A new article in Supply Chain Management Review has suggested that supply chain 4.0 tech, or smart supply chain management, may have huge implications for supply chain jobs, especially in planning.

The new technology promises to deliver end-to-end automation of information flows via cloud platforms, negotiation bots, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic processes automation (RPA). While conventional wisdom suggests that these technologies may wipe away numerous blue-collar roles, other roles that had previously been considered safe because of their high level of skill are also likely to be impacted. This would undoubtedly include procurement jobs and supply chain jobs.

Planners are likely to be the first to feel the impact of this tech. Notoriously time-consuming and labour-intensive, professionals in these particular supply chain jobs have traditionally been charged with fixing the gaps in business processes arising from creaking legacy IT systems, incomplete system integration and insufficient master data maintenance. Will the new technologies make planning professionals obsolete?

The likely answer, to the relief of many, is no. Instead, RPA and predictive analytics should help planners to elude excessive manual routine work, meaning that their task will shift, not disappear. They won’t have to engage in continual fire-fighting to plan and schedule the products by hand, neither will they need to immerse themselves in manual data inspection. The new tech will check the data automatically and will, via AI, deliver far more accurate forecasting than the ‘gut feeling’ that planners often rely on.

Human attention will be directed to issues where it’s really required courtesy of smart algorithms that “know” when human decision-making is needed, where humans can really add value.

Planning roles are likely to evolve to concentrate on specific capabilities that can be applied across all planning. These roles will require skills in data management, exception management, algorithmic optimisation for effective automated supply chain management and partnering with the business to improve data management via RPA protocols.