Industry 4.0: Is your supply team ready?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also referred to as Industry 4.0, has seen much discussion surrounding the implications for the supply chain function. The trend towards automation and data integration across manufacturing, big data and analytics, real-time information sharing, robotics, and 3D printing, are all examples of this change. These present both challenges and huge opportunities for businesses. From a talent perspective, are you and your team ready? Ensuring you have the right skills within the business will allow you to take advantage of these changes, driving operational improvements and supporting greater competitiveness/commercial return for your business. 

The revolution

Industry 4.0 will dramatically transform the end-to-end supply chain. Big data and advanced analytics will improve supply chain planning capabilities, and allow for more accurate and responsive plans to maximise commercial performance. This will allow procurement to deliver more efficient purchasing of raw materials and components which will, in turn, flow into highly adaptable smart factories. Finished goods will then be sent out to consumers via smarter distribution networks. 
Key skills to navigate the revolution 
Looking forward, the two key themes in terms of skills needed for success are the increasing importance of advanced analytics and cross-functional collaboration.
  • Analytical skills
The ability to understand and extract deep insights from data will be absolutely critical, whether in planning, factory management, logistics management or procurement. All employees across a supply chain should be developing this capability now, through a mix of internal learning and development programmes and exposure to external best practice. 
Industry 4.0 supply chains will be extraordinarily data-centric. Planning functions will need to integrate seamlessly with advanced manufacturing sites that will optimise production vs demand using real-time data and insights. Likewise, integrating systems and data sharing externally – with suppliers, 3PLs and retail customers, for example – will be key.
A truly effective Industry 4.0 supply chain will be one that shares data well, produces exceptional insights – and where everyone from supplier through to retailer makes data-led decisions on these numbers. This will require a lot of focus on systems integration and systems capability, as well as a huge investment in people’s analytical training and capability. 
  • Collaboration
Industry 4.0 supply chains will rely heavily on collaboration. To facilitate this need, businesses need to reshape the siloed mentality or remove any other internal (and external) barriers to collaboration. Information sharing and joint decision making should be encouraged and led from the top. 
Collaborative, accurate planning will unlock huge benefits across the rest of the supply chain – allowing more effective procurement, optimised manufacturing via smart factories, and more efficient distribution. The result for companies that get it right will be better commercial performance, lower costs and greater responsiveness. 

The evolution of procurement and supply chain roles

Supply chain planning - Big data allows a huge array of insights – from historical data to trends across retailers, the impact of marketing campaigns, weather, political changes, social media etc. – to be considered and factored into planning in a much more accurate way. More advanced analytical capability will be needed to maximise the benefits of this. Alongside the technical side, planners will increasingly become “storytellers” within businesses – using this data to shape the business narrative and influencing the right kind of decisions to be made. 
Procurement - With the growing emphasis on data sharing and collaboration, procurement will be able to harness this to add increasing value to the broader business. Using deep insight into raw materials, components and services, procurement will be able to drive commercially-savvy decision making and, in many cases, turn procurement into a profit centre rather than a cost centre. 

Attracting and hiring talent for the future

Although we may not have complete visibility of the exact systems and technologies that will become dominant in the sector by 2030, there are already broad themes emerging. The pace at which these changes are occurring alone reiterates the need to upskill your team now. People who understand the twin pillars of the rising Industry 4.0 supply chain - data-centricity and collaboration-centricity - will be especially valuable in driving your business forward and navigating the ever-evolving market. 
From a broader talent perspective, companies should be doing three key things:
  1. Keeping a close eye on professionals that are driving changes within your competitors’ businesses – and looking to bring them on board. Proactive (and ongoing) headhunting strategies will keep you in the loop about changes in your sector, and allow you to bring people on board who have the most to offer.
  2. Reviewing the current skill set across teams and implementing a learning and development programme. Key focus areas should be analytical capability and stakeholder collaboration.
  3. Thinking differently about where to find the best talent. Do you look outside the sector you are in? Do you have the capability to bring in less experienced people, and train them internally? Could you tap into other parts of the business that might have very relevant transferable skills? For example, finance or sales.
If you are looking to streamline your recruitment process or would like to explore how we can help source the talent you need to navigate Industry 4.0, get in touch with your local Michael Page office for a confidential discussion. Alternatively, submit a job spec to start your search today. 
Tom Haynes
Managing Consultant, Michael Page Procurement & Supply Chain
T: +44 20 7269 2412