Lack of core technical skills is stifling procurement and supply chain teams in the race to Industry 4.0


As digital transformation continues to reshape industries, supply chain and procurement teams are feeling the pressure to keep up. 

Competing in the race to Industry 4.0, new research from Skill Dynamics has found that almost all supply chain and procurement professionals (99%) are investing in new technologies – from AI to big data analytics – to drive efficiencies and boost business growth.

The cost of chasing digital innovation

While these investments may seem like enough, the research suggests that a large number of businesses aren’t seeing any benefits. Despite the world of technologies at their fingertips promising drastic improvements, a quarter of those surveyed said they had not noticed any improvements in the speed (25%) or accuracy (21%) of their team’s work. 

In spite of this, many teams are still planning to increase their digital technology investments in the next five years by 7% in supply chain visibility and tracking and 8% in measuring environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.  

A lack of core technical skills is damaging ROI

While there may be many reasons why big technology investments are falling short, it is clear that many teams feel they do not have the skills they need to make the most of the tools in their reach – with 98% of leaders fearing their teams are lacking core skills in at least one area.

Over two thirds (69%) of supply chain and procurement leaders recognise technical skills as a crucial requirement, closely followed by strategic thinking (67%). But these are areas in which knowledge and experience is lacking, with a quarter (25%) of supply chain professionals not confident in their teams digital literacy and technology proficiency but, more surprisingly, in all areas, it is senior professionals that feel they lack the most skills in their teams from digital literacy and technology (48%) to supply chain and procurement analytics (53%). 

The struggle for buy-in

It is no surprise, then, that for almost a third of respondents (32%), previous technology investments have not delivered as anticipated. This is a big challenge for senior supply chain and procurement professionals, who struggle to secure a budget for digital technology investments (69%) or even predict return on investment (36%). Convincing team members to buy into the technology’s potential or really believe in its benefits is proving difficult for more than a quarter (26%). 

Upskilling teams is the crucial next step in every digital transformation journey

Recognising the importance of having the right skills, supply chain and procurement leaders are confident that training will provide the answer. Over half of those surveyed (52%) believe personalised e-learning programmes are crucial if leaders want to upskill their teams and make the most of innovative technologies, now and in the future. E-learning (44%), mentorship (39%) and formal qualifications (38%) are also thought to be helpful. 

Sam Pemberton, Skill Dynamics CEO, said: “Investing in new technologies is only half the battle. Without the right technical skills, supply chain and procurement teams will struggle to realise the full potential of their investments. It’s clear from our research that senior professionals are under pressure to upskill both themselves and their teams to make the most of these investments.”

Adrian Preston, Head of Supply Chain Content at Skill Dynamics, added: “As we charge through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is not enough just to find great digital technologies and invest in them. Supply chain and procurement leaders must think more holistically if they want to support their teams in their digital transformation journey. Without the right training infrastructure and learning environment, businesses will fall behind in the race to Industry 4.0 and leaders will lose confidence and stop investing in them altogether.”

About the Research

The report analyses research findings from 200 supply chain and procurement professionals from across the UK and US in organisations of over 5,000 employees. Supply chain and procurement samples were sourced from senior manager or director level that have some responsibility/influence in the purchase of digital technologies for their functions (100 in supply chain and 100 in procurement).

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