The evolution of business operations skills

Throughout 2018, AI and automation were hot topics, high on the agenda for many senior business leaders. The opportunity to improve efficiency, profit margins, and make smarter data-led business decisions, are all key drivers behind the decision for businesses to adopt these technologies. However, behind every successful implementation of new tech and the management of efficient processes, are people.
To ensure that we keep up-to-date with industry changes and developments, we regularly speak with industry leaders. In line with our recent partnership with Procurious, we researched the future of procurement, and explored visual data and robotics in the engineering and manufacturing industry. 
Following our event which explored the impacts of robotics and automation on logistics, we spoke with Simon Quince, Director at SPQ Associates and Operations Director at Fullers Brewery. Simon is highly experienced in managing supply chain and manufacturing teams in the consumer sector. He believes that strong management, motivational, and analytical skills are key for leaders moving forward. 

The automation journey

Manufacturing has been on a constant journey towards automation and this has had a huge impact over the last century. Each industrial revolution has brought with it both exciting opportunities and unique challenges for the workforce. During his career, Simon has seen more use of static robots, although highlighted that these are some decades old.  He said: “By now, pretty much every job that can be automated cost effectively, has been.”
As a result of the continued evolution of industry technology, Simon said: “Jobs that would have been considered manual and shop floor now involve working with digital screens, to some degree. There are also far fewer people in factories than there once were. There are some jobs that are still manual that one might expect to be automated – sandwich making, for example – if they are still there it is just because as yet, it is not cost effective to automate them.”

The role of data in business operations

The production line is one area in which data can significantly improve processes. However, as Simon explains, simply collecting data isn’t enough.
“You need to use the data to drive analysis, you need analysis to drive action, and you need the action to drive results. Considering this, installing an integrated IT solution is fine, but you need the people with the skills to understand it, analyse it, and drive action through. And this is not necessarily the traditional skill set of procurement and supply chain professionals.”
While the skills required within the functions evolve, experience is still valuable. Data-based discussions are key to help support professionals and maintain accuracy, but experience-based judgement is still important and can be crucial in a number of different cases.

The key skills for success 

As previously mentioned, there are far fewer people operating in factories and warehouses than there were previously. As automation has been implemented into the sector, roles have continued to evolve and the skill sets required for success are much more tech focused. On the key roles and responsibilities of these professionals, Simon had this to say: 
“They are interacting with screens, they are changing control panels on computers – they are working with IT that controls the robots to do the manual labour and that’s pretty much how it is. So, though there are fewer shop floor jobs, it seems to be that the jobs that are available, are far more interesting, safer, and less physically demanding.”
The opportunities within the sector are changing and this needs to be highlighted to the future workforce to ensure a steady stream of talent. Considering this, using our national network of specialist consultants we have pulled together the 10 key skills for engineering and manufacturing, as well as logistics and procurement. An understanding of these skills is key to planning ahead in sectors that have experienced almost constant uncertainty over the past year.
Looking forward, right throughout 2019 and beyond, it will be the experience and specialist skills of people that will continue to drive businesses forward. The right hire in these key roles is fundamental to success, which is why it is important to ensure that you are attracting, identifying, and hiring the right talent for your business. 
To explore the key skills that you should be looking for, or to discuss how we can help streamline your recruitment processes, contact your local Michal Page office today. Alternatively, submit a job spec and one of our specialist consultants will get in touch. 
Matthew Friend
Business Director, Michael Page Procurement and Supply Chain
T: +44 207 269 2561