Supply Chain Management – Are We Seeing End of the Road

Supply Chain Management, SCM, was a clear hot career choice in early 2000. In its heydays the topic used to attract so much attention that all the conferences and seminars used to get booked much in advance. The professionals who had even little bit of expertise in the subject used to get lapped up by search and placement agencies. I still vividly remember attending a seminar at a posh hotel in Delhi in 2002. It had all who’s who Indian industry in attendance. Supply Chain Management really saw its golden days then.

There have been lots of PhD thesis written on the subject of Supply Chain Solutions in these last 15 years. Supply Chain Management or SCM is still a discipline which is quite sought after in some companies. But, as the systems and processes fueled by AI, have improved over the last few years, the world has become more automation. Industry 4.0 has made the systems, machines and processes literally talk to each other and exchange the data. Driven by Data Analytics and its conjoined twin AI, decision making for a software program sitting in a server is now all that easy.

Leading companies have already been exploring the possibilities. Many have used robotics or artificial intelligence to digitize and automate repetitive labor-intensive tasks and processes. The functions like purchasing, invoicing, inventory management and customer services are all slowly being automated. Predictive solutions are helping companies to forecast demand, reduce inventories and stocks, better utilization of resources including working capital. All these processes are helping companies to satisfy and delight their customers.

Supply Chain at work

So What Does That Mean for Supply Chain Management

When all the routine work gets to be driven by Analytics and AI, the Supply Chain Manager loses their importance and may soon result in SCM mangers losing their job as well. One needs to re-skill and look out for other opportunities. The SCM philosophy and algorithms will remain, the principles and underlying working mechanisms will remain but what we will lose is the saga of humans sitting and manning these functions. All these critical functions in the organizations shall be automated and algorithms will drive the routine and repetitive functions in an organisation.

So what’s next for scm manager

It’s not that the SCM discipline would lose its importance overnight. Rather SCM will still have it’s utility in development and refinement of algorithms and key processes. Process validation would also need human interventions. But the low skill level jobs would go away. The persons manning the routine functions may have to reskill. ERPs may not impact the organizations who chose to ignore the deployment of IT enabled seamless work processes. But seeing the visible gains of IT and ERP deployment, there would hardly be any company who would like to ignore the benefits of seamless ERP deployment.

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