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Supply Chain Industry Updates

Meet the Next Supply Chain Change Agents

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iStock/ViewApart

Can you guess what will be a major driver of supply chain automation in the coming years? E-commerce or the relentless drive for efficiency probably comes to mind.

But what about your niece Zoey, who is due to get her bachelor’s degree in a couple of years? Yes, the youngster to whom you once gave a serious one-word piece of career advice à la “The Graduate” — maybe your word was “logistics” or “procurement” — might actually have listened to you. Now, she and other bright members of Gen Z are on the cusp of enabling the continuing evolution of supply chain.

“Born between 1997 and 2012, the oldest Gen Zers have just started their careers. In 10 years, they’ll be supply chain managers,” said Pierfrancesco Manenti, vice president/analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice. “This generation has grown up with digital technologies, so today’s supply chain leaders expect them to be innovators that accelerate supply chain digitalization and pave the way towards hyper-automation.”

No pressure, young people!

But really, as you probably noticed, this is a generation uniquely at home with technology. (Search for a stock image of “Gen Z” and most of the options that pop up will show young adults using electronic devices.) Gartner expects the savviness they have been developing almost since they left the cradle to translate well to the use of real-world “hyper-automation” tools such as robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).

“Over the next five years, supply chain leaders will roll out more coordinated and impactful RPA initiatives as the technology is maturing very rapidly, and we’ll see mainstream adoption,” Manenti said. “This is also the phase where more members of Gen Z enter the supply chain workforce, changing the employees’ mindset and preparing the ground for the next level.”

In addition to automation, Gartner forecasts Gen Z will play important roles in the refinement of technologies that augment human reasoning, such as ML, and in autonomous supply chains that involve very little human interaction.

In a recent study, Manenti said, Gartner found “all of the supply chain leaders we interviewed agree that, at some point beyond 2030, a large majority of their supply chain activities will most likely become autonomous and self-healing. However, they don’t expect a lights-off supply chain, with no people at all. They agree that hyper-automation is the opportunity to free up people’s time for the value-added work that only humans can perform.”

Gartner’s advice to Gen X, Millennials and Baby Boomers? “Take the opportunity to attract and hire Gen Z and maximize their effect on supply chain digitalization,” it said.

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