manager for procurement software provider Atamis, told the Digitally Transforming Supply CIPS Briefing about the importance of strategic goals and leadership buy-in. 

“Money can be one reason why projects fail – but resistance to change is the big one. Getting people on board with the journey is the foundation for the digital transformation,” he said.

Speaking during a session on data and decision-making, Matthew Wigginton, head of procurement at West Sussex Council, outlined his team’s process for bringing in new technologies.

“It’s an opportunity to bring in representatives from across stakeholder groups, and understand what they want, what they’re missing, their business challenges and objectives. Understanding that need is a great way to bring the procurement perspective in, how it can enable and support those objectives,” he said.

Wigginton said he used operational workshops with his procurement team, with members working together to see how processes were undertaken.

He said the adoption of new technology was a “shared pain, a shared experience”. By developing a consensus during these workshops around how to move forward, Wigginton helped ensure the whole team had ownership of new systems.

During a separate session Ambika Jhunjhunwala, vice president of procurement digitalisation and data analytics at Deutsche Post, said: “The biggest challenge is getting people on board. There was a lot of noise around our digital systems to start with, but once you start showing results, and people start seeing the benefits, that’s when we saw engagement.”

Tim Lawrence, digital supply chain director at Digital Catapult, explained during his keynote address that technology solutions had helped BAE Systems map the entire supply chain for one of their robots with just an AI and a manual.

Lawrence explained the aerospace company wanted to more efficiently track data across their supply chains. One of the challenges it was facing was getting not only procurement teams engaged, but suppliers of components, to use their new data systems. Lawrence used the Kuka packaging robots to demonstrate the potential uses of AI and data.

He said: “One of the big challenges is not only knowing who the suppliers are, but from the base level, going up the chain to know what electronic component you’re buying. So the first day, I found a manual for this robot they wanted to get mapped. The AI created a bill of materials from the manual by doing analytics, an AI assessment.

“It identified the tier one suppliers who supply that material, then looked at tier two and three. They created visibility for that entire supply chain pretty much just from that manual. It just shows what can be done with that huge amount of information.

“The traditional way of doing this, for the A320 Airbus supply chain, that took five years with a team of 50. This took a week or two with a few data analysts.”

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