By Jack Buffington, Assistant Professor of the Practice in Supply Chain
As soon as the ball dropped came
the predictions in the field of supply chain management over the next ten
years. I glossed through these articles and found technology as the driving
theme: AI, robots, big data, blockchain. The role of technology in the future
is obvious, but supply chain professionals should think bigger picture when
considering the future from the past.
Technology has never been the
driver of supply chain innovation, but rather the engine. In the early 20th
century, Henry Ford’s Model T was a new technology, but the driver for change were
the improved processes that led to cheaper cars made more efficiently with
higher wages for the worker.
A few decades later, it was
Toyota that changed the culture with people and processes around a more
efficient manufacturing and supply chain. Today, supply chains are so efficient
that it can deliver a package ordered right now in less than a day through
innovations in process and technology. Before we consider the future to be
dominated by AI and robots, we should consider the roadmap to innovation to be
more than just it; we should consider articles such as the 2018 HBR The Death of Supply Chain Management
We as supply chain management
professionals also need to focus our attention on much bigger prizes; not just
in how to deliver packages faster or making products across a global supply
chain, but in solving problems because that’s what we do. In the year 2020,
there are no shortages of problems to be solved: climate change, plastic and
food waste, a lack of clean water, etc. The decade of 2020 should primarily be
about how our supply chains can achieve economic growth and empower an improvement in the natural environment. It is only
our field that can solve this major challenge.
In the upcoming decade, supply
chain management will either solve these challenges, or continue to perpetuate
the problem, and we must rise to the occasion.
To learn more about the Supply Chain Management program offered through the University of Denver, visit www.universitycollege.du.edu/supplychain.