4 Types of Talent for the Supply Chain of the Future

It’s no secret that logistics – like many other industries – is rapidly evolving in the face of  prolonged adversity and bottlenecks, whether at the warehouse or in the grocery store aisles. These challenges have forced supply chain leaders to abandon legacy systems, automate processes, and reconsider how labor is used. COVID-19 exacerbated long-standing inefficiencies and supply-chain blindspots, pushing organizations to exit their old silos and collaborate toward greater visibility. We often hear clients refer to these operational overhauls as “Project 2030.”

It’s not a quick fix, especially since the pandemic also spurred a labor shortage within the industry. A 2021 survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia revealed that logistics industry job openings surpassed pre-COVID levels and that 4.7 million fewer people remain active in the labor force. The wave of resignations and early retirements known as “The Great Resignation” reveals that working adults are seeking to use their skills and talents more purposefully.

In response to these disruptions, companies are actively rethinking the skills they need to stay ahead, both in-house or via partners.

Gartner released a study detailing nine skill sets required to fuel a digital supply chain. The study is a far cry from 2015 Gartner findings, in which digital competency was not even in the top five skills perceived to be critical to the industry at the time. In only five years, digital acumen became the top skill.

In light of the work we do at Transfix, offering shippers many-to-many freight matching with our extensive network of small and mid-sized carriers, I’d like to highlight four types of talent we believe will be critical in creating a resilient, digital supply chain for the future and beyond.

Technologists

There has never been more demand for specialized technology skills than today, and the supply chain sector is no different. A 2021 CIO Review article even dedicated a stand-alone article to the industry, acknowledging that technology can be used to manage a complex supply chain network and engage diverse partners. 

Here’s how we see technologists contributing to change:

  1. Reducing Empty Miles and Streamlining Operations: Automation and real-time monitoring help optimize every load and prevent delays to enhance productivity, improve accuracy, and significantly reduce carbon waste.
  2. Creating an Intelligent Shipper-Carrier Network: Pen-and-paper or even spreadsheets are no longer adequate ways to facilitate shipper/carrier relationships. It’s a complex system that requires complex support. The supply chain needs technology to pivot in real-time and minimize disruption.
  3. Building a more equitable ecosystem: Technology matches carriers and shippers and improves the system for everyone. For example, shippers that prioritize smaller carriers can cut costs for the shipper and generate much-needed revenue for the carrier — while keeping them happy. 

With technology at the heart of the supply chain system, these elements in action create an ideal, flexible supply chain for both shippers and carriers (not to mention our environment). 

And though a modern tech stack is a part of solving the supply chain’s biggest challenges, it is not the only important component. Technology is simply a tool in the toolbox of human problem solvers.

Data Analysts

Where technology and technologists are, data analysts should never be far behind. Raw data has few applications across the organization. Analysts filter out the noise and deliver the insights that matter to every department in charge of strategic decision-making.

Google Cloud found that core supply chain processes – design, monitoring, and execution – significantly benefit from successful data management. Streamlined operations, reduced waste, and effective risk forecasting are by-products of the knowledge that comes from data analysts. 

We’ve all seen that supply chain circumstances change quickly. A lack of data analysts means a lack of insight into what’s happening now, and what could happen down the road. The ability to forecast supply levels and global events, and process inefficiencies are critical — data analysts are the talent that make this happen.

Process-Oriented People

There is often a propensity to let technology solve all problems. But, as helpful as technology is in solving complex problems and automating repetitive tasks, sometimes it only masks an opportunity for a better-run business. Every well-run business honors processes and people in partnership with technology. 

Process-oriented talent enables both technologists and data analysts, as well as others across the chain. When processes are optimized, automation can do its best work to power the business and support the work people perform daily. 

For example, process-oriented talent can evaluate the effectiveness of the organization’s master data structure. By simplifying the business’s data structure, process-oriented talent helps analysts ensure the insights they distribute are based on accurate, real-time data.

Commercially-Savvy People

Businesses that understand their customers provide better products and services, period.

Commercially-savvy talent are the eyes, ears, and mouths of both the business and its customers. How do customers feel about the partnership? What more could the business do to help its customers? What’s driving customer asks and decisions and how will those change over time? 

These are questions that customer-facing talent is best-positioned to answer. While they have always been important, the shortages and frustrations of the current supply chain made them essential. Customers want to know they can interact with more than a button or a voice recording when times are tough.

There’s never been a better time for talent to get into this industry. COVID-19 made things a lot harder, but where it did help was in the level of respect the industry now holds. Who amongst us didn’t see a sign outside a house or building thanking delivery workers for their presence during lockdowns? And, when you say you work in the supply chain now, doesn’t everyone seem to know exactly what you mean? (Trust me, that wasn’t always the case.)

We should take advantage of this opportunity to infuse new, diverse talent into the industry and strive for adaptability and continuous improvement. At Transfix, we’ve perfected a mix of deep industry expertise – our co-founder started working at his parents’ trucking company when he was 16 – with outside perspectives from companies including Gilt, eBay, Goldman Sachs, and more.

And while we all strive for that epic change, don’t forget to focus on the incremental steps and the talent who will help get you there.

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