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03/11/2021

Gartner: Gen Z will drive evolution of smart supply chain

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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The supply chain will become increasingly automated as the youngest members of the workforce gain prominence, according to Gartner.

New Gartner analysis indicates that the gradual career advancement of Gen Z supply chain professionals will accelerate supply chain digitalization and hyperautomation during the next 10 years. Gartner defines hyperautomation as the approach that organizations use to rapidly identify, vet, and automate business processes that originally required some form of human judgement or action.

Hyperautomation involves a combination of technologies that include robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI). Gartner advises supply chain organizations to attract and hire Gen Z employees, as well as consider the following three steps when designing their future supply chain strategy and roadmap.

Automation

Gartner says the first step will be for supply chain organizations to identify and automate all repetitive, non-value-added human activity, such as procure-to-pay and customer claim management, that can be automated. RPA is considered the primary technology for those initiatives.

“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,” said Pierfrancesco Maneti, VP analyst with the Gartner supply chain practice. “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.”

Augmentation

Between 2025 and 2030, Gartner expects many hyperautomation technologies, such as ML, to mature and enter mainstream adoption. They will help automate supply chain decision-making by augmenting human judgment, and be available to increase the accuracy and speed of decision making. For example, hyperautomation solutions will be able to scan terabytes of real-time supply chain data and providing insights, which humans cannot do alone.

During this time, Gen Z supply chain employees will progress into leadership positions. As this happens, Gartner advises that the process of adopting hyperautomation will speed up, as will awareness and acceptance for those technologies.

Autonomy

The final step is supply chain autonomy, when all human low-value activities in the supply chain will be largely automated. Gartner predicts that the future supply chain will have minimal direct human involvement and interference from a traditional work perspective, which will suit the expectations of Gen Z employees.

Instead, Gartner forecasts that supply chain employees will focus their efforts on tasks such as defining the supply chain strategy, driving innovation, taking care of customer service and experience, and controlling AI data from being biased.

“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,” said Maneti. “However, they don’t expect a lights-off supply chain, with no people at all. They agree that hyperautomation is the opportunity to free up people’s time for the value-added work that only humans can perform. The ingenuity and empathy of the human brain can’t easily be replicated.”